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Given in Loving Memory of 

Raymond BraisUn Montgomery 

Scientist, R/V Atlantis maiden voyage 
2 July - 26 August, 1931 

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 

Physical Oceanographer 


Non-Resident Staff 


Visiting Committee 


Corporation Member 


Faculty, New York University 


Faculty, Brown University 


Faculty, Johns Hopkins University 


Professor of Oceanography, 

Johns Hopkins University 


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MACMILLAN & CO., Limited 







"my life with the ESKIMO" 






All rights reserved 


Copyright, 1921, 

Set up and electrotyped. Published November, 1921. 


By Vilhjalmur Stefansson, 
who was commander of the expedition 

IN reading the books of other explorers I have commonly found 
tedious the long accounts of how their expeditions were organ- 
ized. My own inclination is to say nothing about the organiza- 
tion of the expedition that resulted in the story told in this volume, 
but many of my friends say that an account of the organization is 
both important and interesting. I shall compromise between their 
judgment and my own feelings by a short and general account where 
they advise a long and detailed one. 

The plans of this my third polar expedition developed in my 
mind gradually during the years 1908-12 while I was engaged in 
the work of the second expedition. Our experience was then show- 
ing us day by day the friendliness and fruitfulness of those parts 
of the Arctic which are either inhabited by Eskimos or which are 
immediately adjacent to the Eskimo districts. But I was told by 
the Eskimos, and I had read the same before in geographies and 
works of exploration, that the vast unknown areas beyond the 
Eskimo frontier were devoid of animal life. The Eskimos agreed 
with the rest of us in thinking that no one could live in those regions 
except for brief periods, and then only by taking along enough 
supplies to last for the whole period of what must necessarily be a 
dash into and a hurried retreat out of a region of permanent desola- 

But I am an anthropologist by profession, and the very reason 
for the beginning of my work in the North was a desire to learn 
whatever I could about the Eskimos. I had during these five or 
six years of continuous residence learned that the Eskimos resemble 
an uninstructed peasantry in possessing a large measure of native 
intelligence lying fallow, lacking opportunities of instruction and 
development. The ignorant classes of all countries have positive 
beliefs about many things, and a large number of these beliefs have 
no foundation in fact. I had long since learned that the Eskimos 
are honest and intelligent, but that they have a higher percentage 


of unfounded beliefs than any white people with whom I have 

I could see no natural reason why the regions beyond the Eskimo 
frontier should be devoid of animal life. The fact that the Eskimos 
said so and the fact that geographies and encyclopaedias continue 
to make the same assertion, meant little to me. Professionally, I 
know the foundations of such assertions, and that encyclopaedias 
do their full share in perpetuating the unfounded beliefs of our 
ancestors. I satisfied myself, so far as was possible while actually 
living in the Eskimo country, that the region beyond did not differ 
from the Eskimo country in any essential respect. I concluded the 
presumption to be that animal life could be found even in the very 
center of the icy area. This is a point, as explained elsewhere in 
this book, which lies about 400 miles away from the geographic 
North Pole in the unknown region north of Alaska. No one had been 
nearer to the center of the icy area than Peary when he visited the 
North Pole. Others had concluded from Peary's evidence that since 
he had seen no animal life at the North Pole or between it and 
Greenland, the presumption was that for a greater reason there 
would be no animal life in more remote (because more distant from 
navigable waters) ice-covered areas in the region of maximum inac- 

My conclusion was that animal life had not been seen because 
it had not been looked for and because it existed under the ice where 
it would be inconspicuous. Hunting seals under thick polar ice 
resembles hunting as we commonly think of it less than it does pros- 
pecting. Many people had lived for long periods in Pennsylvania, 
tilling the soil successfully and considering themselves thoroughly 
familiar with all local conditions, and nevertheless these people were 
ignorant of the mineral oil contained in the earth below. Seal hunt- 
ing, as will appear in that part of the book where the methods are 
described, is analogous to prospecting for oil. No explorer had had 
that point of view, and it appeared to me that their failure to 
discover seals when they were not looking for them did not reflect 
on their intelligence any more than it reflects on the intelligence of 
Franklin that he lived for a long time in Pennsylvania and died 
in ignorance of even the possibility of the Rockefeller fortune and 
of the other things of more consequence that have hinged upon the 
discovery of oil in Pennsylvania. 

I already knew the methods of securing seals, and came south 
in 1912 firm in the belief that I could go into regions where Eskimos 

*See map showing "Pole of Relative Inaccessibility," p. 8. 


had never been and into which Eskimos were unwilling to go because 
they believed them devoid of resources, and that I could in these 
regions travel indefinitely, carrying on scientific or other work and 
depending entirely on the resources of the country for food and 
fuel — food being the flesh of animals and the fuel their fat. 

Dr. Anderson and I had just finished, to the entire satisfaction 
of the American Museum of Natural History, a long polar expedi- 
tion under their auspices. On that expedition we had already done 
things which the Museum authorities had supposed to be exceedingly 
difficult or impossible, and we had done them without special effort, 
for we had found the conditions far more favorable than they had 
realized. The Museum authorities were, therefore, in a frame of 
mind to believe me when I told them that the entire polar area was 
as easy to make a living in as the district inhabited by the Eskimos, 
and they were the first to assent to our contention that we could 
travel where we liked, depending on the country for sustenance. 

After securing the support of Dr. Clark Wissler, curator of 
anthropology in the Museum (under whose direction I had carried 
out the expedition of 1908-12), I presented the case for the new 
expedition to Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn, the President of 
the Museum. He declined at first to support the expedition, not 
because he lacked confidence in its fundamental principles but 
because the Museum was short of money and because they were 
already organizing another polar expedition — the Crocker Land 
Expedition, commanded by Donald B. MacMillan. They wanted 
me to wait a year or two till other work was off their hands and 
they were in a better position to support an enterprise of this sort. 

Waiting did not suit me at the time, and I accordingly went 
to the National Geographic Society, presenting my case to the 
Director, Mr. Gilbert Grosvenor. Later I presented the same case 
to the Board of Trustees, who were favorably impressed and with 
very little delay voted to give me $22,500. I now went back to 
the Museum and told them that, while I disliked severing my con- 
nection with the institution, I should have to do so unless they came 
forward at once to join the National Geographic Society in their 
support of the present enterprise. Hereupon the Museum made a 
special plea to one of its chief patrons and we soon had the further 
promise of $22,500. 

In Boston, the Harvard Travelers' Club, of which I had been 
a member for many years, lent its moral support promptly to the 
expedition and later on decided to contribute $5,000. In Philadel- 
phia my old friend, Henry G. Bryant, who was then President of 


the Geographical Society of Philadelphia, undertook to raise some 
money and presently secured from one wealthy patron a pledge to 
buy a ship for the expedition, and from another the promise that he 
would outfit the ship. 

Had these generous promises from Philadelphia come a week 
sooner than they did the expedition would doubtless have remained 
under American auspices, for when you have a ship promised and 
also the outfitting of that ship, you have taken care of the major 
expenses of an expedition. The $50,000 secured from the three 
organizations mentioned above would have been amply sufficient 
to cover other expenses. However, a week before my receipt of 
Mr. Bryant's letter I had gone to Canada to lay the situation before 
Sir Robert Borden, who was then Prime Minister. 

My first polar expedition, that of 1906-07, had been paid for 
jointly by the Universities of Harvard and Toronto. The money 
given me by Toronto University was actually contributed by Sir 
Edmund Walker, the President of the Canadian Bank of Commerce. 
As a result of this. Sir Edmund had continued his interest in my 
polar work. When I now went to Canada, Sir Edmund Walker 
lent me warm support in my representations at Ottawa. He did 
this by letter, while another eminent Canadian, Sir Edmund Osier, 
President of the Dominion Bank, gave me personal support, for he 
was then a member of the House of Commons. My second expedi- 
tion had been under the joint auspices of the American Museum 
of Natural History and the Geological Survey of Canada. The 
Director of the Survey, Mr. R. W. Brock, had therefore been in 
direct touch with my work for several years. He was at once willing 
to use his entire influence with the Government, and went with 
me to see the Prime Minister. 

My idea at the time was that the Canadian Government might 
join in the support of this expedition as they had already joined 
in the support of the previous one. The Prime Minister said, how- 
ever, that while he was inclined to support my plans, he felt them 
so important and so directly a concern of Canada that he would 
prefer that the Canadian Government should undertake the whole 
responsibility and the whole expense of the enterprise. I replied 
that I could scarcely make to the American scientific organizations 
the proposal of transfer, but suggested that in case he should open 
negotiations I would inform them of my entire willingness to sur- 
render the expedition to the Canadian Government. 

Sir Robert Borden then wrote letters to Professor Henry Fair- 
field Osborn, President of the American Museum of Natural His- 


tory, and to Mr. Gilbert Grosvenor, the Director of the National 
Geographic Society, offering to take over the expedition. He assured 
them that the scientific program, as already outlined under their 
auspices, would be carried out by the Canadian Government, that 
the expedition would be sent out that present year, and that the 
entire command of it would remain in my hands exactly as if the 
work had been under their auspices. In this letter and in the cor- 
respondence that followed between these American institutions and 
the Canadian Government, it was made clear that I was to remain 
the sole judge of the fitness of all men and all materials and that 
the scientific direction of the expedition should in every way remain 
in my hands. That this was made so explicit was due to the fore- 
thought of Mr. Grosvenor, who feared that some politician or other 
at Ottawa might try to influence the course of the expedition, thus 
interfering with its scientific value. 

It was in February, 1913, that the expedition was transferred 
to the Canadian Government. Before that time I had offered the 
position of second in command of the expedition to Dr. R. M. 
Anderson, who had accepted. No other man for that position had 
even occurred to me, for we had been friends since college days and 
had already carried out together successfully an expedition on which 
he had shown himself both admirable as a traveling companion and 
able and diligent as a field observer and scientific collector. 

A man whom I have admired for many years is Captain C. T. 
Pedersen, commonly known to his friends as Theodore Pedersen. 
I had known him in the Arctic since 1906. The winter of 1908-09 
I visited him frequently when he was wintering in his schooner, 
the Challenge, in the "lagoon" at Point Barrow. We had talked 
over the possibility of an expedition of geographic discovery, where 
I should be in command while he was the sailing master. In my 
mind he was self-chosen for master of whatever ship I might have, 
just as Dr. Anderson was the obvious man for the position of second 
in command. 

Pedersen was now in San Francisco unoccupied. He at once 
accepted not only my offer to be commander of the ship, but under- 
took the task of selecting the best available vessel. A few years 
before this the whaling trade had come to a sudden stop through 
a drop in the price of whalebone, and there were ten or more whalers 
laid up in various ports on the Pacific coast that were supposed to 
be entirely suitable for further navigation in polar waters. Captain 
Pedersen informed me at once that the choice wbs between four ships 
— the Herman, Jeannette, Elvira and the Karluk. All these ships 


were known to me through association with them in polar waters, but 
I had not the intimate knowledge of them possessed by Captain 
Pedersen. I authorized the employment of expert ship inspectors, 
who soon reported that the Elvira was unsound, but that the other 
three ships were in good condition. They agreed with Captain 
Pedersen that the best of them was the Karluk. On the strength 
of the backing secured from the American organizations I had 
already concluded the purchase of the Karluk before the expedition 
was transferred to the Canadian Government, whereupon she was 
resold at cost to the Government. 

With the authority and resources of a nation behind us, we 
now had the opportunity of organizing the most comprehensive polar 
expedition that ever sailed, for no expedition in history has been 
so fortunately situated. In some cases naval expeditions have been 
sent out by governments, but in those cases the purposes have not 
been primarily scientific. In expeditions that have been primarily 
scientific governments have sometimes taken a limited part and 
have granted lump sums of money. We had a more liberal backing, 
for Canada decided to stint us in nothing that might contribute to 
scientific success. 

The selection of the scientific staff was the first consideration. 
The sciences to be investigated were anthropology (archaeology, 
ethnology, somatology), biology (botany and zoology, both ter- 
restrial and marine), geography, geology, mineralogy, oceanography, 
terrestrial magnetism. In a scientific staff suitable to carry out 
investigations in all these sciences there are sure to be men who 
can accumulate knowledge in other departments also. In that sense 
such a polar expedition can make all knowledge its province. The 
sciences named turned out to be by no means the only ones that 
benefited by the work of our scientific staff. 

It appeared at once that, although we preferred Canadians, it 
was not possible to secure an adequate scientific staff in Canada. 
In general, we wanted men in whom university training was merely 
the foundation and who had after graduation settled upon one of 
these sciences as his life work. Half of our staff had academic 
training equivalent to that of a Doctor of Philosophy. We were 
able to secure only five out of our staff of fifteen in Canada. Even- 
tually it was made up as follows: from Canada 5, from Great 
Britain 3, from the United States 2, from Australia 1, from New 
Zealand 1, from Denmark 1, from Norway 1, and from France 1. 
The following is a partial list of the universities represented in 
the training of these men, partial because several of them had been 


in two or more universities: Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of 
Technology, McGill, Oxford, Queens, the Sorbonne, State Univer- 
sities of Iowa and North Dakota, Toronto, Universities of Edin- 
burgh and Glasgow, Yale, and technical schools in Norway, Den- 
mark and Australia. Four of the men had previously been on polar 
expeditions: Mackay and Murray with Shackleton, Johansen with 
Mylius Erichsen in Greenland, and Anderson with me. Mamen had 
been on a Norwegian surveying expedition to Spitsbergen. 

This list shows that we had to go all over the world to secure 
our scientific staff. Jenness had just returned to New Zealand from 
anthropological work in New Guinea, and Wilkins of Australia 
was in the West Indies. Both of these were secured by cable corre- 
spondence. Johansen, the Dane, was engaged in Washington, and 
Mamen, the Norwegian, in Canada. I made a trip to Europe which 
resulted in the engagement of Beuchat, Mackay, Murray and 

This European trip was partly to secure scientific men and partly 
to get equipment, especially in the field of oceanography. In this 
work I was greatly aided by Dr. W. S. Bruce, of the Scottish Ocean- 
ographical Laboratory, by Sir John Murray, and by the Prince of 

While I was in Europe I received the first bad news of the expedi- 
tion, the resignation of Captain Pedersen. Some one had induced 
him to believe that he would have had to change his American citi- 
zenship for Canadian in order to be master of the Karluk. How ill- 
founded this belief was is best shown by the fact that we replaced 
him by Captain Bartlett who, although born in British territory, 
had become an American citizen and retained his citizenship 
throughout the expedition. Captain Bartlett had been master of 
the Roosevelt under Peary, and had extensive experience with ice 
navigation in Atlantic waters. 

Apart from the comprehensiveness of the scientific scope of the 
expedition and the large number of scientists, this expedition did 
not in its outfitting differ materially from that of the recent polar 
expeditions. The outfitting is, therefore, not worth describing. It 
was most effectively handled by the Canadian Navy Yard at 
Esquimalt, near Victoria, British Columbia. 

The direction of the expedition was under the Canadian 
Department of the Naval Service, and therefore at first under the 
Honorable D. J. Hazen, and later the Honorable C. C. Ballantyne. 
The expedition was directly under the Deputy Minister, the Hon- 
orable G. J. Desbarats, who through five years kept in personal 


touch with every detail of it in spite of the cares and labors incident 
to the rapid expansion of the Department of the Naval Service 
under war conditions. The material outfitting was in charge of 
Mr. J. A. Wilson, who was then Director of Naval Stores. In 
Esquimalt the outfitting was handled by Mr. George Phillips, who 
accompanied us to Nome, and to whose personal care the expedition 
owes a great deal. 

The equipment of the expedition kept growing and growing under 
our hands, and for several reasons; especially that for the oceano- 
graphic work was more bulky and difficult to operate than we had 
at first realized. Furthermore, we had a scientific staff who were 
in the main inexperienced in polar matters, but who, nevertheless, 
had definite ideas of what outfit they must have in order to get 
along. In some part their ideas were justified by eventual experi- 
ence, but to a considerable degree our efforts to please them 
resulted in the hampering of the expedition. It was one of the few 
drawbacks of our fortunate situation of ample financial resources 
that we had continually to yield to the argument that after all we 
could buy and carry this or that if we only wanted to, and that 
all we would lose in case the thing were not needed would be its 
money value and the cost of carriage. 

For reasons entirely apart from equipment I had decided to 
divide the expedition into two sections: one under the charge of 
Dr. Anderson to operate in the vicinity of Coronation Gulf; and 
the other under my immediate charge to strive towards the pole of 
inaccessibility and to have geography for its main objective where 
the southern branch carried forward more detailed and varied 
scientific studies. This plan necessitated two ships, the Karluk for 
the geographic work, and the Alaska to take the scientific men to 
Coronation Gulf. Later on our outfit grew so that we had to 
purchase the Mary Sachs in Nome to act as a tender to both sections 
of the expedition and incidentally to carry on oceanographic work 
under the command of our chief oceanographer, Murray. Later 
on the loss of vessels and the diversion of others to work not 
originally intended necessitated the purchase of further ships. These 
latter purchases are explained in the text of the narrative, for they 
form a part of the story in the field. 

I know myself fortunate, and suppose myself exceptionally 
fortunate in having many loyal and willing friends. Many of these 
have helped with this book and some have forbidden me to attach 
their names to any printed mention of their doing so. To mention 


the others would seem invidious. Grateful as I am, I shall, therefore, 
refrain from attempting to express my gratitude to persons and shall 
merely make a formal acknowledgment to institutions. 

I am in the first place indebted in general to the Government 
of Canada and in particular to the Department of the Naval Service 
for allowing the use of photographs and other material gathered 
on the expedition. This was provided for in my original agreement 
with the Government when they assumed all obligations to me which 
had previously been entered into by the National Geographic Society 
and the American Museum of Natural History. 

The maps were made for the Department of the Naval Service 
by the Geodetic Survey of Canada. A few of the photographs used 
in this book were taken on my expedition of 1908-12. These are 
the property of the American Museum of Natural History and are 
used by their consent. The photographs of musk oxen under domes- 
tication are used by courtesy of the New York Zoological Society. 
Two photographs used in this volume are reproduced from my 
previous book, "My Life With the Eskimo," because I had no new 
pictures which illustrated equally well certain points that had to 
be brought out. 

Most of the photographs used in this volume were taken either 
b}^ myself or by George H. Wilkins, the official photographer of the 
expedition, who was with us by a special arrangement with the 
Gaumont Company of Great Britain. Some photographs of vegeta- 
tion and of insect life were taken by Frits Johansen, our botanist, 
entomologist and marine biologist. Through a defect in my records 
it is possible that two or three of the photographs were taken by 
other members. However that be, all the expedition photographs 
are used not by permission of the original takers, but in a few cases 
by permission of the Geological Survey of Canada, and in the 
majority of cases by permission of the Department of the Naval 
Service, whose property they are. 

It is possible that minor alterations will be made hereafter in 
the maps of the expedition. Those published in this volume should, 
therefore, not be considered final and authoritative. Those require- 
ments will be filled by the official maps of the Government to be 
issued from Ottawa probably during the year 1922. 

All technical publications except certain preliminary reports 
published in technical journals will be issued by the Government 
as rapidly as possible. 

Such new place names as appear on the maps included in this 
book are those of men (and in one or two cases women) who have 


been directly concerned in polar exploration. Preference has been 
given to members of the expedition. On the large scale maps as 
finally published by the Government every member will be com- 
memorated, but in this volume some names have had to be omitted 
because of the scale of the maps. Next after members of the expe- 
dition come polar explorers, and in particular those who have worked 
in the general region covered by the expedition. There are also the 
names of a few men who have been resident in the Far North for a 
long time, as whalers, traders, police, and the like. 

The most conspicuous features of the map have been named after 
those high officers in the Canadian Government who were directly 
instrumental in having this expedition sent north, or who have done 
something since then through acts while in office to promote polar 


By Gilbert Grosvenor, LL.D. 
President of the National Geographic Society 



October 18, 1921. 
The Macmillan Company, 
64 Fifth Avenue, 
New York City. 

'''W'AM sending you enclosed the introduction which you have 
I requested me to prepare. It may seem to you at first rather 
■^ long, but I would ask you to note that my own part of it is 
very short. 

**It seemed to me very desirable that the tributes to Stefansson 
by Admiral Peary and General Greely should be incorporated in this 
introduction, particularly as this address by Admiral Peary was 
his last public appearance. Peary had been very sick for months, 
but I realized his friendship for Stefansson, and so I asked him if 
he would not come and present Stefansson to our audience. We 
(Peary and I) knew at the time that it was to be Peary's last public 
appearance. I hope you can use his address and Greely's, because 
these tributes were deliberately prepared by them and have great 
historical value. In fifty years these words of praise by Peary and 
Greely will be valued very highly, but they will be forgotten unless 
tied up in a book. They will mean more to the future than any 
words of mine. 

"Yours very truly, 
(Signed) "Gilbert Grosvenor." 

When in the winter of 1913 Stefansson expressed a desire to 
resume his northern explorations and was seeking financial help, the 
Research Committee of the National Geographic Society, impressed 


by the quality of his earlier work, by his originality and resource- 
fulness, offered to subscribe $22,500 to his expedition. The Amer- 
ican Museum of Natural History generously duplicated this sub- 

As the plans progressed, it became apparent that more funds 
would be needed for the expanding program, and Mr. Stefansson, 
with the approval of the above organizations, approached the 
Premier of Canada to ascertain if the Canadian Government desired 
to participate in the work. Sir Robert Borden immediately offered, 
on behalf of the Dominion, to assume the entire expense of the 
expedition if the National Geographic Society and the American 
Museum of Natural History would agree to relinquish their claims. 
On our cheerfully acceding to Sir Robert's wish, because of our faith 
in Stefansson and our desire to see his important project adequately 
undertaken, we received the following very pleasant letter from 
the Canadian Premier: 


"Ottawa, Ont., 21st February, 1913. 

"Dear Sir: Mr. Stefansson has shown me your letter of the 11th 
instant, stating that you are willing to forego your claims to a 
share in his exploration of the northern waters of Canada, and to 
cancel the arrangements which you had so generously made to con- 
tribute towards the expenses of this undertaking, and I wish to 
thank you for your courtesy in withdrawing in favor of this Gov- 

"We are most appreciative of the valuable results obtained by 
Mr. Stefansson's explorations in the northern part of the American 
continent, which have given valuable information as to this com- 
paratively unknown portion of the Dominion of Canada, and have 
to thank you for the part you took in assisting Mr. Stefansson in 
that work. The Government of Canada feels, however, with regard 
to the present exploration, that it would be more suitable if the 
expenses are borne by the Government more immediately interested, 
and if the expedition sails under the flag of the country which is 
to be explored. The Government is, however, desirous that the 
line of investigation begun by Mr. Stefansson and the members of 
your Association should be continued and would be glad of the 


scientific co-operation of your members so as to obtain the best 
results from this expedition. Yours very truly, 

(Signed) "R. L. Borden." 
"Gilbert H. Grosvenor, Esq., 
"Director and Editor, 

"National Geographic Society, Washington, D. C." 

While the National Geographic Society waived its claim, this 
act did not lessen our interest in Stefansson or the admiration with 
which we followed his five and a half years' contest against 
obstacles insuperable to any other man. Our expectation of im- 
portant discoveries by his original methods were realized to such a 
gratifying extent that on his return the highest honor in the gift of 
the Society, the Hubbard Gold Medal, previously won by Peary and 
Amundsen, was unanimously awarded him by the Society's Com- 
mittee on Research. 

Those members who were present when the medal was con- 
ferred will not soon forget that memorable meeting of the National 
Geographic Society, when Stefansson was presented to the mem- 
bers by the two foremost figures in American polar history — Peary, 
discoverer of the North Pole, and Greely, who had wrested from 
Great Britain thirty-seven years before (1882) the record for the 
Farthest North, held by British explorers for 300 years. 

Peary had been seriously sick for many months and really should 
not have risked the fatigue of addressing such a large audience, but 
in his eagerness to say a kind word of appreciation of his friend — 
Stefansson — he overrode his physician's orders. The following 
tribute to Stefansson was Peary's last public address; a few months 
later his heroic voice was still. 


"Fellow members of the National Geographic Society: 
"To-day we add another to the long list of Polar explorers, both 
north and south, whom our Society has welcomed and to whom our 
members have listened with absorbing interest. 

"Six years ago, in the parlor of a hotel in Rome, I said good-bye 
to a confident young friend of mine who was starting then for home 
in order to begin one of our latest Polar quests. I met him here 
to-day for the first time since then. How much has happened to 


him in those six years I need not attempt to relate. Five and one- 
half years of those six this man has been there in the Arctic regions 
adding to the sum of the world's knowledge. Five and one-half 
years ! 

"It is not my intent to go into a resume of his work. He is going 
to tell you that himself, but I can note very briefly that within that 
time Stefansson has added more than 100,000 square miles to the 
maps of that region — the greatest single addition made for years 
in Arctic regions. He has outlined three islands that were entirely 
unknown before, and his observations in other directions, the delin- 
eation of the continental shelf, filling in of unknown gaps in the 
Arctic archipelago, and his help in summing up our knowledge of 
those regions are in fact invaluable. 

"Stefansson is perhaps the last of the old school, the old regime 
of Arctic and Antarctic explorers, the worker with the dog and 
the sledge, among whom he easily holds a place in the first rank. 
Coming Polar explorers, both north and south, are quite likely to 
use mechanical means which have sprung into existence within the 
last few years. According to my own personal impressions — aerial 
flights; according to Stefansson, he would like to try his chances 
with a submarine; but whether it be aeroplane or submarine, it will 
mean the end of the old-time method, with the dog and the sledge 
and man trudging alongside or behind them. 

"What Stefansson stands for is this: he has grasped the mean- 
ing of polar work and has pursued his task in the Arctic regions 
section by section. He has profited by experience piled upon expe- 
rience until he knows how to face and overcome every problem of 
the North. His method of work is to take the white man's brains 
and intelligence and the white man's persistence and will-power 
into the Arctic and supplement these forces with the woodcraft, 
or, I should say, polar-craft, of the Eskimo — the ability to live off 
the land itself, the ability to use every one of the few possibilities 
of those frozen regions — and concentrate on his work. 

"Stefansson has evolved a way to make himself absolutely self- 
sustaining. He could have lived in the Arctic fifteen and a half 
years just as easily as five and a half years. By combining great 
natural, physical and mental ability with hard, practical common 
sense, he has made an absolute record. 

"Stefansson has not only fought and overcome those ever-present 
contingencies of the Arctic region — cold and hunger, wet and star- 
vation, and all that goes with them — but he has fought and overcome 
sickness — first, typhoid, then pneumonia, and then pleurisy — up in 


those forbidding regions, and then has been obliged to go by sled 
four hundred miles before finding the shelter of a hospital and the 
care of a physician." 


Major General Greely then paid the following memorable tribute 
to the Hubbard Gold Medalist: 

"We come together to welcome back Vilhjalmur Stefansson, 
whose published obituary you have read, but who insists with Mark 
Twain, that the account of his death has been greatly exaggerated. 
However, it told indirectly the tale of his dangers and hardships. 

"Stefansson has several unique Arctic records. His five and a 
half years is the world's record for continuous Polar service. A 
pioneer in living on the game of the region, whether on the ice- 
covered sea or on the northern lands, he also initiated distant 
journeys on the ice-floes of an unknown sea, which carried him 
hundreds of miles from the nearest land. 

"The contributions of his expeditions are important and exten- 
sive. Besides the natural history and geologic knowledge, he has 
made inroads into the million square miles of unknown Arctic 
regions, the largest for many years. His hydrographic work is 
specially important, in surveys, and in magnetic declinations. His 
numerous soundings not only outline the continental shelf from 
Alaska to Prince Patrick Island, but also disclose the submarine 
mountains and valleys of the bed of Beaufort Sea. 

"From the unknown regions of Arctic land and sea he has with- 
drawn areas amounting to approximately 100,000 square miles. 
These discoveries comprise about 65,000 square miles of Beaufort 
Sea to the north of the Mackenzie basin, 10,000 square miles of the 
Arctic Ocean west of Prince Patrick Island, over 3,000 square 
miles along the northeast coast of Victoria Island, and over 15,000 
square miles of land and sea to the northeast of Prince Patrick 
Island. In the last-named region three large and other small islands 
were discovered between latitude 73 degrees and 80.2 degrees north 
and between longitude 98 degrees west and 115 degrees west. 

"These new islands unquestionably fill in the last gap in the 
hitherto unknown seaward limits of the great Arctic archipelago 
to the north of the continent of America. 

"The spirit as well as the material results of exploration should 
be recognized. To-night the borderland of the White Sea is in the 


thoughts and hearts of many, for there, in the gloom of Arctic 
twilight, and in the cold of a Polar winter, the heroic men of this 
great nation are enduring fearful hardships and periling their young 
lives to restore peace and give freedom to unfortunate Russia. 

"Recall that in the dawn of that nation's history through this 
sea and the port of Archangel only could Russia be reached. More 
than three and a half centuries ago the first great maritime expedi- 
tion of England sailed to the White Sea, and Chancellor's visit had 
potent results in the development of both England and Russia. 

''Of this great voyage Milton said: 'It was an enterprise almost 
heroic were it not for gain.' Stefansson's explorations are untainted 
by motives of materialism. 

"In recognition both of the idealistic spirit and of the geographic 
importance of the discoveries made by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, the 
Board of Managers of the National Geographic Society unanimously 
direct me to present to him the Hubbard Medal. 

"It is to be added that the three survivors of the so-called Greely 
International Polar Expedition are too far advanced in years again 
to hazard Polar work; but as explorers of the nineteenth century 
who first wrested from England a record held for three hundred 
years — that of the farthest north — they wish to honor the explorer 
of the twentieth century who surpasses them. 

"Appreciative of Stefansson's endurance of hardships, recogniz- 
ing his ability in devising new methods, his courage in testing such 
methods, and his standing as a typical Arctic explorer, the members 
of the Greely Expedition, who are about to die, salute him." 

Thus those redoubtable Arctic heroes, Peary and Greely, paid 
tribute to Stefansson as a pioneer in a new direction; as one who 
had supported himself for years, not partially as his predecessors, 
but entirely on the resources of the Arctic regions. 

As we read the story of his years in the north, told in this inter- 
esting volume with that modesty in achievement which is so char- 
acteristic and so endearing in Stefansson, we see the Arctic through 
Stefansson's eyes, no longer tragic and desolate, but converted by 
his adaptable spirit and clever creative hand to become fruitful and 
friendly — comfortable and almost jolly. 


By Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Laird Borden, P.C., G.C.M.G., 

Prime Minister of Canada, 


EARLY in the winter of 1913 Vilhjalmur Stefansson approached 
the Canadian Government with the view of obtaining assist- 
ance for an expedition to the Arctic regions in or adjacent to 
northern Canada. Support had been promised by the National 
Geographic Society and the American Museum of Natural History 
to the extent of fifty thousand dollars, but this was not enough to 
carry out in full the ambitious scientific and exploratory plans 
which he had formulated and he needed further support. I told 
Mr. Stefansson that while the public spirit, sympathy and co-opera- 
tion of these important institutions were highly appreciated, the 
Government preferred that Canada should assume entire respon- 
sibility for the Expedition, as any lands yet undiscovered in these 
northern regions should be added to Canadian territory. After 
obtaining the consent of the two Societies, he accepted my offer 
to place him in command of the Expedition. By an Order in Council 
approved on the 22d February, 1913, the general direction was 
placed under the Department of the Naval Service, and other im- 
portant departments were directed to co-operate. The history and 
general results of the Expedition thus organized, extending over a 
period of more than five years, have been set forth by Mr. Stefans- 
son in this volume. 

Those who have read Stefansson's "My Life With the Eskimo" 
cannot fail to acknowledge its absorbing interest. Even more in- 
structive and illuminating is the story now related. Many pre- 
conceived ideas of these great northern territories must disappear 
forever. Except for the absence of trees, it is not unusual to find 
within the Arctic Circle landscapes not different in appearance 
from prairie or meadow. A member of the party was astonished 
to find a wide expanse of grass land where he had expected to meet 
an eternal desolation of icy barrenness. Many similar experiences 
are recorded by Stefansson and by others. Animal life is fairly 


abundant on many portions of the land and nearly everywhere in 
the ocean. Birds and insects are in evidence; indeed, certain forms 
of insect life are so abundant that summer is almost unendurable. 
It seems paradoxical that in these Arctic regions the season for 
travel, for exploration and for social enjoyment should begin in 
mid-autumn and end early in spring. Winter night has no terrors 
for the Eskimo or for the white man of normal mental balance. 
The gayest social season among the Eskimos is in the winter months. 
During the war there was scarcity of fuel both in Europe and on 
this continent. In a leading London hotel so uncomfortable did I 
find my sitting-room in December, 1918, that I was constrained to 
seek a supply of firewood from the Canadian Corps, then working 
near Windsor. About that time Stefansson and his party, possessing 
an abundance of fuel, which the country supplied, were sitting in 
their shirt-sleeves, hundreds of miles within the Arctic Circle, com- 
fortably housed in an edifice which was constructed of snow blocks 
in less than three hours, and which with greater experience they 
could subsequently erect in not more than one hour. While we 
shivered in this temperate zone, there was vast comfort in the 
vicinity of the North Pole. War conditions necessitated short 
rations and restriction of diet not only in Europe but in America, 
while upon the ice floes of the Beaufort Sea abundant food of a 
healthful character was available without serious difficulty to expe- 
rienced explorers. 

There seems to be much truth in Stefansson's observation that 
the cold of the Arctic deprives no one of either health or comfort 
if he understands conditions, realizes necessary precautions, and, 
making good use of his common sense, governs himself accordingly. 
But against the heat of tropical regions it is practically impossible 
to find any reasonable safeguard consistent with ordinary activity. 
Those accustomed to temperate zones would probably find life 
within the Arctic Circle more endurable and good health more 
assured than in the average lowlands at or near the equator. In 
certain tropical or semi-tropical climates, northern European races 
last for no more than three generations. There is no reason to 
believe that a like result would obtain in the far North. Although 
summer heat is sometimes quite oppressive within the Arctic Circle, 
its duration is comparatively short. 

Among many notable events of the Expedition one distinctive 
feature has especially impressed me. Before Stefansson, Dr. John 
Rae in 1848, and David Hanbury at the beginning of the present 
century, had lived off the country ; Nansen and Johansen had lived 


for a winter on walrus after their sled journey across the sea ice 
was over; Peary and some others also depended on game to supply 
part of the food of their crews in winter quarters and to eke out 
supplies that could be hauled on sledges. Dr. R. M. Anderson and 
Stefansson, between 1908 and 1912, put Rae's methods to a thorough 
test and found them effective; they further proved that white men 
can easily master every art of the Eskimo that is useful for safe 
and comfortable existence in the Arctic. But the enterprise which 
began at Martin's Point on the 22d March, 1914, and ended 
(so far as this aspect is concerned) at Banks Land on the 25th of 
the following June, was of a character wholly different. The exam- 
ination of the Beaufort Sea west of Banks and Prince Patrick 
Islands had been declared by Sir Clements Markham* in his "Life 
of Admiral McClintock" to be "the great desideratum in Arctic 
geography." There were reasons for believing that there might be 
islands in the Beaufort Sea and there were reasons against this 
hypothesis. In Markham's opinion, knowledge of the Arctic regions 
would remain very incomplete until this area had been discovered 
and explored. Stefansson proposed to cross the Beaufort Sea on 
the ice, depending for food on the animal life which he believed to 
be existent in that sea. Against his belief all the forces of observa- 
tion and experience were arrayed. The explorers to whom I have 
alluded as "living off the country" wholly or in part, had done so 
on or near land where Eskimos were already living or where Eskimos 
thought they could live. All of them but Rae used Eskimo hunters 
to secure part or all of the game used. Stefansson was now strik- 
ing out into a region where no Eskimo had ever ventured and into 
which no Eskimo would accompany him unless he carried food, for 
they believed that no game could be found in that unknown waste. 
This very region has been referred to by Sir Clements Markham as 
"The Polar Ocean Without Life." The testimony and experience 
of Nansen and Peary were quite unfavorable to the hypothesis 
which Stefansson had formed. Eskimos and whalers were equally 
strong in the opinion that his venture must be disastrous in any 
event and fatal if persisted in. Against all this Stefansson placed 
reliance on deductions founded upon premises that he regarded as 

* Markham, himself a distinguished polar explorer, was for many years 
President of the Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain and was in 
intimate personal touch with every great polar explorer from Parry to Peary. 
He was therefore commonly considered a foremost authority on all polar 


From the tropics to the Polar circles the amount of animal life 
per cubic unit of ocean water steadily increases. The great fisheries 
of the world are in the northern seas. Animal life is abundant not 
far from the verge of "The Polar Ocean Without Life." Stefansson 
could not be convinced that its abundance did not extend to that 
ocean. Against the belief and traditions of the Eskimo, against the 
universal experience and strong opinion of the most eminent Arctic 
explorers, against the advice of the whalers, Stefansson maintained 
his thesis and, risking not only his reputation but his life, com- 
mitted himself to the ice of the Beaufort Sea. Two companions 
accompanied him, and there would have been more if necessary, 
although no Eskimo could be induced to embark upon a venture 
that he regarded as suicidal. For ninety-six days the leader and 
his comrades journeyed and drifted. There were a few days of 
discouragement when the anticipated signs of seal life were not 
observable, but then came the sure and triumphant vindication of 
a theory founded upon accurate knowledge, keen observation and 
sure deduction. Another secret had been wrested from the northern 
ocean. Stefansson had proved that in the farthest Arctic the sea 
supplied food even more abundantly than the land. For more than 
a year the world knew nothing of his success, and it was generally 
believed (not by those who knew him best), that he had expiated 
failure by death. 

As a result of the Expedition many thousands of square miles 
have been added to the territory of Canada, much interesting 
material of great scientific value has been secured, unknown areas 
of vast extent have been explored and many illusions with respect 
to Arctic conditions have been dissipated. 

Stefansson's anticipations as to settlement and development in 
these northern regions are interesting. Who would venture to 
declare that they may not be justified as fully as his confidence 
in the Beaufort Sea? Men still living can remember that at first 
the great prairie provinces of Canada were regarded as unfit for 
human habitation. Once it was firmly held that railways could not 
be operated in Canada during the winter. Little more than a quarter 
of a century has elapsed since that theory prevailed with respect 
to street railways. At times tremendous forces of nature make 
the Arctic regions terrible and dangerous; but this is true of the 
ocean upon which hundreds of thousands spend their lives; it is not 
less true of volcanic mountains within whose shadow great cities 
have been built and rebuilt. In regions that have been repeatedly 
desolated by earthquakes, man still makes his habitation. 


As a result of the Expedition it is quite possible that the ovibos 
(or musk ox) may be domesticated. At all events, the attempt 
should be made. So far as I am aware, no large mammal has been 
domesticated by man within the historic period. 

In "My Life With the Eskimo" and in this volume Stefansson 
has given us interesting and even fascinating pictures of Eskimo 
habits, beliefs and traditions before they came into contact with 
white races. Their social organization, their conception of life, 
their ideas respecting the phenomena of nature and their practical 
adaptability to a difficult environment were probably similar to 
those which prevailed among our very remote ancestors. They spoke 
several dialects of a remarkably complex language; and in every- 
day life they used a vocabulary far exceeding that which we 
ordinarily employ. Through the accumulated experience of succes- 
sive generations they had acquired habits of life admirably suited 
to their surroundings. In many respects they were as children; in 
others, shrewdness itself. For them the age of magic still existed 
and without difficulty they accounted for the most miraculous or 
impossible events. Kindness, hospitality and many social virtues 
adorned their lives. But contact with the white races has been 
seldom beneficial to any such type. When a primeval civilization 
comes into contact with ours, the new wine is too strong for the old 

The results accomplished by this Expedition would have been 
impossible if Stefansson had been a man of less resource and 
courage. His commanding intellectual powers, remarkable faculty 
of observation, capacity for keen analysis of facts and conditions, 
splendid poise and balance, and immense physical strength and 
endurance made great results possible. Honors have been showered 
upon him by the representative societies of science; renowned polar 
explorers have paid him their warmest tribute; great universities 
have recognized by their highest degrees his contributions to 
scholarship and to science. The thanks and appreciation of the 
Canadian Government have been conveyed to him in a Minute of 
Council. But perhaps his greatest reward lies not in all this but 
in the love that has grown within him for this great friendly North 
which still calls him, the recollection of high endeavor successfully 
achieved, the loyalty and devotion of comrades still present in 

Ottawa, October, 1921. 



I The Four Stages in Polar Exploration 1 

II The North That Never Was 7 

III Good-Bye to "Civilization" Forw Five Years ... 27 

rV The Seeds op Tragedy 41 

V The Karluk in Fetters of Ice 49 

VI The Karluk Disappears 56 

VII News and Plans 66 

VIII The Journey to Colunson Point 75 

IX A Pause at Winter Quarters 91 

X We Meet Dr. Anderson 96 

XI Midwinter Travel and Preparation for Spring Work, 1914 99 

XII The Colunson Point Difficulties Ill 

XIII Shall We Dare to March North? 123 

XIV The Ice Journey Begins in Misfortune and Difficuuty . 141 
XV The First Fifty Miles 153 

XVI We Enter Upon the Unknown Ocbl4N 162 

XVII Colder Weather and Better Progress 170 

XVIII We Burn the Last Bridge Behind Us 187 

XIX We Secure Our First Seal 198 

XX Marooned On an Island of Ice 210 

XXI Summer Travel On Drifting Floes, 1914 220 

XXII Land After Ninety-Three Days on Drifting Ice . . . 226 

XXIII Records, Retrospects and Reflections 235 

XXIV Summer Life in Banks Island 242 

XXV Ole and I Go Hunting 250 

XXVI We Discover the Mary Sachs 266 

XXVII The Autumn Hunt in Banks Island, 1914 .... 278 

XXVIII Midwinter Travel and Its Difficulties 285 

XXIX Spring Travel, 1915 293 

XXX Men and Bears as Seal Hunters 300 

XXXI We Complete the Mapping of Prince Patrick Island . . 312 

XXXII We Reach McClintock's Farthest 318 

XXXIII The Discovery of New Land 324 

XXXIV Exploring the New Land 331 

XXXV Melville Island and McClure Strait 351 

XXXVI Historic Mercy Bay 359 

XXXVII First Crossing of Banks Island, 1915 364 

XXXVIII We Are "Rescued" by Captain Louis Lane .... 374 





XXXIX A Summer Visit to Herschel Island 387 

XL Ice Navigation and Winter Quarters 397 

XLI Autumn in Victoria Island 405 

XLII A Visit to the Copper Eskimos 416 

XLIII Trouble With the Copper Eskimos 430 

XLIV Midwinter Travels and Plans, 1915-16 443 

XLV A Near Tragedy 450 

XLVI Winter Preparations 461 

XLVII Eskimo Tales from Winter Quarters 466 

XLVIII The North Coast of Banks Island 472 

XLIX WiLKiNS Leaves the Expedition, 1916 487 

L Into the Unknown Beyond the Ringnes Islands . . 509 

LI Discovery of Meighen Island 517 

LII Hassel Sound and King Christian Land .... 525 

LIII The Discovery of Lougheed Island 537 

LIV We Discover People and a Coal Mine 562 

LV We Find Bernier's Depot 571 

LVI The Fourth Midwinter, 1916-17 590 

LVII Arrival of Gonzales With News 598 

LVIII Spring Travel, 1917 608 

LIX In the Footsteps of Earlier Explorers 623 

LX The Tragedy of Bernard and Thomsen 646 

LXI The Destruction of the Mary Sachs 655 

LXII The Adventures of the Autumn, 1917 663 

LXIII The Return After the Fifth Winter 673 


Drifting in the Beaufort Sea. By Storker T. Storkerson. Reprinted 

from MacLean's Magazine, March 15 and April 1, 1920 .... 689 

The Story of the Karluk, according to the account of Captain John R. 
Hadley, and the account of the rescue of the survivors by Burt M. 
McConnell 704 

The Region of Maximum Inaccessibility in the Arctic. By Vilhjalmur 
Stefansson. Reprinted from The Geographical Review, Vol. IX, Sep- 
tember, 1920, No. 9 731 

The Work of the Southern Section of the Expedition. A summary 
of the report of Dr. Rudolph M. Anderson in the Report of the 
Department of the Naval Service for the Fiscal Year ending March 
31, 1917 737 




On the Coppermine River in 1910 the Mosquitoes Bit Our Dogs Around 

the Eyes Till the Eyes Swelled 16 

There Are Hundreds of Species of Flowering Plants and Dozens of 
Species of Moths and Butterflies Found on the Most Northerly 
Islands in the World }- 17 

A Meadow and Flowers of the Cotton Plant — Herschel Island, North 

Coast of Canada 

Captain Robert A. Bartlett"! n^. 

Dr. R. M. Anderson J 

Most Northerly Clubhouse in America — Log Cabin Club, Nome 
The Most Northerly Citizen of Uncle Sam for Forty Years — Barrow, 

Alaska. Charles Brower, Fred Hopson J- 27 

Most Northerly Theatre — Nome 
Most Northerly School, Post Office and Church, Barrow, Alaska 

Alaskan Reindeer Herd 36 

The Adaptability of the Skin Boat 37 

Music for an Outdoors Dance — Copper Eskimos \ ._ 

Labrets Worn by Mackenzie Eskimos J 

Mackenzie Family 'I .^ 

Eskimo School Children at Barrow J 

Winter Quarters at Collinson Point 92 

Wilkins Taking Movies "I „„ 

Wilkins Showing Movies to Eskimos, Christmas, Collinson Point/ 
The Sledge Trails Seaward from Martin Point"! ...- 

Cooking Outdoors with Seal Fat J 

Repairing a Broken Sled 143 

The Camp on the Ice Before the Gale 150 

Wilkins on the Shore Ice 151 

Constructing a Snowhouse — First Four Steps 174 

Constructing a Snowhouse — Last Steps 175 

Rigging the Sledboat 206 

Launching the Sledboat — Crossing a Lead — Landing 207 

Sealing Waters ^ „-_ 

Fair Wind and Level Ice J 

Tent and Snow "Sastrugi" After a Blizzard '| „^_ 

The Lead That Stopped Us j 




. . 258 

A Tent Ring 

Broken Summer Ice Along the Coast 

The North Star Could Follow the Shore Water When a Larger Ship 

Could Not Move 259 

On Arrival at Kellett — Storker Storkerson, Ole Andreasen .... 268 

Building the Sodhouse at Cape Kellett 269 

Meat for the Winter's Food and Skins with Heads for Museum Specimens") 

Bringing Home a Load of Meat and Skins J 

Hauling Ashore the Emptied Sachs "1 -^. 

Unloading at Kellett J 

The Dogs Sleep in Their Harness While We Make Campi 

A Snowhouse Will Support Almost Any Weight f ' ' ' 

On a Day of No Shadows 315 

Herring Gull — Sabine's Gull — Yellow-Billed Loon — Lapland Longspur — 

Parry's Spermophile 332 

A Young Owl on the Arctic Prairie 333 

Lead Running Away from Land Showing Loose Ice Cake That Would 1 

Serve as Bridge or Ferry r 352 

Rocky Polar Coast — Summer J 

Sandy Polar Coast — Summer 1 „^o 

Sandy Polar Coast — Spring — Showing Earth Heaped Up by Ice Pressure J 
The Women Carry Anything Fragile Wrapped Up in Clothing ^ ,_^ 

Summer Travel with Pack Dogs. Copper Eskimos J' 

A Summer Cache, Copper Eskimos "1 __^ 

A Summer Camp on the Prairie, Copper Eskimos/ 

The Harbor and Village, Herschel Island 1 ___ 

Eskimo Boats and the Alaska, Herschel Island/ 

Mamayauk, Half-white Girl, Cape Bathursti 

Copper Eskimo Girl J 

In Midwinter Annie Thomsen Played Outdoors All Day .... 396 

Giuiinana and Uttaktuak (Mrs. Lopez) "1 _» 

Andre Norem / 

Copper Eskimo Bowmen 412 

Drying Meat and Sealskins "1 .^ 

Eskimo Child Asleep in the Sun J 

Copper Eskimo Spearing Fish "^^ . 

Some of the Trout Are Larger Than This j" • • ^ • • • • 
Trying to Keep Cool on a Hot Arctic Day \ 
Typical Copper Eskimo Dog J 

Copper Eskimo Men o 436 

Copper Eskimo Women 437 

Star, Sachs and Alaska at Herschel Island! ^„ 

Star at Bernard Harbor / 

Our Camp on Meighen Island i „„ 



The Smoking Cliffs— Franklin Bay\ - 

The North Star Had Sunk J 

It is Holiday Five Days Out of Seven Among the Copper Eskimos . . 468 

Tattooing — Copper Eskimos 469 

The Pressure of a Winter Gale Will Break Up the Heaviest Old Ice , . 514 

Ground Ice 515 

Taking Possession of Meighen Island/ ' 

MacMillan's Record Found on Ellef Ringnes Island 529 

Sledging in Summer 564 

Copper Eskimo Girls and Women 565 

Musk Oxen Under Domestication — Bronx Park, New York .... 584 

A Polar Coast in Summer — Cape Parry 585 

Natkusiak and His Favorite Big Dog 608 

Wilkins Tried to Use a Mask Against the Cold^l __- 

Emiu Was Fond of Small, Fast Dogs J 

A Spring Evening in Polar Regions 636 

McClure's Record — Telling of the Discovery of the Northwest Passage 637 

Captain Bernard and His Sledgemaking Workshop 648 

The House at Bernard Harbor] ..q 

The Camp at Armstrong Point J 

Eskimo Family at Our Table — Collinson Point 1 - ^ 

Point Barrow Family — Storkerson's Family J 

The Burberry Tent — Inner Cover 1 

Martin Kilian and the Monument He Built at Storkerson's Farthest V 697 

The Old Burberry Tent— Double Covers J 

This Lead Had Frozen Over 712 

Wilkins Taking Movies of Spring Whaling — Barrow, Alaska . . . 713 
Old Point Barrow Woman 
Half-grown Boy — Copper Eskimos^ 
Eskimo Men and Women Seem to Enjoy Mending Clothes and Imple- 
ments 745 

} 7^ 


"Pole of Inaccessibility" 8 

Field of Work, Canadian Arctic Expedition, 1914 140 

Field of Work, Canadian Arctic Expedition, 1915 292 

Field of Work, Canadian Arctic Expedition, 1916 450 

The Ringnes and Christian Island Group as Given in Sverdrup's "New 

Land," 1904 534 

The Ringnes and Christian Island Group with Corrections Made by 

the Canadian Arctic Expedition During 1915 and 1917 .... 534 

Field of Work, Canadian Arctic Expedition, 1917 594 

Field of Work, Canadian Arctic Expedition, 1913-14 and 1917-18 \In pocket at 
Key Map of Canadian Arctic Expedition /end of book 




This chapter and the next are concerned with fundamental 
aspects of polar exploration and of the polar regions. They are put 
here rather than in an appendix because a grasp of general principles 
shoidd help to make clear many things that might otherwise seem 
inexplicable in the narrative which follows. 

Anyone who does not care to be told in advance what polar 
exploration and the polar regions are like should skip to the be- 
ginning of the narrative proper in Chapter III. 

WHEN attempt is made to arrange a large number of facts 
in diagrammatic order for the sake of easy comprehen- 
sion, exact truth frequently suffers in the interests of sim- 
plicity. This happens when we classify all polar exploration into 
four stages. Still, the view is more helpful than a conglomerate of 
facts and details where no philosophic scheme appears. 

There are many overlappings ; there is occasional retrogression; 
and in some instances one stage of exploration will survive parallel 
to another. But, speaking generally, there are four great suc- 
cessive stages. 

When in prehistoric times the Scandinavians spread northward 
in Europe and when the Eskimos and other Mongol-like people 
moved north in Asia and America to occupy the rich hunting grounds 
along the polar shores, this was not exploration in the true sense. 
It would not be exploration in the true sense even if the story were 
completely known, for these people came so gradually in contact with 
their new environment that the quest and adventure and heroic en- 
deavor which in our minds are inseparably associated with explora- 



tion must then have been lacking. To the explorer, as we think 
of him, the North seems terrible. But certainly it can have had 
no terrors for people who gradually occupied the land because they 
preferred it to other lands farther south. It is true that some his- 
torians and even a few anthropologists have assumed that the 
northern people were crowded into the North by stronger races that 
pressed upon them from the south. But in modem times close ob- 
servers of the polar races have found no evidence that they are 
now or have recently been suffering any pressure from the south, and 
there is no real ground for the assumption that they ever suffered 
such pressure. The northern people do not abhor the North. There 
have been extensive migrations from northern Norway, but these 
have never been to the tropics; or, if they have been, it has been for 
special reasons in restricted cases. The northern Norwegian, if he 
leaves his country, generally finds himself most at home and hap- 
piest in some similar climate, such as Manitoba or Alaska, where 
the winter is as cold as or colder than he ever knew it at home. For 
one who does not stop to think, it might be a source of wonder that 
runic stones carved by Scandinavians have been found on the coast 
of Greenland north of Upernivik at latitudes the attainment of which 
brought glory to John Davis. But to the man who carved the stone 
and doubtless traveled far beyond it, the feat probably brought no 
local renown. His countrymen would find it no more remarkable 
that he could survive the cold of Greenland than a Zulu finds it 
that his neighbors can survive the heat of Africa. 

Of polar explorers as we know them, in distinction from the 
people who live contentedly in the North because they understand 
it, Davis and Hudson are typical. In the first period of polar 
exploration, men were universally in such fear of the North that 
they only made furtive incursions into it by ship in summer, re- 
turning south before autumn if they could. At that time it was 
believed that men of our race, softly nurtured in countries like Eng- 
land, either could not survive a polar winter or would find the hard- 
ships of doing so quite beyond any reward that could be expected. 

In the second stage, of which Edward Parry is typical, the polar 
winter was still dreadful, but a few men were found of such stern 
stuff that they were willing to brave its terrors. The battle with 
frost and storm at that time was a form of trench warfare. The 
hardy navigator penetrated as far north as might be by ship and 
then, figuratively speaking, dug himself in and waited for winter 
to pass, coming out of his hibernation in the spring. In that stage 
of exploration it was considered an achievement when Parry's men, 


dragging a cart, were able to cross Melville Island in the early- 
summer, a journey of only a few score miles. Sir John Ross, who, 
fortunately for the advancement of polar technique, was thrown 
in close association with the Eskimos, borrowed some Eskimo ideas 
but used them with the ineptitude of the novice. He employed 
sledges and made some use of dogs. It seems extraordinary that no 
explorer thought of going directly to the Eskimos and borrowing 
their system of life and travel in toto ; that instead of learning native 
methods they found it necessary to discover for themselves the 
same principles of living and traveling which the Eskimos had 
discovered centuries before. Sir Leopold McClintock made notable 
advances over the explorers who had preceded him. Had he matched 
his ability not with his fellow explorers but with the Eskimos, 
his strides forward would have been incomparably more rapid. 
When McClintock commenced his work, a journey of a hundred 
miles in April or May was considered remarkable and was performed 
only at the cost of much suffering and hard labor, while at the end 
of his service, although it covered less than twenty years, journeys 
of a thousand miles were made without any greater strain upon 
health or risk to life than had been the case with the hundred- 
mile journeys. 

Yet the fear of the winter was still upon them all. Even Mc- 
Clintock did not commence his great journey from Melville to 
Prince Patrick Island until April. Although Nares as a lieutenant 
had the benefit of service with McClintock and Mecham, the ex- 
pedition which he commanded in 1878 was no advance but actually 
a relapse into pre-McClintock methods. His statement that a com- 
mander should be censured who requires his men to travel in the 
Arctic before the month of April shows that not only in technique 
but in mental attitude towards the North he had failed to make 
any advance beyond McClintock. 

Then comes the third stage of polar exploration, of which Peary 
is typical, a greater step forward, it seems to me, than either of 
the preceding. The significance of this step can be made clear 
especially to those not personally familiar with arctic conditions 
by a truthful analogy. It is a matter of conjecture how the first 
man navigated a raft and how the first primitive sailor handled his 
bark. But, however it was and whenever it was, we can take it for 
granted that the earliest traveler by water paddled fearfully from 
bay to haven along prehistoric coasts, dreading nothing so much 
as the gales which could convert the placid surface of the waters 
he knew how to deal with into tumultuous seas, dangerous and even 


fatal to his craft and himself. In that time no one thought of the 
wind as anything but hostile to the mariner. But the time came 
with the greater development of knowledge when the wind ceased 
to be hostile and became a friend. Then there was advance after 
advance until the sailor began to dread the calms which his fore- 
runners had courted, and to pray for the strong breezes that had 
been to his ancestors things to dread. Finally, the time came when 
the winds carried clipper ships across the widest oceans, and it 
became almost inconceivable to the world how commerce could 
be carried forward without the aid of winds. 

As the primitive sailor feared the storm so the early arctic ex- 
plorer dreaded the winter. This dread gradually became less until 
there appeared the men who turned winter into a friend as the 
sailors had done with the gale. The leader among these was Peary, 
who saw that the cold should not be avoided but courted, and that 
the most successful journeys could be made in the winter, be- 
ginning in January or February, and should come to an end on any 
properly managed expedition by April, before the first thaw. A 
calm used to be ideal for paddling, and ideal for that it remains to 
this day, but paddling is not now a serious occupation. To Peary 
at work on the polar ice the warmth of summer was as welcome as 
a calm to Nelson at the hour of battle. 

In the first stage of exploration the polar winter was considered 
so dreadful that it could not be endured; in the second stage it was 
dreadful, though it could and had to be endured, and no work could 
be done till it was nearly over; in the third stage it was not only 
neither dreadful nor difficult to endure, but was the season when 
work could be done most easily, and was therefore preferable to 
summer. Apparently the limit of progress had been attained in 
this direction. But just as steam altered navigation and brought 
back the time when a calm is more agreeable and valuable than 
a strong breeze, so there was possible in arctic exploration an ad- 
vance which would again bring summer into a degree of favor, 
although it did not discard use of the winter cold as steam naviga- 
tion has discarded use of the wind. 

Explorers of the Peary type might no longer dread the winter, 
but there was another arctic condition which to them was still full 
of menace. Though traveling could be done and had to be done 
in winter, it was laborious, fraught with hardships, and had to be 
limited because of the difficulty of transporting enough food for 
men and dogs. It was universally conceived that an ice-covered 
arctic sea could supply neither suitable food nor suitable fuel in 


adequate quantity for the support of traveling parties. For cen- 
turies Eskimos had been known to subsist on the shores of the 
polar sea, but it was believed that this was existing rather than 
living, and that the people were different, although enough like 
us to be as wretched as we believed we would have been under 
arctic temperature, arctic night, scarce and undesirable food, and 
other diflBcult living conditions. Now and then a traveler had 
come forward with reverse testimony that the Eskimos were healthy 
and happy, and that life by their method was as comfortable in the 
Arctic when you once become used to it as the life of a primitive 
tropical people was when you become used to that. 

The Eskimos themselves considered it impossible to make a 
living by their method anywhere except on land or on the ocean 
near land. The explorers all fell in with this view and so did 
geographers and others who theorized about it. Sir Clements 
Markham, himself an arctic explorer and over a long lifetime in 
close touch with polar progress, toward the end of his career in his 
"Life of Sir Leopold McClintock," speaks of "the polar ocean with- 
out life" (page 166), and at various times in other places referred 
to the "fact" that, while people could subsist on certain arctic 
lands, subsistence on the high sea was not possible. Similarly Nan- 
sen on his great journey over the ice after leaving the Fram killed 
his dogs one by one, feeding the dead to the living, because he did 
not conceive it possible to secure food for them. Even Peary, 
though he did not usually deliberately plan to kill his dogs, says 
in his last book, "The North Pole," that he expected to drive them 
so hard and feed them so little that sixty per cent, of them would 
die on the journey. 

But it is obvious that were this opinion of the Eskimos and 
the explorers wrong, then a further advance in the method of polar 
exploration was still possible, and without the aid of new mechanical 
invention. The men of early time had shown that travel on the 
ice is possible in summer, although difficult and disagreeable. The 
men of the Peary stage had shown that traveling on the sea ice 
in winter is far easier and more agreeable than traveling in sum- 
mer and that the only limitation to the length of journey was 
through the difficulty of transporting enough food. Now if it could 
be demonstrated that food suitable to sustain indefinitely both 
men and dogs could be secured anywhere on the polar sea, then 
obviously journeys over the ice would cease to be limited either in 
time or distance. Any part of the polar sea would then become 
accessible to whoever was willing to undergo the supposed hard- 


ships of living on meat exclusively, using nothing but blubber for 
fuel, and remaining separated from other human beings than his 
own traveling companions for a period of years. 

To demonstrate the feasibility of this and thereby to bring in 
the fourth stage of polar exploration, was the main task of our 
expedition. From my point of view, at least, any discoveries which 
might be made through the application of this method were second- 
ary to the establishment of the method itself. For, with the method 
once established, anyone could go out and make the discoveries. 
When the world was once known to be round, there was no difficulty 
in finding many navigators to sail around it. When the polar re- 
gions are once understood to be friendly and fruitful, men will 
quickly and easily penetrate their deepest recesses. 

I am one of those who, knowing both Peary and his methods, never had any 
doubt that he reached the North Pole on April 6, 1909. I have, however, 
been sometimes impatient of discussion as to whether he reached it or not. 
The all-important consideration is that he developed a method by which 
anyone could reach the Pole or any other point no farther removed from 
the nearest land than five or six hundred miles, which he thought (and I 
agree) was about the limit as to distance of the dog-sledge system of trans- 

If you once concede that the Wright brothers invented the aeroplane and 
inaugurated the era of air navigation which is now revolutionizing our 
civilization, both in peace and in war, then it becomes of little interest 
whether Orville Wright can fly as high or as far or steer an aeroplane as 
successfully as some one else. Those are accomplishments by no means 
small, but not in a class with the pioneer work that made all the rest 
possible. When Peary was able to reach the Pole he laid down a system 
by which anyone of good health, sound judgment and a reasonable appren- 
ticeship in polar work can reach it, starting from the same base on the north 
coast of Grant Land. With that point understood, any attempted dis- 
paragement of Peary by suggesting that he was himself too old to get to 
the Pole (a foolish suggestion, anyway) would be like trying to cast slurs 
on Watt or Stephenson by pointing out that neither of them drove a loco- 
motive at a hundred miles per hour. 



THE salient characteristics of the arctic regions are only too 
well known. With minor modifications, they are as fol- 
lows: The Arctic is a roughly circular or exactly circular 
area "at the top of the world," with the Pole for a center. The 
Pole is the point on the northern hemisphere most difficult of all 
places to get to. Formerly explorers went north to find a short 
route from Europe to China or in search of gold; but later they 
strove and still are striving for the Pole itself. The Northwest 
Passage was found by the Franklin Expedition in the middle of 
the nineteenth century (some think it was found by Amundsen in 
1905), and the Pole was attained by Peary in 1909. The Northwest 
Passage has proved of no immediate commercial value and will 
therefore forever remain worthless. The Pole has been attained, 
and the supreme achievement of the Arctic thus made a finality. 

Why should any one want to explore the Arctic further? The 
land up there is all covered with eternal ice; there is everlasting 
winter with intense cold; and the corollary of the everlastingness 
of the winter is the absence of summer and the lack of vegetation. 
The country, whether land or sea, is a lifeless waste of eternal 
silence. The stars look down with a cruel glitter, and the depress- 
ing effect of the winter darkness upon the spirit of man is heavy 
beyond words. On the fringes of this desolation live the Eskimos, 
the filthiest and most benighted people on earth, pushed there by 
more powerful nations farther south, and eking out a miserable 
existence amidst hardship. 

This, with individual modifications, is the current picture of the 
Arctic, and this is substantially what we have to unlearn before we 
can read in a true light any story of arctic exploration. 

According to their varied temperaments, those who hold such 
views of the North are forced to one or another semi-irrational ex- 
planation of why explorers still go there. Some think it is because 
of an insatiable desire, mysteriously implanted in our race, to throw 
ourselves against obstacles, to brave dangers and suffer heroic 



deaths — a sort of human counterpart of the impulse which leads 
the lemming to march in thousands into the ocean to be drowned. 
Other conceptions vary upward and upward, until we come to the 
noble view that the explorer is the scientist urged by a thirst for 
knowledge, who struggles on through the arctic night with the same 
spirit that keeps the astronomer at his telescope, neither of them 
thinking of material profit or necessarily of glory or even of the 
approbation of his fellows. 

There is much of the adventurer in some explorers and much 
of the scientist in others ; in a few the qualities are happily blended. 
But in order to understand the Arctic explorer and his work we 
must understand the Arctic as it really is. It might seem that the 
easiest way to do this would be to learn more about it. A far 
easier way is to forget what we think we already know. 

The Arctic as pictured in the first two paragraphs of this chapter 
and in the minds of most of our contemporaries, does not exist. It 
may be a pity to destroy the illusion, for the world is getting daily 
poorer in romance. Elves and fairies no longer dance in the woods, 
and it appears a sort of vandalism to destroy the glamorous and 
heroic North by too intimate knowledge, as the Greeks drove their 
gods off Olympus through the perverse scaling of the mountain to 
its top. 

Our first close look at the Arctic shows us that our central 
"fact," the preeminent inaccessibility of the Pole, is not a fact at 
all. The portion difficult of access is not circular with the Pole at 
its center, but of a highly irregular shape with the Pole lying well 
towards one of the edges. The region in the north difficult of access 
is an ocean more or less covered with ice. The inaccessibility of any 
part of this area is due to the fact that there is too much ice for 
ships to sail as they sail on the Atlantic, and not enough for men 
to walk safely and easily as they walk on land. There is no single 
huge expanse of level ice: there are instead innumerable floes or 
cakes of ice. These are pressed against each other under the stress 
of wind and current, their edges crumble under the terrific strain, 
and ice pressure ridges are formed resembling mountain ranges in 
contour, though seldom more than fifty or sixty feet in height. If 
the floes are extensive they break up under heavy pressure not only 
along their edges but at various points within the general field, 
buckling till they crack and forming new floe edges with new pres- 
sure ridges. Then when the strains slacken or become unequal the 
floes, instead of hugging each other, spread apart with water lanes 
between. This happens even in midwinter with the temperature at 

'f '^ 





Scale 1 :(2 500 000 

X ^. 


'^ ^^^ 

THE 6E0GR. REVIEW, Sept 1920 15 


JtE ii-J i ^-<^ 

The entire area outside of the heavy solid line may be called the "Zone 
of Approach by Ship"; the area within it the "Zone of Man-and-Dog 
Travel." The stippled portion of the latter is the "Zone of Comparative 
Inaccessibility." The distance between the isochronic lines is five days' 
dog-sledge travel, or 60 miles. Incidentally the map shows the superiority 
of Peary's position of 1908 over all others on land as a base for a dash 
aimed at the point of latitude 90° N. It is also favorably situated for an 
attack on the "Pole of Inaccessibility," which is only 200 miles farther away 
from Peary's base than the North Pole. 


its lowest. There is never a time when one can travel on foot or 
by dog sledge over the ice without meeting this handicap of open 
water, and open water is more serious than the deepest masses of 
the softest snow or the most craggy and slippery ice ridges. 

All this being so, the North Pole might still be at the center 
of this floating conglomeration of ice. So it would were it not 
for a fundamental difference between the Atlantic and the Pacific 
oceans. In each of these there is a great stream of warm water 
rushing northward. In the Atlantic we call it the Gulf Stream and 
in the Pacific we speak of the Japan Current. The two oceans 
differ fundamentally, however, in that, no matter how hard it tries, 
the Japan Current is unable to penetrate to the polar sea in its 
quarter. It is fenced out by the chain of the Aleutian Islands and 
by Bering Strait, where Alaska and Siberia almost lock horns. 
The Strait is thirty-six miles across, scarcely wider than the chan- 
nel between Great Britain and France, and besides being narrow 
and shallow it has two islands in the middle. The Japan Current, 
therefore, instead of reaching the Alaskan arctic with its warmth, 
spends its heat upon the air and water of the North Pacific, with 
only a little and practically imperceptible amount of slightly warmed 
water finding its way to the north coast of Alaska. 

In the Atlantic the condition is different. The waters warmed 
by the Gulf Stream spread northward through the wide and deep 
gap between Norway and Greenland, splitting on Iceland with 
such effect that although Iceland is arctic in name and subarctic in 
latitude it is temperate in weather. The climate of Iceland at sea 
level does not differ materially from that of Scotland. There are 
high mountains and these are ice-capped. It is a commonplace of 
geology that the Scotch mountains would also be ice-capped were 
they as high as those of Iceland. At sea level in Iceland the temper- 
ature in some winters never falls to zero Fahrenheit, and fifteen 
below is more often experienced in the region near New York City 
than in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. For the last ten years 
the mean temperature of January in Reykjavik has been thirty- 
three degrees above zero, or about that of Milan in Italy. Nor does 
the Gulf Stream stop at Iceland. Its waters creep north into the 
polar ocean and melt away the ice that otherwise would be there, 
so that the Scotch whalers in an ordinary season can sail from six 
to seven hundred miles closer to the Pole on the Atlantic side than 
the American whalers on the Pacific side. 

There is another place where a ship can steam about as close 
to the Pole as it can through the breach made by the Gulf Stream. 


This is the passage which Peary has called the "American route to 
the Pole," the narrow series of straits between Greenland and 
Ellesmere Land. There is frequently a current running south 
through this strait. The huge masses of ice from the polar ocean 
to the north would like to accompany this current south into the 
strait, but in their eagerness they crowd each other in its northern 
mouth, like a mob of people jammed in the narrow exit of a build- 
ing. While the ice cakes on the surface are jammed and only some 
fragments get through, the water underneath them flows south 
freely, so that in many seasons those straits are blue water in late 
summer, though the latitude is higher than that which ships can 
navigate anywhere else. It was through this circumstance that 
Peary was able to get a ship up the north coast of Grant Land, 
less than five hundred miles from the Pole. 

It is a commonplace of arctic lore and indeed self-evident that 
so long as sledges hauled by dogs, men or motors are used for 
arctic exploration, that point will be most difficult to reach which 
is farthest away from the ultimate goal of a ship where the sledge 
traveling has to begin. If this ultimate ship base is 450 miles from 
the Pole in Grant Land, or Franz Josef Land, about 800 miles at 
Cape Chelyuskin on the north tip of Siberia, and over 1,100 miles 
near Point Barrow on the north tip of Alaska, it becomes evident 
that the point in the Arctic hardest to get at, which we may call the 
"Pole of Inaccessibility," by no means coincides with the North 
Pole but lies about four hundred miles away from it in the direction 
towards Alaska. This coincided roughly with the center of the 
unexplored area in the polar regions when we sailed north, an area 
of over a million square miles then, and still to be reckoned as at 
least seven hundred thousand square miles. The region is unex- 
plored, partly through its inherent inaccessibility, but partly also 
for two other reasons. 

The first of these reasons is that the civilization of our time has 
developed on the two shores of the Atlantic, and that the sailors 
of this ocean have been the chief explorers of the North. It was 
natural they should attack the problem along the frontier nearest 
home, and that is one reason why knowledge has advanced into the 
inaccessible area more rapidly from the Atlantic than from the 
Pacific side. Incidentally, those who went north with a desire to 
find a way from their homes to the Indies naturally struck into 
the unexplored area on a promising route to attain this purpose, 
which again was the frontier nearest home. 

But a second reason has been the glamour of the search for the 


Pole. Even when you realize that it is comparatively easy of 
access, it is still ninety degrees away from the equator, and unique. 
The sentiment surrounding the idea of uniqueness might have been 
weakened had people realized that as a known mathematical point 
the North Pole was obliged to be comparatively accessible. But 
that bit of knowledge has succeeded in maintaining itself as the 
exclusive property of a few specialists, and the world in general 
has imagined the North Pole to be to the Arctic what the mountain 
top is to the mountain. That analogy is true when applied to the 
Pole of Inaccessibility but not when applied to the geographic 
North Pole. But false views when strongly held are as powerful in 
their effect upon human conduct as any true views can be, and this 
has been another reason why men brought up on the shores of the At- 
lantic have striven into the polar area with the latitude of 90° North 
as their goal, but with the practical result of progressively uncov- 
ering vast areas that lay between. 

In the process of removing the imaginary Arctic from our minds, 
we come to the proposition that all land in the far north is covered 
with eternal ice. 

Permanent ice on land is another name for a glacier. When we 
stop to think of it, glaciers exist in any part of the world with the 
proper combination of high altitude and heavy precipitation. 
Mount Kenia in Africa, the top of which is considered to be about 
seven miles from the equator, has "eternal ice" upon it, a glacier 
of considerable area. There are known to be huge glaciers in sub- 
tropical Asia and lesser ones in South America. They are eternal 
on the mountain-tops of Mexico; in California they come a 
little nearer sea level, as they do in Switzerland. They come lower 
yet in the State of Washington, not primarily because it is farther 
north but chiefly because of the heavier precipitation. British 
Columbia is the warmest province in all Canada, and yet it contains 
three-quarters of all the glaciers of continental Canada, again be- 
cause of the heavy precipitation. The south coast of Alaska has 
a climate not very different from that of British Columbia or of 
Scotland, though somewhat more rainy than Scotland. A compara- 
tively warm country, southern Alaska contains huge glaciers which 
in some instances reach to the ocean and break off, forming icebergs 
that float away to be rapidly melted by the warm waters of the 
Pacific. But if you travel seven or eight hundred miles overland 
from the glacier-infested south coast northward you come to the 
prairies bordering the Alaskan north coast. Here is a comparatively 
cold climate; but on the great triangular coastal plain of fifty 


thousand square miles there are no mountains, consequently no gla- 
ciers. Geologists tell us that a few millenniums ago there was a 
sheet of ice covering England in Europe and New England in 
America. At that time what are now the cities of New York and 
London were covered by an ice sheet, but there was no ice sheet 
covering the low plains of northern Alaska, and there never has 
been since.* The explanation is that northern Alaska is low, 
flat land with a precipitation so light that the snow which falls in 
winter is all thawed away in the spring. 

These being the facts, it seems strange at first that people should 
so universally have the idea that the lands of the far north are 
covered with glaciers. The explanation is simple. There is one 
land in the north that is covered with glaciers and from it all the 
rest of the north has been pictured by analogy. Greenland is a 
mass of high mountains in a region of precipitation so heavy that 
the heat of summer does not suffice to thaw all the accumulated 
snows of winter, so they change into glacier ice that flows down the 
valleys into the sea and breaks off into the icebergs that are the 
delight and dread of the transatlantic tourist. We thus have in 
fact as well as in the hymn-book "Greenland's icy mountains." 
And Greenland is close to the big modern centers of population. 
In the days before Standard Oil became the light of the world the 
whale and seal fisheries were profitable, and men from nearly every 
seaboard town were engaged in them. They brought home stories 
of the ice of Greenland and some of them wrote books about it. 
In more recent years about every other owner of a yacht has more 
or less timorously approached Greenland, near enough at least to 
see the ice and to talk and write about it. And because Greenland 
has been truthfully described as a land mainly ice-covered, we have 
thoughtlessly assumed that all northern lands are similarly ice- 
covered. Some glaciers, although much smaller, exist in Franz 
Josef Land and in Spitsbergen, and there are glaciers of consider- 
able size in Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg Islands, and lesser ones in 
Baffin Island. But when you get west of that, the great archipelago 
that stretches northward from Canada towards the Pole is quite 
free of them and so is all the Canadian mainland along the polar 
sea and southward to the arctic circle and beyond, except for some 
high valleys and peaks in the Rockies. 

But even after making it clear that Greenland is a peculiar 
island and the only one having an ice cap, and after explaining 

♦See "Canning River Region of Northern Alaska," by Ernest de Koven 
Leffiugwell, published by the U. S. Geological Survey, 1919. 


further that the glaciers of Baffin Island are comparable in size 
to the glaciers of British Columbia, we may meet the objection, 
"But surely the land is covered with snow all summer." This, of 
course, cannot be the case. If it were, a glacier would gradually 
develop. As a matter of fact, the snowfall in the Canadian arctic 
islands and on the north coast of Canada and Alaska is less than 
half and in many places less than quarter of what it is, for instance, 
in Montreal or Petrograd or the hills back of Christiania. It is 
less than in Chicago, Warsaw, northeast Germany or the High- 
lands of Scotland. The amount is difficult to estimate exactly for 
the snow is so frequently disturbed by the wind, but in all probabil- 
ity the typical arctic snowfall would not, if translated into water, 
amount to more than four or at the most six inches per year, where 
the snowfall in certain inhabited portions of Europe and America 
amounts to ten times that much. Sverdrup estimates the total 
annual snowfall of Ellesmere Island, the most northerly island yet 
found in the world, at about one-tenth of the weather bureau esti- 
mate for the annual snowfall of St. Louis, Missouri. Most of what 
little snow falls in the far North is soon swept by the wind into 
gullies and into the lee of hills, so that from seventy-five to ninety 
per cent, of the surface of arctic land is comparatively free from 
snow at all seasons. What we mean by "comparatively free" is 
that a pebble the size of a plum lying on the ground would have 
more than an even chance of being partly visible above the snow. 

Closely allied to the idea that all land in the north is covered 
with eternal ice and snow is the one that the climate is an ever- 
lasting winter of intense cold. Whether this is true is largely a 
matter of definition. A person brought up in Manitoba or Mon- 
tana would be inclined to think that there is no winter in the south 
of England, while a native of Sicily or India might consider the 
climate of England all winter. We might begin by defining sum- 
mer, and defining it as that season when ponds are unfrozen and 
the small rivers flow ice-free to the sea. This season may be five 
months long, as it is on the arctic circle north of Great Bear Lake in 
Canada; four months, as in Victoria Island; three months, as in 
Melville Island; or even shorter, as in the islands discovered by 
us to the north. But there is always a summer, the presence of birds, 
with the hum of bees and the buzz of insects more unpleasant and 
with green grass and flowers. 

The question of whether the arctic winter is intensely cold is 
also a matter of definition. Temperature is a field where every- 
thing is comparative, even though you concede to the thermometric 


scale an absolute value. The Canadian government has for more 
than twenty years maintained a weather observatory at Herschel 
Island on the north coast of Canada, about two hundred miles 
beyond the arctic circle, and during that time the lowest tempera- 
ture recorded has been 54° below zero Fahrenheit. This may seem 
cold, and indeed is cold in comparison with Zululand or England. 
But it is not cold when compared with certain permanently inhabited 
countries. Traveling south from Herschel Island less than two 
hundred miles you come to Fort Macpherson, for a long time the 
most northerly trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company, and 
here the temperature some winters drops as low as 68° below zero. 
This is because, although going south, you are getting away from 
the moderating effect of the huge amount of unfrozen and compara- 
tively warm water that underlies the ice of the polar sea and that 
forms a great radiator which prevents the temperature from drop- 
ping exceedingly low. Traveling again south from Fort Macpherson 
several hundred miles you come to the city of Dawson, the capital 
of the Yukon Territory. This is a great mining center, although 
it no longer has a population of forty thousand people as in the 
days of its highest prosperity. Dawson is an ordinary town with 
buildings steam-heated and electrically lighted, and with all the 
ordinary activities of a place of four or five thousand population. 
There are shops where people buy and sell as they do in other 
climes, there are churches with people going to church (a few), 
and there are little children toddling to school, all without any 
greater apparent discomfort, though the temperature sometimes 
drops to 65° below zero, than you find in France or in North Caro- 
lina where the temperature goes a little below freezing. More 
hardship is felt, more complaint expressed, and there is more inter- 
ference with the ordinary routine of life when snow falls in Paris 
than when Dawson is at its coldest. 

As you go south along the Rocky Mountains from Dawson you 
get farther from the great temperature equalizer, the ocean, as you 
get nearer the equator. A thousand miles south, in northern Mon- 
tana, the United States Weather Bureau gives the same minimum 
figure for winter cold near Havre that the Canadian Weather 
Bureau does near Dawson — 68° below zero. We know from ob- 
servation it is never colder than 54° below zero on the north coast 
of North America at sea level: we know theoretically that it can- 
not ever get much colder than 60° below at the North Pole which 
lies in a deep ocean. It is, then, at Havre, Montana, fourteen de- 


grees colder than on the north coast of North America and ten 
degrees colder than at the North Pole. Near the great city of Win- 
nipeg in Manitoba the weather bureau shows lower temperatures 
than for the north coast of Canada. So if you happen to be living 
in northern Montana or southern Manitoba and want to go polar 
exploring, it would seem you might leave behind a few clothes. I 
once said substantially this in a lecture in Kalispell, Montana, 
whereupon some one in the audience took me to task for running 
down Montana. But the merits of Montana are securely estab- 
lished, I told him. A friend of mine has a cattle ranch near Havre 
where steers do well running out all winter. I was not, therefore, 
running down Montana by the comparison but praising the North 

The cold pole of the northern hemisphere, far from coinciding 
with 'the North Pole, is believed to be on the continent of Asia north 
of Irkutsk, where the temperature is said occasionally to fall to 
90° below zero. And that is a settled country, the inhabitants of 
which probably do not complain any more about the climate than 
do those of London or New York. 

A corollary to everlasting cold in the north is absence of summer 
heat. It is not easy to say which one of the common notions about 
the North is the least true, but it is hard to see how any idea can be 
more wrong than this one. 

I spent the summer of 1910 from fifty to seventy-five miles 
north of the arctic circle in Canada, northeast of Great Bear Lake, 
and for six weeks the temperature rose to the vicinity of 90° in 
the shade nearly every day. Neither did it fall low at night, for 
in that region the sun does not set and there is no respite through 
the cooling darkness. The sun beat down on us from a cloudless 
sky as it continued its monotonous circling, and all of my party 
agreed we had never in our experience suffered as much from cold 
as we suffered from heat that summer. The distress was augmented 
by the unbelievable numbers of pests of the insect world — mos- 
quitoes, sandflies, horseflies, and so on. No one who has not 
been in the Arctic, or near it, has any idea what mosquitoes may 
be like. I have found it wise not to even try to explain, for although 
people are willing to believe any horror of the North if it centers 
around cold and ice, they lose faith in your responsibility if you 
try to tell them the truth about the northern mosquito.* 

Every summer the United States Weather Bureau reports tem- 

* See "The Arctic Prairies," by Ernest Thompson Seton, p. 63. 


perature above 90° in the shade at Fort Yukon, in Alaska, four 
miles north of the arctic circle. The maximum recorded there so 
far is 100° in the shade. 

Still following the typical view of the far north we come to 
the question of vegetation. Even those who would make the off- 
hand statement that the land is covered with eternal ice and snow 
would, if you pressed them, admit that they had heard of vegeta- 
tion in the North. You would, however, find that in their minds 
the idea of vegetation was coupled with such adjectives as "humble," 
"stunted," "clinging," and more specifically they would be of 
opinion that what vegetation there is must be mosses and lichens. 
Should you succeed in reminding them that they have read or heard 
of arctic flowers, they would think of these as an exception. 

Yet Sir Clements Markham in his appendix to the "Life of 
Admiral McClintock," points out that he knows of the existence 
of 762 species of arctic flowering plants and only 332 species of 
mosses, 250 of lichens and 28 of ferns. Similarly Dr. Elmer Ek- 
blaw, the American botanist, gathered over 120 different species 
of flowering plants in one vicinity six or seven hundred miles north 
of the arctic circle. And these are not flowering plants that are 
strange to us, but they include such common forms as saxifrage, 
P0PPy> Alpine chickweed, bluegrass, heather, mountain avens, 
sedge, arnica, cat's-paw, reed-bent grass, blue-bell, sixteen species 
of cress, dandelion, timothy, scouring rushes, ferns and edible mush- 

Even while we realize that the number of species of flowering 
plants in the Arctic is far greater than the non-flowering, we might 
still believe that the non-flowering are comparatively luxuriant 
and conspicuous and the flowering plants shrinking and rare. In 
general this is the opposite of the truth. In special cases it may 
be that, through scarcity or absence of soil, lichens and mosses 
prevail locally, for the peculiarity of lichens especially is that they 
manage to live even on the surface of naked rocks. But whenever 
soil is abundant, and this is as likely to be the case in the Arctic 
as elsewhere, the prevailing vegetation is grasses, sedges and the 
like; and in some places, no matter how far north, this kind of 
vegetation completely obscures the non-flowering. 

"Barren Ground" is a libelous name by which the open land of 
the north is commonly described. This name is better adapted for 
creating the impression that those who travel in the North are in- 
trepid adventurers than it is for conveying to the reader a true pic- 
ture of the country. If we want to be near the truth we should 




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1. There are hundreds of species of flowering plants and dozens of species 

of moths and butterflies found on the most northerly islands 
in the world. 

2. A meadow and flowers of the cotton plant — Herschel Island, North 

Coast of Canada. 


rather follow Ernest Thompson Seton who is so impressed with 
the grasslands of the North that he makes the expression 'The 
Arctic Prairies" the title of his book describing a journey north. 
Mecham, one of the most remarkable of arctic travelers and the 
original explorer of southwestern Melville Island and southern 
Prince Patrick Island, says in his report, published in the Parlia- 
mentary Blue Books of Great Britain for the year 1855, that many 
of the portions of Melville Island which did not happen to be rocky 
reminded him of English meadows. This was five hundred miles 
north of the arctic circle and this is the case no matter how far 
north you go. Northern Greenland is not only the most northerly 
land so far discovered but the refrigerating effect of the ice in the 
sea is there greatly accentuated by the chill from the inland ice- 
cap. Here, descending from the inland ice to the coast, Peary 
found musk oxen grazing in green and flowered meadows among 
the song of birds and the hum of bees. That the musk ox is a 
grass-eating animal and not a lichen-eater, and is the most northerly 
land animal known, sharing that distinction equally with the cari- 
bou, shows that grass must be abundant on the most northerly lands. 

We now come to the remarkable adjective "lifeless," so fre- 
quently applied to the North. What has been already said is an 
indirect comment on this, but we may develop it further. Look 
in any work of oceanography, and you will find the statement that 
in the ocean the amount of animal life per cubic unit of volume 
does not decrease as you go north from the equator. To this it is 
of course possible to reply, "Oh, yes, but when we call the arctic 
lifeless we are not thinking of the depths of the sea but of the sur- 
face of the land." If that is the position taken, it differs diamet- 
rically from that of such a polar authority, as, for instance, Sir 
Clements Markham, a former president of the Royal Geographical 
Society of Great Britain, who on page 166 of his "Life of Admiral 
McCIintock" speaks of the "polar ocean without life" in contradis- 
tinction to the polar islands, which he recognized to be well sup- 
plied with it. 

The arctic grasslands have caribou in herds of tens of thou- 
sands and sometimes hundreds of thousands to a single band, with 
lesser numbers of musk oxen here and there. Wolves that feed 
on the caribou go singly and in packs of ten or less, and their 
aggregate numbers on the arctic prairies of the two hemispheres 
must be well in the tens of thousands. There are the polar foxes, 
both white and blue, that feed in summer on the unbelievable 
swarms of lemmings that also form the food of hundreds of thou- 


sands of owls and hawks and gulls. There are the goose and brant 
and swan and crane and loon and various species of ducks. The 
ground at the moulting season in some islands such as Banks Island, 
three or four hundred miles north of the arctic circle, is literally 
white with millions of wavy geese and equally white with their 
moulted feathers a little later in the season when the birds are 
gone. When you add to this picture the bumblebees, blue-bottle 
flies and abundant insect life of which the clouds of mosquitoes form 
the most impressive and least tolerable part, you get a picture of 
a country that in summer certainly is not without life. 

"But then," it may be said, "there comes the winter when the 
insects live only as eggs and larvae containing the potential life for 
the coming year, and when all land animals migrate south." It 
is true that this opinion can be supported by direct quotations from 
explorers, especially the early ones. It seemed so eminently reason- 
able to men brought up in England that any animal with legs to 
walk on would move south in winter, that they translated this be- 
lief into a statement of fact and asserted that both the caribou 
and the musk ox leave such islands as Melville in the fall to come 
again in the spring. If this were so, surely my companions and I 
could not have lived on the meat of land animals which we killed 
every month of the year as far north as 76° and even 80° N. Lati- 
tude. Musk oxen never leave any island on which they are born, 
for there is no evidence that they go out on the sea ice at all. 
Caribou do move about from island to island but they are just 
as likely to move north in the fall as to move south. On the north 
end of Banks Island McClure found them abundant in midwinter 
seventy years ago, and we found them more abundant in the north 
end of the island than anywhere else every winter while we lived 
there. The bull caribou shed their horns about the middle of winter, 
and even the summer traveler cannot fail to notice that the horns of 
bull caribou are scattered over every arctic island that he visits. 

No more than the caribou and musk oxen do the wolves that 
feed on them go south. The white foxes leave the islands and the 
mainland, ninety per cent, of them, but they go north rather than 
south. What they really do is to leave the land for the sea ice, 
where they subsist through the winter on remnants of seals that 
have been killed and not completely devoured by the polar bears. 
The lemmings stay in the north. Most owls and most ravens go 
south but some spend the winter north. Fully half the ptarmigan 
remain north of the arctic circle. The hares live in winter about 
where they do in summer. 


To sum up, the arctic sea is lifeless except that it contains about 
as much life to the cubic mile of water as any other sea. The 
arctic land is lifeless except for millions of caribou and of foxes, 
tens of thousands of wolves and of musk oxen, thousands of polar 
bears, billions of insects and millions of birds. And all these go 
south in the fall except the insects which die as they do in temperate 
lands, and except the ptarmigan, caribou, foxes, wolves, musk oxen, 
polar bears, lemmings, hares, weasels, owls, and ravens, all of which 
we have named in approximately the order of their decreasing nu- 
merical strength.* 

Then there is the "silent north." Nothing is more characteristic 
of the Arctic as it has been imagined to be than its silence. But 
it will appear just how silent a summer must be where the air is 
continually filled with the hum of the blue-bottle fly, ubiquitously 
waiting to deposit its larvae, and the buzz of the mosquitoes, hover- 
ing in clouds to suck the blood of man or beast. There are the 
characteristic cries of the plovers and the snipes and the various 
sandpipers and smaller birds, the squawking of ducks, the cackling 
of geese, and the louder though rarer cries of the crane and the 
swan. And especially the night is resonant (if you are "of a nervous 
temperament" you will say hideous) with the screaming of loons, 
in its nature somewhere between the shriek of a demented woman 
and the yowling of cats on a back fence. 

Two characteristic noises of southern lands are absent. There 
is not the rustle of leaves nor the roar of traffic. Nor is there the 
beating of waves upon a shore except in summer. But none of these 
sounds are heard upon the more southerly prairies. The treeless 
plains of Dakota when I was a boy were far more silent than 
ever the Arctic has been in my experience. In both places I have 
heard the whistling of the wind and the howl of wolves and the 
sharp bark of the fox at night; in both places I have heard the 
ground crack with the frost of winter like the report of a rifle, al- 
though these sounds are more characteristic of the Arctic. In the 
far North not only is the ground continually cracking when the 
temperature is changing and especially when it is dropping, but 
near the sea at least there is, not always but on occasion, a con- 
tinuous and to those in exposed situations a terrifying noise. When 
the ice is being piled against a polar coast there is a high-pitched 
screeching as one cake slides over the other, like the thousand-times 

* On the arctic prairies of the mainland there remain for the winter also 
the muskrat and the grizzly bear. Of the sea life only whales and walruses 
are known to go south. 


magnified creaking of a rusty hinge. There is the crashing when 
cakes as big as a church wall, after being tilted on edge, finally pass 
beyond their equilibrium and topple down upon the ice; and when 
extensive floes, perhaps six or more feet in thickness, gradually bend 
under the resistless pressure of the pack until they buckle up and 
snap, there is a groaning as of supergiants in torment and a boom- 
ing which at a distance of a mile or two sounds like a cannonade. 

"The eternal polar silence," writes the poet in his London attic. 
But Shackleton's men, as quoted in his book "South," now and again 
commence their diary entries with the words "din. Din, DIN." 
Robert Service some distance south of the arctic circle in a small 
house in the city of Dawson, wrote much of the arctic silence. 
But we of the far north never forget the boom and screech and 
roar of the polar pack. 

The literary north is barren, dismal and desolate. Here we are 
dealing with words of indefinite meaning into which each of us 
reads what significance he chooses. 

Part of my bringing up was on the level and treeless Dakota 
prairie where I heard daily plaints from my mother expressed in 
one or another and sometimes in all of these adjectives. She had 
been brought up within sight of magnificent snow-capped moun- 
tains with deep purples and blues in the folds of the hills, and what 
she was really complaining about was that the prairies had no 
mountains in the distance. They were also treeless, but so had 
been my mother's mountain home, and she had no longing for trees 
and even almost a dislike for them. I heard the same complaints 
of the dreariness and desolation of the prairie from our neighbors. 
They, like us, were newcomers, but from a country of forest and 
hill. No doubt they had read much of the beauty of the mountains 
and were willing to concede it in the abstract, but what they were 
lonesome for was the shade and the rustle of trees and the relief 
to the eye of hedgerows and orchards. To my mother desolation 
meant absence of mountains; to them it meant absence of trees; 
but to me, brought up on the prairie, the desolation was not per- 
ceived and the complaints were cries without meaning. When I 
later moved to a country of hills and woods I had a feeling of being 
restrained, shut in. A mountain on the horizon does not trouble me. 
But even to this day when I get close in among them my most 
pronounced feeling is that they shut out the view. No matter how 
high the peak that you climb, there are all around other peaks, 
each with its secret behind it. No landscape is open, free, fair and 
aboveboard but the level prairie or the wide-stretching sea. 


Few of the explorers of the far north have come from a moun- 
tainous country but most of them have been brought up among 
hills and woods. So what they mean when they call the north 
barren is that it is devoid of trees, and when they say desolation they 
mean absence of cultivation and habitations of men in the sense 
in which they are familiar with them. Two stories on one subject 
illustrate this completely and give, I believe, the whole truth of 
why we have so often been told that the north is barren and desolate. 

A young man by the name of Thomas Simpson had come in 
1838 direct from his home among the woods and hedges of Eng- 
land to the limit of the forest area on the arctic circle, just north 
of Great Bear Lake. Except for the Atlantic voyage he had 
traveled to Bear Lake chiefly if not entirely through a country of 
hills and woods, and here for the first time in his life he was face 
to face with the open country. He came to a lake about thirty 
miles long surrounded by hills of varied form. There were trees 
at the east end but he could see them only in the far distance; 
there were trees at the west end which he probably did not see 
at all. He did what is customary when a European "discovers" 
some place to which he has been guided by the natives whose an- 
cestors have been brought up in the vicinity: he gave the lake a 
name. He named it "Dismal Lake." And in his book he goes 
nearly to the limits of the language in telling us how desolate and 
dreary, forlorn and forbidding, blasted and barren the country was. 

Half a century later there grew up in England a man by the 
name of David Hanbury. He did not come to the far north di- 
rectly from England by a route exclusively through woods. For 
one thing, he had purchased a ranch and lived on it off and on for 
years in Wyoming. He was familiar with the prairie and even 
with the uninhabited prairie. He had read Thomas Simpson's 
book, and the adjectives had made enough impression upon him so 
that when he approached Dismal Lake he expected the place to 
live up to its name. But all Thomas Simpson had really meant 
when he strained his vocabulary was that trees were absent or far 
away and that there was some snow on the ground. To Hanbury 
treelessness and a covering of snow would not of themselves have 
constituted desolation. Perhaps partly as a reaction against 
Simpson, he goes to the other extreme and describes the lake as 
a, wilderness paradise. Simpson chanced to come to the lake in 
winter and Hanbury in summer, but this was not where the differ- 
ence lay, as Hanbury makes clear and as I can testify personally. 
For with a familiarity with the prairie and with treeless mountains 


equal to Hanbury's, I have lived a year in the vicinity of Dismal 
Lake and visited it both summer and winter, and I agree with 
Hanbury that the man who describes such a place as dismal, deso- 
late and dreary is telling nothing of interest beyond revealing the 
peculiar meaning which certain common words have in his mind. 

Those parts of Manitoba which produce more to the acre of the 
best wheat than almost any other part of the world are still fre- 
quently described as barren and desolate by visitors from a forest 
country, even by those who will concede that it is "the bread basket 
of the world." When land of great money value and acknowledged 
fertility is described as barren and desolate, we have the key to the 
common impression that the north deserves these terms. 

You will remember that the North and especially the stars as 
seen in the North are frequently referred to as ''cruel." This is a 
purely subjective word. The surf that is a delight to a strong 
swimmer may seem cruel to a landlubber who falls in. It is so with 
the North. If you are sufficiently inept at meeting its conditions, 
you may find it as relentless as the sea; but if you know its ways 
you find it exceedingly friendly and homelike. 

One might go on almost indefinitely demolishing common con- 
cepts about the North, but we shall end with the depressing effect 
of arctic darkness. 

When I first went North to spend the winter of 1906-07, I was 
a good deal of a hero. I had all the wrong notions about the North, 
or nearly all, for I had read most of the books that had been written 
on the subject. But, like the typical explorer, I was brave and 
prepared to fight the best fight I knew how and to die if necessary 
for the advancement of science. (You see I came from an instruc- 
torship in a university, and "science," rather than adventure or a 
desire for the laurels of the hero-martyr, loomed great before me.) 
I discreetly feared all the terrors of the North but I feared the 
darkness most. For in addition to the published books I had come 
in contact with miners from Alaska who had told me how people 
up there went crazy and shot themselves, either because of the 
depressing effect of the winter darkness or because of the nervous 
strain and insomnia caused by the "eternal daylight" of summer. 

Fortunately for me, this winter was not spent with men like 
myself. In that case we might have hypnotized each other into 
actually feeling what we expected to feel. I had gone to an ap- 
pointed rendezvous at the mouth of the Mackenzie but the ship 
that was to meet me there never turned up and I, the only white 
man in the vicinity, had to throw in my lot with the Eskimos. I 


was surprised at their kindness, courtesy and hospitality. I was 
surprised at how little conspicuous were the filth and other horrors 
I had read about, although there was enough for literary material 
if suitably magnified. But what surprised me most was that the 
sun was sinking lower every day and the darkness coming on apace 
without these benighted people appearing to worry at all over the 
circumstance. Four of them could speak broken English. As I 
remember it now, three out of these four expressed a frank surprise 
when I intimated that I dreaded the coming darkness; but the 
fourth said that he was familiar with the thought, for he had been 
on whaling ships and had often heard "tenderfeet" who were spend- 
ing their first winter in the Arctic talking about the coming dark- 
ness. He himself had been put up to it by some mischievous per- 
sons to invent for the benefit of these green hands dreadful stories 
about the gloom of a coming winter. But privately he regarded 
dread of the darkness as one of the peculiarities of white men which 
he did not understand, and he went on to say that he noticed that 
the old whalers who had been in the North a long time soon got 
over it. 

This ought to have been encouraging. But I was so obsessed 
with the "winter night" that I actually succeeded in working myself 
into something of a depression, and when, after an absence of 
several weeks, the sun came again, I walked half a mile to the top 
of a hill to get the first possible glimpse of it and wrote in my 
diary what a cheerful and wonderful sight it was. I never did this 
again. Now, after ten winters in the North, the return of the 
sun is scarcely more impressive to me, though more definitely noted, 
than the stopping of it at the summer or winter solstice when I 
' am living in New York. And if I make mention of it in my diary 
the entry is never longer than half a line and is usually when I am 
on a journey to indicate roughly the latitude — for the day upon 
which the sun returns and the portion of it visible above the horizon 
the first day depend mainly on two factors, the latitude and the 
refraction, which latter in turn depends in part on temperature. 

I have found that the ordinary ship's crew can be divided with 
regard to the arctic night into three sections : The most intelligent 
men, such as for instance young college graduates, can have the 
fear of the darkness explained away completely and they will pass 
their first "winter night" without any noticeable depression. The 
second group, such as the typical sailor or Alaska miner, have heard 
a great deal about how depressing the darkness is and you can 
explain yourself black in the face without their believing you. 


They remember that Jones went crazy and they have not forgotten 
what Smith told them about his first winter, and they know they 
are going to be depressed. And they are depressed, to a degree at 
least. The third group are such men as Hawaii Islanders, Cape 
Verde Islanders, or southern negroes, whom we frequently have in 
our northern crews. They have never heard of the depressing ef- 
fect of winter darkness and are quite as ready to believe the local 
Eskimos and the captain of the ship who say that the gloom of win- 
ter is imaginary, as to believe the forecastle men who are in dread of 
it. I have questioned every one of the men of this type whom I have 
met and none of them have noticed that they were appreciably 
depressed by their first "arctic night." 

The winter darkness is to the Eskimo about what the hottest 
period of summer is to the city dweller. The darkness, as such, 
may not be agreeable to the Eskimo any more than the heat, as 
such, is agreeable to the man of the city, but to each of them it 
means the vacation period. The clerk gets his two weeks in which 
he can go to the seaside or to the mountains. The Eskimo has 
found it inconvenient to hunt during the periods of extreme darkness 
and sees to it that he has laid by a sufficient store of food to take 
him through for a month or two. Having no real work to do, he 
makes long journeys to visit his friends and, arrived, spends his 
time in singing, dancing and revelry. For this reason most Eskimos 
look forward to the winter darkness more than to any other period. 
The darkness of Christmas shows itself to be about as depressing 
on the north coast of Canada as the darkness of midnight on 

The soundest reasoning leads to the wrongest conclusions when 
the premises are false. On the basis of the Arctic as it is supposed 
to be the Eskimos would be as wretched in the circumstances of 
their lives as theory makes them. But the fact that they are not 
wretched has penetrated to most of us through the uniform asser- 
tions of about ninety per cent, of the northern travelers and ten per 
cent, of the northern missionaries. Although most explorers have 
filled their books with accounts of what a happy, carefree life is 
led by the Eskimos, a few have called them wretched, meaning really 
thereby that they imagine they themselves would be wretched if 
they had to live as the Eskimos are living. No one of them can have 
failed to notice how much leisure the Eskimos have for games, story- 
telling, singing, dancing and the enjoyment of life in general, and 
most explorers will agree that an Eskimo laughs as much in a month 
as the average white man does in a year. One reason why the Es- 


kimo is happy is that in the uncivilized state he usually has enough 
wholesome food to keep him in perfect health. And if there is a 
royal road to happiness it is through health. From the missionary 
we must, if we are logical, expect a rather more pessimistic picture. 
He is by profession a reformer and goes North to improve conditions; 
if he found them excellent his work would, by his own confession, 
be useless. Some missionaries too, are so deeply religious (in the 
orthodox sense) that they are constitutionally incapable of con- 
ceiving that any one can really be happy unless he has been "saved." 

When we realize that the Eskimos secure their living with little 
labor as compared with the rest of us, and that they are healthy 
and happy, it dawns on us that they are really inhabiting a desir- 
able country. Nearly every close observer from Sir John Richard- 
son down has pointed out that on the continent of North America 
the relation of the Eskimos to the Indians south of them has always 
been aggressive, and though there is fear on both sides, still the 
Indians are far more frightened of the Eskimos than the Eskimos 
are of the Indians. It follows, then, that the Eskimos have not 
been crowded by a more powerful people into "n undesirable place 
which they now inhabit. There is no more evidence that the 
Eskimos have been crowded north by the Indians than there is 
evidence that the present population of England are living there 
because crowded north by the French. 

But now comes the paradox of human conservatism everywhere. 
The Eskimos who inhabit these desirable coast lands and who are 
firmly of the opinion that they are desirable, were as grounded in 
the belief of the desolation and lifelessness of the ocean to the north 
of them as were the scientists or the explorers. The pioneer side of 
our work consisted in testing, in the way which we shall tell, the 
theory that the ice floes of the northern ocean, no less than the is- 
lands which sprinkle it, were capable of supporting life and that 
white men were competent to demonstrate it. The Eskimos con- 
sidered theory and test absurd, and would take no part in it. 

One attribute of a high civilization is a development of the 
spirit of adventure, of the will to experiment. It is possible to get 
some white men to try anything, no matter what the risk; but to 
get an Eskimo to try anything is not possible if the venture seems 
futile or dangerous. We do many things for honor and glory, for 
science and humanity, and some things for dare-deviltry; but to 
an Eskimo dare-deviltry is inconceivable and he could get neither 
honor nor glory from his own people by risking his life to establish 
a theory. They would consider his action merely silly and he would 


lose caste instead of winning it. Why should a man who lives in a 
country where seals are abundant and caribou can be had in addi- 
tion, concern himself about establishing the fact that seals are abun- 
dant in some other place where caribou cannot be had? Enough 
is as good as a feast; and if you have plenty of seals here, what 
more is there to be gained if seals are elsewhere? So we had to 
do our work without the assistance of the Eskimos and in a field 
which was as much beyond their intellectual vision as the ice a 
hundred miles offshore was beyond the vision of their eyes. 








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WHEN our three ships sailed from the romantic "Gold 
Camp" of Nome, Alaska, late in July, 1913, northward 
into the polar ocean, I was dissatisfied with our expedition 
in only one important respect. It was too sumptuously outfitted. 
Forethought appeared to have anticipated every eventuality. We 
had a plan ready for every accident: if plan A went wrong, then 
plan B would be substituted. We had a staff of thirteen scientific 
specialists to look after the gathering of information each in his 
own department. There was a good man, ably assisted, in com- 
mand of each of our ships, and in the Karluk, in which I sailed, I 
had Captain "Bob" Bartlett * with the reputation of the world's best 
ice master, the confidence of the crew, and his alternative replies 
to any suggestion or order of mine — "Right sir!" when he felt 
formal and the crew were within earshot; otherwise "Don't you 
worry — leave it to me!" 

The trouble was, there seemed nothing left for the commander 
of such an expedition to do. "He spake, and it was so" promised 
to be the story of our enterprise. There may be much to be said 
for the fiat method of creating a universe, but it cannot be sup- 
posed to have been interesting. I feared I should be actually bored 
by all that smooth-working machinery. 

My fears on this score began to be gradually removed. First, 
the thirty-ton gasoline schooner, Alaska, under command of Dr. R. 
M. Anderson, had trouble with her engine and had to put into 
Teller, ninety miles north of Nome, for repairs. Then a gale came 
up and our two remaining ships separated. This was because 
Captain Peter Bernard of the Mary Sachs (30 tons, twin propellers, 
gasoline power) , with the advantage of local experience, believed in 
keeping his ship near shore, and did so, while Captain Bartlett, 
a "deep-sea skipper" from the Atlantic, struck for the open sea. 

It was a lively gale. Our 250-ton Karluk was carrying more 
than she should below decks, and on deck she had 150 tons with 

♦For a brief "Who's Who" of the expedition, see the appendix. 



which she would never have been allowed to sail had there been 
at the port of Nome rigid inspectors unwilling to except an explor- 
ing vessel from the rules that are supposed to promote the safety 
of ships at sea. She was so deep in the water with her heavy- 
cargo that her decks were nearly awash, and in spite of good 
seamanship, crashing waves occasionally got a blow at the deck 
cargo, eventually shifting it enough to make her considerably 
lop-sided. Things were getting interesting when, after fifteen or 
twenty hours of a heavy sea, we got into the shelter of Cape 
Thompson. I don't believe the skipper would have liked to admit 
that we were running in for shelter as such, and so the understand- 
ing was that we pulled in there to wait for the Mary Sachs and 
to buy dogs and dog-feed. To get these commodities we followed 
up along the land to Point Hope. 

Point Hope is just beyond the reach of tourists and of the 
journalists who write fascinating magazine articles about "primi- 
tive people untouched by civilization." It lies in that tame inter- 
mediate zone where missionaries, equipped with victrolas and sup- 
plied by yearly shipments of canned goods, labor heroically for 
the betterment of the natives, who realize that they are badly off 
just as soon as they are told about it. It is one of the anomalies 
of our world that it should take the efforts of so many self-denying 
people to awaken the wretched to a consciousness of their wretch- 

We occupied twenty or thirty hours in buying a few dogs and 
a great deal of walrus meat for dog-feed at the village of Point 
Hope, and we also engaged two Eskimos, Pauyurak and Asatsiak. 
It was my intention to hire a number of Eskimos eventually, but I 
preferred to pick them up farther east, where I am personally ac- 
quainted with them and have known many since they were children. 

I should have liked to wait for the Mary Sachs which pre- 
sumably was behind us, but our gale had been blowing from the 
north and it was likely that the ice was on its way though still 
unseen and possibly distant. It seemed better to get along east 
toward Point Barrow before the ice should block the way, leaving 
the Sachs to follow, if indeed she were behind. For about a hun- 
dred miles northeastward we had a beam wind from the northwest 
and open water. But the swell was gradually subsiding, so we 
knew the ice could not be far away. 

It is a principle of esthetics that you like what you are used 
to, and that nothing is so horrible as the absolutely strange. We 


are told by Plutarch that Hannibal's generals had heard much 
before leaving Carthage of the ugliness of Alpine mountains but 
that when they came in sight of them the grewsomeness far ex- 
ceeded their worst fears. Similarly we southerners who have heard 
much of the horrors of the ice, and who associate it with such 
tragedies as the wreck of the Titanic or the death through starva- 
tion of Sir John Franklin's hundred men, are likely to feel about 
the polar pack when we come in contact with it that same sense 
of imaginings verified. But after years of friendly dealing with 
the ice, seeking my food upon its surface or at its margin, walking 
upon it by day and camping upon it comfortably at night, I am 
as much at ease among its floating cakes as the Swiss are among 
the Alps that horrified Hannibal's African generals. I have the 
feeling when I come to the ice from the open ocean that one native 
to forests may have when he comes to a wooded country after a 
journey over the prairie. I imagine Bartlett felt much as I did. 
I did not ask him. 

I was born and brought up on the prairie, so I am always at 
home there. I have spent eleven years in close contact with the 
polar ice and shall always be at home there whenever I am able 
to get back to it. I am at home also in the big cities, for I got 
to them before I was yet mature and have lived in them for ten or 
fifteen years. But so far I have been unable to feel at home either 
in a forest or in a mountainous country, for my experience with them 
has never been long enough for me to become acclimated. I do 
not remember ever having more distinctly the feeling of home- 
coming than I did when, near Wainwright Inlet, the first line of 
white appeared upon the horizon. I climbed from the deck well 
up the rigging to have a good look at the pack. 

While the appearance of the ice was friendly and familiar, it 
was in another sense not propitious, for it meant delay. The north- 
west coast of Alaska between Point Hope and Point Barrow is 
shallow inshore, without a real harbor anywhere. The northerly 
wind had brought in from afar the ice which three or four days 
before had been out of sight from the entire coast, as we later 
learned from the natives. Now it was coming in at a speed of 
perhaps a mile an hour. It had already struck the coast ahead 
of us, and as we proceeded the space of open water became narrower 
until about thirty miles southwest of Point Barrow there was no 
chance for further progress. Bartlett accordingly put the nose 
of the ship against a big ice cake, saying to me that now that we 


had to stop anyhow, we might as well use the opportunity to teach 
our "bunch of scientific tenderfeet" that fresh water could be got 
from sea ice. 

This remark recalled a series of episodes beginning in an im- 
pressive suite in a London hotel where I had gone to call on Sir 
John Murray, who at that time divided with the Prince of Monaco 
the honor of being considered by scientific men the leading living 
authority on oceanography. I was in Europe for the purpose of 
securing special scientific equipment and a few experts for our 
technical staff, for, the expedition being British, we desired to get 
in other parts of the Empire, so far as possible, such men as were 
not available in Canada. On the advice of my friend, Dr. W. S. 
Bruce, Director of the Scottish Oceanographical Laboratory, and, 
so far as polar waters were concerned, a more trustworthy adviser 
than any one else in the world, I had already selected as the 
oceanographer for the expedition James Murray, who had been 
biologist with Shackleton on his first Antarctic expedition. Before 
serving with Shackleton James Murray had been associated with 
Sir John Murray in the Scottish Lochs Survey. We had now gone 
to call on Sir John for advice as to the proper equipment to carry 
and what problems to stress in our work. After a technical discus- 
sion of two or three hours as to various forms of sounding-machines, 
dredges, nets and other paraphernalia for ocean investigation. Sir 
John ordered refreshments and we spent a pleasant hour listening 
to his reminiscences of the Challenger Expedition "which discovered 
a new world at the bottom of the sea," and his later ocean ad- 

Among the stories told by Sir John was one of a cruise in north- 
ern waters, I think north of Norway or perhaps farther east. On 
this occasion they ran short of fresh water and something was 
wrong with the distilling apparatus, so that the ship's company 
were in difficulties. The sea where they were was mainly open, but 
here and there were small scattered floes, and off on the horizon 
they could see ice blink, indicating that more extensive ice was 
lying just beyond range of vision. It occurred to Sir John, he told 
us, that possibly this more extensive ice might have been formed 
in the mouth of one of the great Siberian rivers, for from his knowl- 
edge of ocean currents he thought it not at all improbable that 
ice which had lain in the mouth of one of these rivers the previous 
spring might now be floating somewhere in their vicinity, although 
the distance was considerable. He spoke of this possibility to the 
captain, and the ship steered towards the ice blink and presently 


found itself among substantial floes. They nosed carefully up to 
one of them. On examination they were gratified to find that this 
was "river ice from which they could get fresh water." 

At this point I asked Sir John how he knew it was river ice, 
and was dumbfounded by his reply: "It was obvious," he said, "for 
the water on top was nearly fresh and the ice itself, except on 
the edges where the spray had been dashing on it, also tasted 
fresh." In spite of being the greatest living oceanographer. Sir 
John was unaware of the fact, which I then supposed to be well- 
known to all polar explorers, that sea ice becomes fresh during the 
period intervening between its formation and the end of the first 
summer thereafter. 

Here we might digress again to comment on one of the differ- 
ences between an art and a science. Among polar explorers are 
some of the noblest names in the history of Britain since Elizabeth, 
and so it is in the histories of many of the other seafaring countries. 
Most of these explorers have been great sailors and gallant gentle- 
men; some of them, such as Franklin and Peary, have scarcely 
been sailors in the proper sense, though their careers have not been 
for that reason any less honorable nor less honored. But few of 
them have been scientists, and polar exploration has never been a 
science. It has been rather something between an art and a sport. 
It is the essence of the code of the scientist to publish at once 
for the use of the world every secret, whether of fundamental 
principle or of technique. But it is no violation of the ethics of a 
craft or of a sport to keep secret and to employ exclusively for one's 
self and one's immediate associates such knowledge as one has. 
I once asked Peary why he had not published certain things that 
we were talking about, and his reply was, "My dear boy, I am 
not printing anything until I have got the Pole." It was only 
after he had reached the Pole and after he had retired that he wrote 
his book, "Secrets of Polar Travel." 

I have found, since the point first came to my attention, that 
although some polar explorers knew that sea ice becomes fresh a 
large number never discovered it. In view of this it is really not so 
astonishing that Sir John Murray, although he had been a student of 
the ocean all his life, had overlooked this fact; for, after all, his work 
had been done mainly in tropical and temperate regions. There are 
few things considered more certain than that the ocean is salt, and 
there is no inference more logical (although no inference is ever 
really logical) than that the ice of salt water must also be salt. 

Because of his position as leading authority on the subject 


and because I had already approached him in the attitude of one 
who knows little and hopes to learn much, I felt reluctant about 
explaining to Sir John my knowledge of the freshness of sea ice. 
For one thing, it is always a delicate matter to spoil a good story 
by taking away the point of it. However, I tried in a diffident 
way to explain that I also had had the idea of the saltness of sea 
ice when I first went North, but that I had learned from Eskimos 
that it was fresh, through observing that they commonly make 
their drinking water from it and that this drinking water is per- 
fectly fresh to the taste. Also I suggested that if there were any 
salt it would appear when one makes tea, for the quality of water 
is then peculiarly apparent. We had used it for five Arctic winters, 
I said, without ever finding any salty fiavor in the tea, except 
where we had chosen ice that had been dashed by salt spray so 
late in the fall that the spray had frozen on the outside. Even 
then fresh water could be secured by chipping off the outer or spray 
layer and using the inside of the piece. 

Indeed, I don't think I got quite so far as this in my explana- 
tion when I noticed that Sir John was not looking responsive. Some 
interruption occurred, and he changed the topic. Evidently he 
cared for no information from me on this subject and had no idea 
that what I was telling him was anything more than some unsup- 
ported heresy of mine. As we walked to our hotel I commented 
to James Murray upon how extraordinary it was that this eminent 
oceanographer did not know the freshness of sea ice. I took it for 
granted that my companion agreed with me and did not realize 
until months later that he had received my remarks in the silence 
of disbelief. 

One day at Nome, when the Karluk was lying in the roadstead 
loading up, I received a written request on behalf of the scientific 
staff to meet them at a certain hour to discuss the equipment of 
the Karluk. I thought at first it was the scientific equipment they 
wanted to discuss, and it seemed to me rather late in the day, 
since nothing of that sort could very well be purchased at Nome. 
It turned out that what they had on their minds was the water 
tanks of the ship. They pointed out to me that on the voyage from 
Victoria to Nome, while they had not actually gone short of fresh 
water, they had been obliged to be very careful with it. They 
had had enough, for instance, to wash their faces with, but had 
been compelled to take their baths exclusively with salt water. 
If the voyage had been a little longer they would have had to 
wash even their faces and hands in salt water, reserving the fresh 


water entirely for cooking and drinking. It seemed to them there- 
fore that I should do something about increasing the capacity of 
the fresh water tanks. 

This proposition astounded me. I had considered carefully the 
capacity of the tanks in relation to the voyage from Victoria to 
Nome, which is almost as long as the Atlantic voyage from New 
York to Liverpool. In consultation with Bartlett I had decided 
that the tanks would be adequate even for this voyage, and now 
that we had reached Nome and were on the outskirts of the polar 
sea, it had appeared to me that all doubts were over. I suggested 
that it would be only a few hundred miles until we should be 
among the polar ice. I said that the ordinary method of naviga- 
tion in Alaska is to follow the land as you proceed eastward, never 
going far from shore and always keeping between the land and the 
ice. We could go inshore for water at any time, but if we went 
too far offshore and got beset, we should always be able to get 
fresh water off the ice itself. 

At this point Murray became party spokesman. He said that 
in winter it would be easy to get snow for cooking and drinking, 
but that in summer there would be no snow on the sea ice, and that 
if the ship became hemmed in by floes in such a way that it was 
impossible to reach the land, we could have no way of getting 
drinking-water. When he had been in the Antarctic with Shackle- 
ton they had sometimes used ice for cooking, but that was different, 
for it was always glacier ice they used. It was well known there 
are no icebergs or fragments of glacier ice in the sea north of 
Alaska. And he went on to say that I might possibly consider it 
to smack of insubordination, but that he had been constrained 
to tell the other members of the scientific staff in this connection 
about my interview with Sir John Murray, where he had himself 
been present and where Sir John, who was the greatest authority 
on the ocean living, had dismissed as ridiculous my suggestion that 
salt water ice became fresh. It was only then I recalled the silence 
of James Murray on that walk home. 

It turned out impossible for me to convince my staff that it 
would be safe on the score of drinking water to take a ship out 
among the ocean ice. A number of them were prepared to resign, 
considering that a person so lacking in judgment and discretion 
as to be willing to take an entire ship's company into a position 
where they might all die of thirst must be in general unsuitable 
for the command of any arctic expedition. 

Had I known in advance the topic of the meeting I should have 


suggested that Bartlett be present. I now went to him and asked 
him about his experience with getting fresh water off sea ice. He 
replied that it was well known among the Newfoundland sealers 
that you could always get it and that they never carried large 
fresh water tanks on that account. In fact, there had never been 
a time when Bartlett did not know that salt water ice became 

At the time Bartlett thought he would have no trouble in con- 
vincing the scientific staff, but he told me later that he had had "a 
hell of a time to get some of that crowd to see reason." He did 
succeed in a measure, at least to the extent that I heard nothing 
further about the size of the tanks, and I had nearly forgotten the 
incident when his remark about "showing our bunch of scientist 
tenderfeet that ocean ice is fresh" recalled the whole train of 

After the ship had been tied to a floe, the first officer, John 
Anderson, went "ashore" on the ice, dragging the end of a long 
rubber hose to a small pond on the surface about ten yards from 
the edge, and water was pumped in till all our fresh water tanks 
were full. 

The next meal was a triumph for the staff. Somebody remarked 
that the coffee was bad, and it was found that much of the food 
was more or less spoiled through being too salty. When the cook 
informed us that it must be because of the water, a sampling 
brought out the fact that it was indubitably brackish. There were 
several remarks passed then about the probability of the laws of 
nature working on polar expeditions as they did elsewhere, and 
Scripture was quoted to the effect that salt is not likely to lose its 

This miscarriage hurt Bartlett more than it did me, for a man 
who commands sailors for years finds it useful and almost neces- 
sary to appear infallible. But we were both soon justified. The 
trouble was that the mate, being a new man, had taken water 
from a pond near enough to the edge of the floe to have been filled 
with salt spray during the recent gale. The ship's tank had to be 
emptied and the hose carried a few yards to another pond remote 
enough from the edge so that the water in it was produced either 
by the falling of rain upon the floe or directly by the sunshine. 
The tanks were then filled with perfectly fresh water, and that 
trouble was over. 

When we tied up to the floe we had a sea of scattered ice behind, 
\>VLt ahead between us and Point Barrow everything was packed 


tight. It was only a question of hours, if the wind remained in 
the same northerly quarter, until we should be as closely hemmed 
in from behind as we were before. The wind did not change, and 
by noon the next day everything was so closely pressed together 
that we felt sure of being able to walk ashore, although the distance 
was several miles. We had drifted ahead since tying up and the 
village of Cape Smythe now lay only about twenty-five miles 
ahead. I thought it would be a good idea to walk to land and 
then up the beach to make some purchases in the village and pos- 
sibly to hire some Eskimos, these to be picked up by the Karluk 
whenever the ice opened again so she could proceed. Thus we 
might save a day or two of time. To give Dr. Mackay a chance 
to compare the Arctic with the Antarctic, I invited him to come 
with me. A dog sled carrying a canoe for use in an emergency 
accompanied us ashore, but we found not the least trouble in hop- 
ping from cake to cake even in places where there was a little 
water separating them, and finally from the last cake to the beach. 
The sled with the boat returned to the Karluk and we started on 
our walk northeastward. 

The first thing the Doctor noticed was the prairie-like character 
of the land, for grass covered everything. I think he almost hoped 
at first that this was the exception, but by the time we had walked 
a few miles over a country something between a prairie and a 
meadow he finally asked if all the Arctic was like this. It did not 
come at all up to his expectations; or, rather, it did not come 
down to his expectations. He had been reading the literature of 
arctic exploration from childhood. Eternal ice and everlasting 
snow, silence and desolation were what he expected. When he 
found instead green grass, twittering birds and buzzing mosquitoes, 
he felt like one who runs a long way expecting to see a fire and 
finds no houses burning. I was able to reconcile him to the sit- 
uation somewhat by promising in due course winter blizzards, fairly 
low temperatures, and a few worthy difficulties. 

But it was clear that his general feeling remained one of disap- 
pointment, if not disdain. This was nearly the most northerly 
point of continental North America, and it measured up to neither 
the books that he had read nor the Antarctic in which he had 
spent a year. The fact is, however, that although in appearance 
the Antarctic does come more nearly up to story-book standards, 
it is an easier country to deal with, especially for those who come 
to it burdened with the heroic ideals of the classic explorer. Peary 
has made this clear in various of his books and other writings. 


On the way to Cape Smythe the Doctor and I met a party of 
Eskimos tending one of their herds of domestic reindeer. We 
walked among the herd and found them fat, considering the season, 
and much tamer than range cattle in places like Montana or Al- 
berta, although not so tame that you could walk up and touQh 
them. Commonly they allowed you to get within ten or fifteen 
feet and then moved quietly away. The Doctor ran after some of 
them, pretending he was trying to catch them, and they just kept 
out of his reach. Very likely they were used to being similarly 
pursued by the Eskimo children. Incidentally I learned that one 
of the Eskimo owners now had about a thousand head of reindeer. 
As there were many other Eskimos willing to buy them from him 
for twenty-five dollars per head paid in furs, and as he was a clever 
trader and could easily have made on the furs an additional profit, 
we can say that his property in reindeer alone was worth over 
$25,000. This Eskimo, named Takpuk, was also doing whaling on 
a large scale and employing others to trap for him, so that he had 
in his service about a hundred and fifty men. He was, therefore, 
both for wealth and enterprise a remarkable exception to what we 
suppose Eskimos to be, although not so much of an exception to 
what Eskimos really are. 

At Cape Smythe I was among old friends. I knew most of its 
three or four hundred Eskimos, and the Europeans were either 
friends or acquaintances. In the Government school were Mr. and 
Mrs. G. W. Cram, and at what had formerly been the whaling sta- 
tion but is now mainly a trading establishment were my old and very 
real friends Charles D. Brower, Jack Hadley, and Fred Hopson, 
Mr. Brower being the resident manager and part owner of the Cape 
Smythe Whaling & Trading Company. 

During the next two days I engaged the single Eskimo, Katak- 
tovik, and the married man, Kurraluk, with his wife, Keruk, and 
their two children. I also engaged Hadley; and there were many 
reasons why I wanted him. For one thing, all my Karluk men were 
new in the Arctic except Bartlett, and Bartlett came from a part 
of the Arctic where conditions are so fundamentally different from 
what they are around Alaska that I felt the need of at least one 
man with whom I could talk over local conditions with a certainty 
that he had the knowledge necessary to criticize my own ideas 
and give opinions of value. I had the highest opinion of Hadley's 
judgment, both because of the sort of man he was and because 
he had been living on the north coast of Alaska acquiring experience 
for more than twenty years. His experience was of all sorts. He 



The Adaptability of the Skin Boat. 
(1) Umiak being hauled on sled. (2) Umiak under paddles in narrow shore lead. 
(3) Umiak raised on edge to shield goods from rain. 


had been trapper and trader, and a whaler both on board ships and 
with the Eskimos in their skin-boats. 

This last was an important consideration, for I look upon the 
Eskimo skin boat, as do all those in Alaska who have had experi- 
ence with it, as the one boat suited for use among ice. Such a 
skin boat, or umiak, when thirty feet long, which is a common 
size, will carry a cargo much larger than a 28-foot whale-boat, 
although the whale-boat is three or four times as heavy. And the 
whale-boat besides is very fragile. When the ordinary clinker- 
built whale-boat is moving at a speed of six miles an hour it is 
easily stove by contact with even a small fragment of floating ice, 
while an Eskimo skin-boat going at the same speed can bump 
into ice of almost any shape or size without injury. With a whale- 
boat it is as if the ice were struck by an egg-shell ; with a skin-boat 
it is as if it were struck by a football. In one case there is a 
crash and a dead stop ; in the other a thump and a rebound. And 
if the umiak suffers injury it is merely a cracked rib that can be 
replaced, or a hole in the skin which can be patched with needle 
and thread. An umiak capable of carrying more than a ton of 
freight can be carried over land or solid ice by two men, and if 
placed on a low sled of the type used for such boats it can be 
pulled along by three or four dogs, or two or three men. 

Any one who goes to the polar regions in ships realizes that any 
ship, no matter what the strength or what the style of construction, 
will be broken by ice pressure if the pressure comes in any but a 
certain way. If a ship is wedge-shaped like the Fram, or is semi- 
circular in cross-section like the Roosevelt, she may be lifted up by 
ice pressure if the ice is so low that it strikes her below her line 
of greatest diameter. But as her greatest diameter is only a few 
feet above the water, and as some ice cakes are ten, fifteen or 
twenty feet out of water, it is generally luck that determines 
whether the pressure is so applied as to lift the ship or to crush her. 

Peary says that "any vessel navigating in polar waters may at 
any time be crushed so suddenly that nothing below can be saved." * 
I am glad Peary puts this so clearly, for although I know of no 
whaling captain or experienced ice traveler who is of any other 
opinion, still, there is among arm-chair explorers a very common 
belief that ships of a certain design or strength are immune against 
being crushed. 

Realizing this, I was naturally particular about providing not 
only the plans but the equipment for retreat towards land in such 

* "Secrets of Polar Travel," by R. E. Peary, p. 109. 


an event. The central item in any such equipment, in my opinion, 
should be the skin-boat. If a ship is crushed by rapidly moving and 
tumbling ice floes in the summer, a retreat from her with any equip- 
ment may become dangerous. But if she is broken in winter, then the 
process of breaking up is fairly sure to be slow, giving ample time 
to place on reasonably stable ice in the vicinity any equipment that 
one cares to save. The crew of the Karluk would be about thirty, 
and a typical skin-boat will carry about that many people. Ac- 
cordingly I purchased an umiak and planned that in case of danger 
it would be the first thing saved and placed on the ice. If the wreck 
of the ship occurred in winter the umiak would be put on a low 
sledge, which I also bought for the purpose, and hauled towards shore 
over the ice either by men or by dogs. As shown in the adjoining il- 
lustrations, we frequently travel with such a boat hauled by five or 
six dogs and carrying inside of it all the camp equipment of the party. 
And along with this boat I wanted Hadley, who through much 
experience was not only a master in the handling of skin-boats 
but knew how to make and repair them. Of course our Eskimos 
were familiar with these things but their knowledge would not be 
so useful in a party of white men as the knowledge of a man like 
Hadley, who had also the ability to explain and, if necessary, to 
command. The boat and Hadley were therefore taken partly as 
insurance against a by no means improbable breaking of our ship. 

We spent two days very pleasantly as guests of Mx. Brower at his 
station. After my purchases for the ship's use had been made, I bought 
some Eskimo ethnological specimens and in particular a clay pot which 
Mr. Brower had been able to secure for me. Although on previous expe- 
ditions I had dug up bushels of fragments of clay pots, I had found no 
unbroken specimen. In view of the fact that some authorities have 
doubted that the Eskimos of northern Alaska made clay pots at all 
and in view of their rarity in any event, this was something of a prize. 
Another remarkable specimen was a lip button, or labret, made of "Amer- 
ican jade" (jadite). This beautiful stone is one of the toughest and 
least workable, and still the ancient Eskimos made adzes, knives and 
ornaments of it. 

The custom of wearing lip buttons, like any other fashion with which 
we are not familiar, seems to us strange and possibly grotesque. Ac- 
cording to tradition, the Eskimo women used to wear them, but in 
historic times they have been used only by the men. It is said the 
women had one perforation in the middle of the lower lip. If that is so, 
their method of wearing them was the same as that of the Indians of 
southern Alaska. But the Eskimo men have two holes pierced in the 
lower lip, one below each corner of the mouth. 


The initial perforations are made when a boy is fourteen or sixteen 
years old, when little plugs are put in, just big enough to keep the 
hole from closing up entirely. As the healing takes place it is the 
mucous membrane of the inside of the mouth rather than the skin of 
the outside of the face that forms the lining of these holes. After the 
healing is complete, bigger and bigger plugs are put in until the hole in 
the lip is somewhat bigger in diameter than a lead pencil. The orna- 
ments are then put in by one of two methods : either they are inserted 
from the inside, somewhat as a collar-button is put in a shirt, or they 
are buttoned in from the outside, if it is desired to wear one of the large 

I was now able to buy one of jadite that, as I remember it, must 
have been about two inches and a half long and more than an inch 
wide. This ornament, that would have been unique in the ethnological 
collection of any museum, was unfortunately later lost, and we have 
not even a photograph to show what it looked like. I suppose the Eski- 
mos considered it beautiful, but to us it would have been remarkable 
chiefly in showing to what grotesque lengths ornamentation may go, for 
when buttoned into one corner of the mouth it would have extended 
below the chin of the wearer and up his cheek fully halfway to the eye. 

The custom of wearing labrets once extended from the most southerly 
Eskimos on the south coast of Alaska around the west end of the penin- 
sula and east along the north coast into Canada as far as Cape Bathurst. 
When I first came to the mouth of the Mackenzie in 1906 it was still 
customary to pierce the lips of young men, although there were some 
who refused to have it done. A year or two later the practice was 
definitely abandoned and now perforated lips are seen only among men 
of middle age or beyond. 

It would be of ethnological interest to know why the labret fashion 
did not extend east beyond Cape Bathurst. Following the tendency 
to seize upon explanations that are "sensible," some writers have pointed 
out that the severity of the climate increases gradually as you go east- 
ward from Bering Straits, so that labrets could not be worn to the 
eastward without great danger of freezing the face. The stone of which 
the labrets were made was assumed to be a good conductor of heat, and to 
induce freezing of the parts immediately touching it. The trouble with 
this eplanation is, first, that the postulated increasing severity of winter 
climate as you go east is by no means pronounced; and second, that 
no such freezing as premised has ever been known to occur. I have 
observed that Eskimos who take their labrets out while in the warmth 
of the house put them in before going out of doors into the most severe 
weather, and I have found on inquiry no Eskimo who has ever heard 
of freezing of the lip brought about by the wearing of a labret. On the 
other hand, being without the labret out of doors is inconvenient for 
those who have perforated lips, for the holes in many cases are so low 
that the saliva streams out through them and down the chin if they are 
not plugged up with a button of some sort. This happened in the 


house also and some of the old men had to be continually vsdping their 
chins. Outdoors, however, the wiping could not be done comfortably 
and it would have been very messy to have the saliva stream down on 
the front of the fur coat. So the real labrets were formerly worn on 
going out; and now that the fashion has set against these ornaments, 
inconspicuous wooden or ivory buttons are worn on going outdoors in 
cold weather by those still living whose lips are pierced. 

It is more probable that the Eskimos got the fashion by coming in 
contact with labret-using Indians on the southern coast of Alaska, that 
the fashion gradually spread from those Indians northward and east- 
ward for a thousand miles or so through the Eskimo country, and that 
it had not had time to pass beyond Cape Bathurst. We have some 
traditional evidence to support this view. Moreover, we know that the 
tobacco habit was spreading similarly east along the north coast and 
had reached the mouth of the Mackenzie about a hundred years ago. 
Roughly seventy years ago it got to Cape Bathurst, about the same time 
as the first white visitors. The coming of the whites accelerated the 
eastward spread of the tobacco habit because the whites were used to it : 
but it stopped the labret fashion because the whites were not used to it 
and brought their influence against it. 




Q . 

-> to 
2 o 





Mackenzie Family. 



Eskimo School Children at Barrow. 



OUR second day at Cape Smythe the Karluk, somewhat to our 
surprise, came into view. The wind was still northwesterly 
and the ice was densely packed against the land. She was not 
coming along steaming through any open water, but was being car- 
ried helpless by a current that was grinding the ice northeastward 
along the coast. Sometimes she was moving broadside on, sometimes 
stern foremost, and at all times she was powerless. Her speed was 
probably about half a mile per hour. When she came near the village 
it was apparent that she was going to pass us at a distance of less 
than a mile from shore. Although the ice cakes were drifting, rising 
on edge, quivering, cracking and splashing, this was all in the slow 
and nearly uniform way which does not worry Eskimos or other 
persons used to traveling over ice. So we loaded our umiak on a 
sledge, loaded other sledges with the supplies purchased, and with 
the assistance of half a hundred Eskimos and many dog teams 
belonging to Mr. Brower and to them, succeeded in getting all our 
gear aboard the Karluk as she drifted by. We then said good-by 
to our friends, expecting not to see them again for two or three 

While at Cape Smythe we learned that had we come along 
two or three days earlier we should have found nothing but open 
water and there would have been no trouble for either a steamer 
or a sailing vessel to get around Point Barrow, the extreme tip of 
which is about ten miles northeast from Cape Smythe. Two ships 
had, in fact, passed around safely and easily, the Elvira, com- 
manded by Captain C. T. Pedersen, and the Polar Bear, com- 
manded by her owner, Captain Louis Lane. 

A mile or two beyond Cape Smythe while we were still being 
ground along by the ice, the Karluk began to creak. The ice did 
not appear very heavy and a discussion arose among the men as to 
whether the Karluk, if more powerful, might have been able to 
break her way from the grip of the ice and proceed as she pleased. 
It was the general opinion aboard that such ships, for instance, as 
the United States Revenue Cutter Bear, which was expected at 



Cape Smythe in a few days and was a vessel known to all of us, 
would have been able to steam through the ice easily. The Bear is 
a powerful wooden vessel of the old Scotch whaler type and a very 
good ice ship. This discussion has been settled since, for the Bear 
arrived at a point southwest of Cape Smythe a few days after us, 
was caught in the ice near where the Karluk was caught, and 
like the Karluk was carried helpless, stern foremost, past Cape 
Smythe. She was even less lucky, for the Karluk gave no worry 
beyond some ominous creaking, but the sides of the Bear were 
squeezed so that her decks bulged noticeably.* 

When in our slow grinding movement we finally got opposite 
the northwest tip of the continent at Point Barrow, the pressure 
was relieved. We were not out of the grip of the ice, however, 
and for some hours things looked pretty bad, for as soon as we got 
beyond the Point our ice started off to the northwest at a speed 
about four times as great as before, or about two miles per hour. 

This we had expected. The summer of 1912 when I spent sev- 
eral weeks at Cape Smythe, the whaling bark John and Winthrop 
lay at anchor about a mile from the coast for two or three weeks. 
During most of that time the wind blew from the northeast with a 
force running as high as what sailors call a "strong breeze"; and 
still the current, coming from the southwest and running against 
the wind, was so strong that not once do I remember seeing the 
ship swinging at her anchor before the wind, as might have been 
expected, but always either broadside to the wind or with her stern 
into the wind. During that same time, however, the condition east 
of Point Barrow had been different. Then the current was running 
with the wind, and when the two currents met in the vicinity of 
the Point they took a course which was a resultant of the motion 
and strength of both, and after joining forces ran off to the north- 
west. The Karluk was now in the tail of this Y. But according 
to theory, the current ought soon to spread and spend itself, and 
we were not a great deal worried. 

*".... The chief work of a polar ship is to push and pry and wedge its 
way in and out among cakes and floes ranging from three to twenty or fifty 
and even up to one hundred and twenty feet thick. A passage cannot be 
smashed through such ice, and nothing remains but to squeeze and twist and 
dodge through it. A hundred Yermaks (the powerful Russian ice breaker) 
merged in one could accomplish nothing in such ice. 

"Many qualities are necessarj^ in a first-class polar ice-fighter. First, there 
must be such a generally rounded model as will rise readily when squeezed, 
and thus escape the death-crush of the ice. Then there must be no projection 
of keel or other part to give the ice an opportunity to get a grip, or to hold 
the ship from rising." — "Secrets of Polar Travel," by R. E. Peary, pp. 6-7. 


In this everything went according to expectations. After a few 
hours of northwestward drift, the ice "slackened out" and we were 
able to advance under our own power. The Karluk took an east- 
erly course and proceeded along the land,, keeping six to ten miles 
from the shore, without adventure, until we got east beyond Cape 
Halkett. There was scattered ice everywhere, but none to interfere 
seriously with progress. 

In crossing Harrison Bay east of Cape Halkett we had a small 
adventure. Among the local whalers who have been in these waters 
since 1889 there is a custom of "sailing by the lead." They know 
on every part of the coast how near it is safe to approach, as indi- 
cated by the soundings which are taken continuously by a man 
stationed at the lead. But our officers were new in these seas, 
and were deceived by navigation signs upon which they relied. 
They had not previously sailed in icy waters except such as have 
a change of levels due to tides. In most parts of the north Atlantic 
seaboard a cake of ice that is aground in shallow water has a 
peculiar mushroom-like appearance, for high tide is only a matter 
of an hour or two, and at all other times these cakes are lying 
aground with the water around them much lower than it has 
been at the moment of high tide. In such places an experienced 
navigator can tell by glancing at a cake of ice whether it is afloat 
or aground, and if it is afloat he always knows that his ship has 
plenty of water under her keel. But here in Harrison Bay even 
the grounded cakes presented an appearance of being afloat, for 
there had been no rise or fall of tide to give them undercut edges 
of the kind found in the east. 

I had not been on deck for some time, for no difficulties of navi- 
gation had presented themselves, but when I did go on deck I 
could see from the bridge an island almost directly ahead. To 
any one of local experience this was a sign of imminent danger. 
I asked the man at the lead, who was supposed to take a sounding 
every fifteen minutes, what depth of water we had and he replied 
nine fathoms. I knew this could not be true, for no island would 
be visible from the bridge in Harrison Bay if the water were nine 
fathoms. I realized that the man, thinking actual sounding unnec- 
essary, was merely pretending to sound. Accordingly I asked Cap- 
tain Bartlett to come on deck, but before he had time to quite get 
his bearings, the oceanographer, Murray, came running to us with 
considerable excitement, saying the ship was aground and had 
stopped moving. 

The going aground of a ship under steam, even though it is 


moving at a speed no greater than six miles an hour, would ordi- 
narily be accompanied by something of a shock. This was not so 
in our case. The bottom here is soft mud, for this is the mouth 
of the Colville River and the depth may not vary as one steams 
directly towards land more than a foot or two to the mile. As we 
were not steaming directly towards land (except for the little delta 
island that lay ahead), the depth may have been changing even 
less than a foot per mile. In this way the keel had commenced 
cutting the mud so gradually and gently that the ship was brought 
to a full stop without anybody but Murray realizing it. He 
noticed it because he was near the stern dredging for marine life 
and his dredge rope had slackened. He had then gone to the 
stern and had seen that the propeller was churning up mud and that 
the ship had stopped. 

We have just said that there is practically no tide in this region. 
Normal tide varies during the twenty-four hours only by some six 
or eight inches. But there is at certain times what we call a 
"storm tide." It seems that when a strong southwest or west wind 
begins to blow in the region of Bering Straits, it produces (through 
barometric variation of pressure, perhaps) a wave that moves east- 
ward and reaches the Colville delta or Herschel Island, possibly 
eight to twelve hours ahead of the storm itself. This rise of water 
that presages a strong sou'wester may sometimes amount to as 
much as five feet, and even in a moderate southwest wind the rise 
may be a foot or two. There is a corresponding fall with or before 
a northeast wind, these two being the directions of the main winds 
in this locality. Now it happened, luckily for us, that a storm 
tide was coming in from the southwest, so that after an hour or 
two aground the water rose enough to float us. As we made our 
way to seaward, this time casting the lead every few minutes and 
steaming carefully, we had to go a mile or more before we got 
an extra foot of water under our keel. 

From the Colville delta eastward the ice kept getting thicker. 
There was a light breeze from the northwest bringing it in slowly 
from abroad. Finally, it became impenetrable. We might now 
have turned the ship to seaward, on the theory commonly held in 
the north Atlantic that the farther away from land you are, the 
better the chance of finding the ice scattered and conditions permit- 
ting navigation. 

There was also the Alaska or Beaufort Sea theory. For years 
I had been listening to the tales of local captains, telling that when 
they first navigated these waters after serving their apprenticeship 


in the Atlantic they had lost ship after ship by following the 
Atlantic rule of keeping twenty miles away from land. Their ex- 
perience had been that if ships stuck among the Atlantic ice they 
were very likely to get loose again eventually, for in most places 
the current runs south into freer waters where the ice slackens out. 
But north of Alaska they had found conditions diametrically oppo- 
site. There a ship that gets into the ice and starts moving with 
it is not likely ever to get out, for the pack gets tighter instead of 
loosening, and the drift is not southward but northward to the 
more ice-infested regions. I had heard these captains tell that 
over half a hundred ships had been lost by the American whaling 
fleet in the Beaufort Sea before they finally adopted the rule of 
always keeping between the land and the ice. Since then a few 
vessels had been lost, but the proportion had been far less and 
there was always this difference: that formerly when ships were 
far from land the men had great difficulty in making their escape 
by boats or sledges, and all cargoes were invariably lost; while of 
recent years if a ship had been squeezed against the land or sunk 
by pressure near shore, the crews had never been in serious danger. 
Entire cargoes had been saved in some cases, and the more valuable 
parts of them in others. This was so well known that whenever a 
whaler sank near shore without saving the best of her cargo, the 
talk in the whaling fleet was that the size of the insurance policy 
explained the loss. 

So ran the arguments of the local whaler. In reply to them it 
could be said that while these conservative practices were all right 
for merchantmen, a bolder policy might reasonably be expected of 
explorers whose chief concern was neither the saving of cargoes 
nor the collection of insurance policies. One flaw in the whaler 
argument was that the fifty ships lost might not have been lost at 
all but for the timidity through which they had usually been aban- 
doned by their crews. Who knew but they might have been trium- 
phantly extricated if the crews had stayed by them a month or a 
year? We certainly would not abandon the Karluk if she were 
caught in offshore ice. 

Bartlett and I discussed these things fully, and decided for the 
more conservative alternative. We steamed inshore according 
to local practice and followed the edge of the ice until, when it 
prevented further eastward progress, we finally anchored at Cross 
Island. This is one of an interrupted chain of reefs which lie about 
fifteen miles north from the mainland coast of Alaska, separated 
from it by a "lagoon." Between the reefs and the main shore are 


devious channels through which ships drawing even more water 
than the Karluk can navigate if they have either a good chart or 
expert local pilotage. A boat could be lowered and sent with a 
sounding lead ahead, the Karluk following when the boat had 
signalled sufficient depth of water. By this method we could enter 
the lagoon at Cross Island, proceed thirty or forty miles east and 
come out into the ice again at that point. But of course it was 
always possible that the northwest winds would continue through 
the entire season, and that the freeze-up would come without giv- 
ing us a chance to leave the lagoon till next summer if we once 
entered it. 

We never had on the Karluk any formal consultation of all the 
oflEicers, any organization approaching in character a "General 
Staff." But informally the ship's officers and scientists discussed 
all questions of policy freely and every man among them knew the 
opinions of every other. The only exception to this rule happened 
to be myself. We had taken the ship over from a whaling captain, 
Captain S. F. Cottle, and her internal arrangements were still in 
general those that immemorial experience has shown to be best on 
small ships that make long voyages; the sailors bunked forward 
and had their mess; the rooms of all men of the grade of officer — 
mates, engineers, and in our case the scientific staff — were amid- 
ships, and they had their own mess. The commander alone was 
aft, in quarters that differed from the others not so much in being 
luxurious, though they were roomy, as in being isolated. Partly 
through this isolation, inherited from my predecessors the whaling 
skippers, partly through inclination, I discussed ice navigation little 
except with two men — Bartlett because he was sailing master, and 
Hadley because he was an old friend and a fountain of inexhaust- 
ible northern lore. 

Directly, then, my views of ice navigation were not well known 
to officers and men. Indirectly they were well known, for Hadley 
talked freely with every one and it was understood, and correctly, 
that his views and mine seldom differed materially, being founded 
on a common experience in the same sector of the Arctic. 

As we are now at an important point of the expedition, it is 
best to take a backward glance in order that the situation of the 
moment be made clear. 

When I first learnt from the National Geographic Society and 
the American Museum of Natural History that they would furnish 


me with enough money to buy a ship, I asked the advice of Captain 
C. T. Pedersen of San Francisco, whom I had long admired as 
the best ice master personally known to me. Some of the associ- 
ates of my earliest years in the North — for instance, Captains 
Leavitt, Tilton, Bodfish and Cottle of the New Bedford and San 
Francisco whaling fleets — had had more experience with the ice 
of the Beaufort Sea, but they had either retired or were by now 
rather old for the vicissitudes that might follow shipwreck. 

Every whaling ship on the Pacific Coast was known to Captain 
Pedersen, and he had advised me, that of them all the Karluk 
was the soundest and best adapted to our purposes. Though she 
had been fighting Beaufort Sea ice for twenty years she was still 
as strong as when new. This opinion was afterwards amply con- 
firmed by three different ship inspectors engaged to examine her 
and every other available whaling ship from keel to rigging, and 
later when she was overhauled in the naval drydock at Victoria. 
These details are mentioned because one view of later events was 
that they resulted from the Karluk's being "unsound." 

Before purchasing the Karluk I had engaged Captain Pedersen 
as sailing master, and it was he, acting as my agent, who actually 
took the ship over at San Francisco and. after the expedition be- 
came a Canadian naval enterprise, sailed her to the Victoria naval 
base to be drydocked. Later, during my absence in Europe, Cap- 
tain Pedersen got the unfortunate impression that in order to be 
our skipper he would have to renounce his American citizenship. 
It was for that reason he accepted an offer to go to the Arctic for 
some San Francisco fur traders. That the impression was not 
valid is best shown by the fact that Captain Bartlett, engaged in 
his place, was and remained an American citizen (naturalized — 
he was born in Newfoundland.) 

In most fields men of local experience are the most valuable. 
But with Captain Pedersen gone Captain Bartlett became my 
choice on the ground that his experience with Peary, although in 
another part of the Arctic, made him the best man available. 
Furthermore, at the moment of having to make up my mind I was 
with Admiral and Mrs. Peary, both of whom advised it strongly. 
Peary reminded me that Bartlett was a marvel at handling sailors 
or stowing a ship, and was a man to take the responsibility of 
every detail off your shoulders. 

When Bartlett took charge of the Karluk I found him every- 
thing that Peary had said. With the reputation he brought with 


him and his efficiency in managing the affairs of the ship, he won 
the admiration and confidence of everybody. And he obeyed every 
order effectively and without quibbling. 

We have outlined the two main views of ice navigation — the 
bold Atlantic pohcy of "keep away from the land, face the ice and 
take your chances"; the cautious Alaska one of "hug the coast, 
play safe, and if you don't get there this year you may have an- 
other chance next." There were divided opinions aboard, but I 
was in command and the decision and responsibility had to be 
mine. I decided for what a friendly person would call the bolder 
course. But whoever prefers to be truthful rather than kind must 
say I chose the wrong alternative. 

After lying at Cross Island for several hours, discussing theories 
and plans, we hove anchor and steamed deliberately north, away 
from land, threading our way between the ice-cakes and occasion- 
ally ramming them to break a way. "It may be safe, but I don't 
think so," said Hadley. Every one else seemed delighted with our 
adoption of what they considered the bolder and more sportsman- 
like policy. 

Relentless events were to prove this decision my most serious 
error of the whole expedition. 



IT was several hours after we left Cross Island that the ship came 
quietly to rest against a big floe. As Bartlett came down 
from the masthead he said to me that now the ship was where 
she ought to be and that we would wait here until the ice slackened 
out. That was what it was supposed to do on the theory selected, 
and Bartlett always took the most cheerful view possible of any 
situation. He had already given orders to have the ship tied to 
the cake by an ice anchor, and was in the best of spirits. It was 
Hadley's forebodings that worried me. 

I had not been just then at the masthead with Bartlett where, 
from a hundred-foot vantage, a truer idea of the water between 
the floes can be gained. From the bridge the ice all around looked 
pretty tight and I imagined we must have come to a halt only 
because no open water had been visible ahead. I learned from 
Bartlett later that open water had been visible. He had, how- 
ever, decided that since we were twenty miles from shore this was 
the strategic position in which to wait, again according to the 
adopted theory. 

What we saw from the masthead next morning was not reassur- 
ing. The evening before there had been around us perhaps half 
a mile of open water, but now the ice cakes had gradually edged 
in until our hole was not much more than two hundred yards wide. 
After a survey of the horizon Bartlett ordered the ship freed from 
her moorings and we steamed across the two hundred yards, bunt- 
ing ineffectively against the ice on the other side. After one or two 
bunts, which could not have been very heavy inasmuch as we 
had no room to back away for a good charge, the Karluk was 
tied up again. She never moved of her own volition after. 

During the next day or two the ice kept gradually pressing 
tighter, huddling together more closely. At first the cakes lay flat, 
but gradually the increasing pressure made some of them rise on 
edge. Those next the ship were pressed against her sides till she 
groaned and quivered with the strain. In a day or two nearly 



every little hole between the ice masses was filled with debris by 
the crushing of the floe edges under pressure, for to the south and 
east, far away and invisible, the land was holding, while from the 
northwest the wind was blowing upon a million pieces of ice stuck 
on edge as upon a million square sails, till each piece strove like a 
full-rigged ship to move before the wind. But none could move 
except by crushing or pressing up on edge the cake that lay in its 
way. The pressure in the aggregate was near to infinite. To the 
square foot it was great enough to break the Karluk or a ship far 
stronger — strong enough to break any ship built. It would have 
crushed us had we not been protected by being in a pocket among 
especially strong adjacent floes. 

Drifting in the pack is a tense game. In the beginning you 
have a certain amount of discretion in choosing your berth. After 
that it is luck upon which the life of your ship depends. And 
luck may change at any time. 

A day or two after we were beset it began to freeze. In four 
or five days young ice had formed in every little open space where 
irregular strong floes did not fit exactly against each other. You 
could walk about anywhere without much danger of breaking 
through. The wind had been northwesterly, and for a time we 
kept drifting eastward until we found ourselves in Camden Bay, 
fifteen or twenty miles offshore. Then the wind changed and we 
began a drift westward. 

By this time I had made up my mind that the Karluk was not 
to move under her own power again, and that we were in for a 
voyage such as that of the Jeannette or the Fram, drifting for years, 
if we had the luck to remain unbroken, eventually coming out some- 
where towards the Atlantic, either we or our wreckage. 

Among the things to be concerned about was that we had on 
board several men who had no business to be there. James Murray 
was one. He was about forty-six, a little older than the age 
preferable for such work, although I have in the Arctic been asso- 
ciated with men of even sixty who did their part and stood the 
work better than many younger men. One of my main concerns 
from the beginning had been oceanography, and Murray's depart- 
ment interested me greatly. Impelled by the double desire of 
keeping him safe and of gaining the greatest possible oceanographi- 
cal information, I had decided to put him in command of the Mary 
Sachs. Our oceanographical equipment was all on the Karluk, 
and it was to have been the task of Murray and Mackay between 
Nome and Herschel Island to separate it into two divisions. Some 


was to be left on the Karluk under the charge of Mackay, while 
Murray was to have taken much of it and transferred it at Herschel 
Island to the Sachs. 

My plan was that, with Murray in command of her, the Sachs 
should act in a measure as a tender, carrying supplies for Dr. 
Anderson towards Coronation Gulf or doing similar errands for 
Bartlett and the Karluk, if that became necessary. She was to 
hold herself ready to help wherever needed. In her spare time, 
which I hoped would be considerable, the Sachs was to cruise 
about in the triangle between Herschel Island, Coronation Gulf 
and Cape Kellett, venturing as far as she cared northwestward into 
the Beaufort Sea, but always keeping in this comparatively ice- 
free district. For although she was seaworthy and staunch in every 
other way, she was incapacitated for too close contact with the 
ice through having two propellers. An unexpected increase of 
cargo at Nome had compelled us to buy the Sachs, in spite 
of the twin-propeller drawback, as the only craft available. This 
increase of cargo was due to my yielding to certain members of 
our staff who thought they would need certain provisions and 
equipment I had planned to dispense with. 

When a ship has a single propeller located amidships, aft, the 
passage of her body through the ice shoves it away and keeps a 
clear path for the propeller. But with the twin screw arrangement 
the propellers stick out at the sides aft in such a way that when 
the ship forces her way through ice she does not make a road 
wide enough, and the propellers will strike the cakes that have slid 
back past her sides. There is a good deal of ice in the spring in the 
southeastern Beaufort Sea, and in some years peculiar wind con- 
ditions will keep it there at all seasons, but often this region in 
which I expected the Sachs to be employed is quite ice-free after 
the early spring is over. 

Besides Murray, McKinlay too should have been elsewhere. If 
he were to be on the Karluk he should, of course, have had with 
him all his magnetic equipment, some of which was now on the 
Alaska. Most inappropriate of all was the presence of the two 
anthropologists, Beuchat and Jenness. They had been taken 
aboard because the Karluk was not only the safest but the swiftest 
conveyance for Herschel Island. Murray was to land there with 
his equipment to wait for the Mary Sachs, and Beuchat and Jenness 
to study the Eskimos, not only for what information they could 
put on record, but also for the value to themselves of becoming 
quickly used to the ways and, if possible, to the language of the 


natives. Their equipment was naturally most of it aboard the 

When I realized how close we were to the land in Camden 
Bay I attempted to put Beuchat and Jenness ashore. No attempt 
was made to land Murray because his equipment was too heavy, 
or McKinlay because he had enough magnetic gear with him to be 
useful on the Karluk and too much for easy transportation ashore. 
We got out to the skin-boat, hitched up a team of dogs, put a 
certain amount of equipment into the boats, and detailed two 
Eskimos to accompany them. It is probable that had the party 
left with almost no equipment they could have reached shore, but 
what we tried to have them take proved too much of a load, and 
after getting a mile or two away from the ship they had to return. 
New ice had formed between the old cakes so that the boat could 
not be used as a boat, yet this new ice was not strong enough to 
support it when hauled on a sledge. The sledge kept breaking 
through, and the men also broke through, occasionally getting wet. 
I was sorry that the attempt miscarried, and later events deepened 
the regret. 

After this we stayed quietly aboard the ship while she drifted. 
When the wind turned northeast I knew from long experience, al- 
though we were too far from land to see, that there must be a 
good deal of open water between the ice and the land. It seems 
illogical when you look at the map, but it is a fact, attested by 
universal observation between Point Barrow and Herschel Island, 
that although a west wind there blows off the land it brings the ice 
in to the land; and although an east wind blows off the ice, still 
it commonly carries the ice awaj'- from shore enough to leave hand- 
some room for ships to pass east and west along the coast. We 
learned later that this reasoning held for our case, and that while 
we were drifting helplessly westward, the Belvedere and other ships 
were passing along the coast eastward, finding no obstruction. One 
of them saw our smoke although we did not see theirs, the reason 
being that their smoke was imperceptible against the dark land, 
while ours was conspicuous out in the gray of the ice. 

The open water inshore became wider, and we began to see it 
from the masthead. Then it came within three or four miles and 
could be seen from the bridge. And here we were, frozen into a 
westward-drifting floe, while just inshore of us was free and placid 
water through which any ship could travel at will. The only 
comfort was to remember that the Alaska and Sachs, if they had 
stuck to the vicinity of land, would be safe now somewhere in this 


inside lane, working their way eastward. These reflections corre- 
sponded to the facts as we learned them later. 

It was on the thirteenth of August that we tied up to the ice to 
move no more under our own power, and by the middle of Sep- 
tember we seemed to have stopped moving at all. As we drifted 
west we had been edging nearer to land, until finally we got inside 
the line of Cape Halkett into Harrison Bay, and were set fast 
off the mouth of the Colville River, not far to seaward from 
where we had gone temporarily aground about a month before. 

After we had been motionless for more than a week both 
Bartlett and I came to the opinion that we were likely not to 
move again before the next summer.* If it proved an ordinary 
winter we expected to remain safely embedded in that part of 
the sea ice which is frozen to the land — the floe edge, or the meet- 
ing-place of the landfast ice and the moving sea pack, being to 
seaward of us. We realized, however, that with a very bad gale 
a floe line between the ship and the land might possibly be estab- 

I have pointed out before that with east winds the ice on the 
northeast coast of Alaska, contrary to what might be expected, 
will move away from land. This is true only with mild winds and 
is not true with these if they persist a long time. A real gale or 
a strong breeze of long duration will bring the ice back in, and 
cause pressure likely to crush any ship that is ice-embedded. 
But a west wind, although blowing off the land will set the sea 
pack grinding eastward along the edge of the land floe. 

We thought, therefore, that any of the following things might 
happen: First, with a mild east wind the ice would break outside 
the Karluk and move westward offshore, leaving her unmoved and 
unconcerned. Second, the east wind might persist for a long time 
or develop into a strong gale ; in which case the ice that had tem- 
porarily gone abroad would come in against the shore ice, crump- 
ling it up into pressure-ridges, crushing the ship or failing to crush 
her exactly according to luck. Third, a light west wind might 
break the ice outside, leaving her again unaffected; or. Fourth, if it 
were a strong gale it might carry her to the eastward, grinding 
along in the pack, leaving her afloat or sinking her, again accord- 
ing to fortune. What seemed clear to both Bartlett and me was 
that nothing could be done except to make preparations for taking 
the men safely ashore in case of wreck; and we thought that if 

*See "Last Voyage of the Karluk," by R. A. Bartlett and Ralph T. Hale, 
Boston, 1916, p. 35 ff. 


any party were to go ashore temporarily they could always get 
back to the Karluk, for they would find her either just where they 
left her or to the east. It did not occur to us that she could be 
carried off, unbroken, far to the westward. 

The consultations between Bartlett and me resulted in the con- 
clusion that a hunting party should be sent ashore. We had an 
abundance of provisions, but no fresh meat. There were some 
seals to be had around the ship, but the men wanted "variety" in 
fresh meat and especially they wanted the delectable meat of the 
caribou. In earlier years I had hunted caribou on the mainland 
just east of the Colville River and I knew from experience that 
it was good game country. 

A logical thing might seem to have been to send the Eskimos 
to hunt, for the popular supposition is that you cannot be an 
Eskimo without being a good hunter. The fact is, however, that 
in a large part of Alaska caribou hunting is a lost art, for caribou 
have been nearly or quite extinct from portions of that territory 
for more than a generation. Our two Point Hope men had never 
seen a caribou in their lives, though they were good seal and walrus 
hunters. Kataktovik had hunted caribou a little but confessed 
he did not know much about it. Kurraluk was a good hunter, 
for he was of the appropriate temperament. Although he belonged 
to the Kuvugmiut of Kotzebue Sound who have, since the disap- 
pearance of the caribou from that region, become mainly a fishing 
and sealing people, he had spent enough time in the interior with 
other tribes to become proficient in caribou hunting. But he was 
a stranger to this district. I was aware that his wife, Keruk, 
knew every creek and cove in it, for I had first met her on my 
caribou hunts in the Colville delta in 1909. But we could not 
afford to let her ashore, for she was our only seamstress and the 
most important person aboard. We had hundreds of reindeer 
skins and other skin material that needed to be made up into 
warm clothing. It had been my purpose to engage several seam- 
stresses either at Herschel Island or Cape Bathurst, but our stick- 
ing fast in the ice had settled all that. Now all our garments 
had to be made by this one Eskimo woman and by those of our 
staff or crew who might be able to learn from her. Several of 
the men eventually acquired a degree of proficiency. 

Captain Bartlett volunteered to lead a party ashore, but he 
was under the handicap of not knowing the country, whereas I 
had the advantage of having hunted through it and of knowing 
the places where native villages might be found. This was im- 


portant, for it was part of my desire to communicate with Eskimos 
and try to get two or three families to move aboard for the sake 
of the seamstresses. One of the customary village sites, that at 
the mouth of the Itkilik River, is usually well stocked with fish, 
and I had the further purpose of purchasing there and possibly set- 
ting our own fishermen to work. 

It was part of the plan of going ashore to take Jenness along 
to give him a chance to begin his study of the Eskimos, while 
McConnell and Wilkins were chosen because they were among the 
most adaptable of the men and I thought would readily take to 
the life of arctic hunters. I had already formed an opinion of 
Wilkins, which was continually strengthened, that he would be 
able to adapt himself to anything. As for McConnell, he was an 
exception to the general rule of my men. The rest were inclined 
to follow storybook ideas, in assuming that the Eskimos only 
could hunt big sea game successfully. They devoted themselves to 
their fowling-pieces when ducks were flying over, or to ski-jumping 
and playing other games around the ship, while the Eskimos did 
the useful work of securing seals for man and dog food. McCon- 
nell hadn't had any luck so far, but he had at least avoided the 
games and the fowling-pieces and had gone out trying to get 



WHEN our hunting party left the ship we expected to be ab- 
sent from it only a week or two.* We had already made 
up our minds as to which were the best dogs, and we took 
instead of them two teams of untried and presumably poor dogs, with 
the idea of testing these out. We had ten or eleven good new sledges 
and chose two old and comparatively poor ones, believing we had 
better not expose the sledges intended for ice exploration to chance 
injury. Wilkins, whose work and pleasure alike was photography, 
left all his equipment on the ship except the lightest camera. I had a 
specially good rifle, presented to me by the Harvard Travelers 
Club of Boston, which I had promised to use on all important trips. 
I left this rifle aboard and took an ordinary one. Two or three 
weeks earlier, when the creaking of the ship had led me to think 
we might have to leave her at any moment, I had put thirteen hun- 
dred dollars of paper money into my hip pocket so as not to 
forget it in an emergency. Now I took this out of my pocket and 
put it into the strong box in my cabin, along with more than a 
hundred pounds in weight of silver and gold money which we carried 
for trade with the Alaska and Herschel Island Eskimos. 

It was about ten miles ashore. We did not go the whole dis- 
tance the first day (September 20), partly because we did not 
start till the afternoon, partly because there was no hurry, and in a 
measure because the young ice between the old ice floes was still 
treacherous and had to be dealt with carefully. In addition to 
the white men I had taken along the Point Hope Eskimos, Asat- 
siak and Pauyurak. 

Camp was made in two tents, three men in one, and myself 
with the two Eskimos in the other. I had made such camps 
hundreds of times so that to me it was scarcely an event, but it 
interested me because it gave me my first idea of how my traveling 
companions were going to take to what to them was a new sort 
of life. Here I quote from a magazine article written by Wilkins: 
*See "Last Voyage of the Karluk," p. 36. 


The first night on the ice was a new experience. We were shown 
how to pitch the tent and set out the floor skins and sleeping-bags in the 
Eskimo manner. According to correct methods, approved by Mr. Stef- 
ansson, we took off all our clothes to sleep naked in our sleeping-bags 
of reindeer skins. We did not question the advisability of this, apart 
from the natural disinclination to undress in a temperature of 20° of 
frost, for we had been accustomed normally to undress when going to 
bed. We three novices slept in a tent together, while Mr. Stefansson 
and the Eskimos occupied the other. He came in, tucked up our sleep- 
ing bags, and gave us advice about keeping them folded about our shoul- 
ders. This we scarcely heeded, thinking that we knew how it should be 
done. But soon, even before we had finished comparing notes for the 
day, we felt the cold air creeping round our ears and spreading down 
our bags. A strong breeze had sprung up and it filtered through the 
tent. We twisted and turned and complained of the cold and thought 
we had proved one of the Commander's theories to be a fallacy. It was 
all very well, we thought, for Eskimos to sleep naked if they wanted to, 
but we were more tenderly reared and needed more protection. It was 
only the dread of greater cold that prevented us from getting up, put- 
ting on our clothes and going to bed fully dressed. We didn't for a 
moment realize that it was our own incompetence that caused us the 
discomfort. But after a few days' perseverance we learned to fold our 
sleeping-bags around our necks and were generally comfortable, and we 
eventually got to the point where we no longer wanted to get into our 
bags with all our clothes on." 

The next day we got ashore, not indeed on the mainland, but on 
Amauliktok, the westernmost of the Jones Islands, a chain that 
lies about four miles off the coast. Inside this island chain we 
found the ice young and rotten, so that crossing to the mainland 
was not practicable and we camped for the night, using for cooking 
and warmth our sheet-iron stove, and driftwood which in this 
district is abundant. 

The name of this sandspit is typical in the sense that an Eskimo 
place name is frequently found, when translated literally into 
English, to be the equivalent not of a word but rather of a sen- 
tence of ours. Thus amauliktok means "he killed a Pacific eider." 
If the meaning had been "he killed a King eider" it would have 
been "Kingaliktok" which (still more literally translated) means 
"he killed one with a big nose." 

During the evening I decided it would be desirable to have some 
additional things from the ship. I had given Captain Bartlett 
directions that a few days after my leaving he was to send an- 
other party ashore in the direction of Cape Halkett, and it now 


occurred to me to modify these instructions so as to bring the men 
ashore sooner. Accordingly, McConnell and one of the Eskimos 
were chosen to go with a light sled the following morning out to 
fetch the required gear and carry the supplementary instructions. 

We were all up early. During breakfast I impressed certain 
elementary principles on McConnell, urging him also, although he 
was in command, to follow the advice of the Eskimo if any emer- 
gency were to arise. After breakfast while the sledge was being 
hitched I took a walk along the beach, climbing upon a small knoll 
to get a view to seaward. 

What I saw was very disquieting. A strong wind had been 
blowing during the night and the temperature was warmer. To 
seaward the darkness and blotchiness of the clouds showed that 
the ice was broken where yesterday it had been continuous, with 
water reflected in the sky, and clouds of dark vapor rising from 
the leads. It was evidently unsafe to send McConnell on his er- 
rand, and during the next two or three hours conditions got so 
much worse that it dawned on me we were now going to have a 
test of what would happen to the Karluk if the ice broke up. 

Now the gale increased until it became the worst storm for 
that season which I have ever seen in the North, and this opinion 
I found was confirmed by the whalers who, unknown to us, were 
then having their own tussle with the ice some distance to the east. 
We built out of driftwood a sort of observation tower and occa- 
sionally got glimpses of the Karluk, but most of the time she was 
hidden by snow squalls and drifting clouds of mist. In the after- 
noon I was scarcely willing to believe my own eyes when I saw 
her moving to the eastward — against the wind, against the current, 
and against any theory which I could formulate except the one that 
she had broken loose and was proceeding under steam. The 
glimpses of her, too, were so fleeting and she was so veiled by 
fog that I was not even sure that it might not have been a cake 
of ice that I mistook for her. What I was sure of was that the 
thing was moving eastward. That was clear because it passed 
behind nearer ice cakes which I knew to be stationary. 

This was a night of high tension, although free from that deepest 
of uncomfortable feelings that what was happening could have 
been prevented. For a month now I had been committed, if not 
reconciled, to the attitude that so far as anything we could do was 
concerned the Karluk was at the mercy of the ordinary forces of 
nature and of the laws of chance, at least until the coming spring. 

On the morrow the question of what to do could scarcely trouble 


us, for there was but one road open. Or rather no road, for the 
wind had broken the strong ice offshore, the warm temperature 
had rotted the young ice of the lagoon, and we were marooned 
on the island. Of course this would be only a question of a few 
days, for at this time of year a warm spell must be temporary. 

So it proved. In two or three days the lagoon ice hardened 
between us and the land, although to the westward it was still 
too weak for travel. When it cleared to seaward the Karluk was 
gone; we did not know whither, or whether she still survived. 
There was no sense in searching for her by sled, for there was 
vastly more water than ice, so we went on to the mainland. 

That night we camped by a platform cache made by my own 
party in the fall of 1908 when we had killed thirteen caribou at this 
point.* The next day I hunted alone, leaving the men in camp 
because the weather was thick and uncertain and I did not care to 
take the chance of their getting lost in the open. All day the walk 
was without promise, but towards evening I saw a single bull 
caribou. He was traveling too fast for me, however, for though 
I gradually got nearer to him, darkness overtook me and I had to 
suspend the chase. 

As it happened, I did not resume it next morning. The frost 
had sharpened and it appeared possible to start west along the 
coast, for I thought that to be the best chance of overtaking the 
Karluk. It was possible she might have freed herself and steamed 
eastward, but the chances were that the ice holding her had followed 
the coast towards Barrow. 

At first we had to travel very cautiously, for the ice proved 
treacherous on account of a light blanket of snow which kept it 
from freezing hard. On the second evening on the west side of 
the bay at a point southeast of Halkett we had a rather narrow 
escape from a serious mishap, for in the attempt to make shore 
that evening we had traveled into the night, and found ourselves 
on ice that owing to its extreme thinness and mushiness had upon it 
black patches of damp snow. It was partly a matter of luck that 
we did make shore without losing sledges or lives. 

The next day we were traveling along in the general direction 
of Halkett when one of the Eskimos said he could smell smoke. 
None of the rest of us could, but I was willing to rely on the 
Eskimo, for my experience is that while in eyesight, hearing and 
every other natural faculty he is about the same as the rest of 
us, he does seem to excel in the sense of smell. Whether this is 

*See "My Life With the Eskimo," p. 64. 


from some anatomical or deep physiological cause I do not know, 
or whether it results merely from his having lived his whole life 
in an unvitiated atmosphere with the sense of smell consequently 
unperverted. In the direction from which the smoke must come, 
if it was smoke, land was about eight miles away. I climbed on 
one of the sledges, examined the coast with my field glasses, and 
saw what afterwards proved to be a house, but was now so low and 
far away that it could not be identified. We traveled towards it, 
however, and after five or six miles its character as a human habi- 
tation became clear. 

It was the dwelling of a single Eskimo family of the Colville 
River people. They were able to tell us about several other fam- 
ilies, most of them old acquaintances of mine, that were scattered 
in various places in the vicinity. Through previous residence in 
the country I knew the Eskimo names not only of the places I had 
visited, but also of many which I had heard discussed and which 
had been described to me by the drawing of crude maps. Had I 
been a stranger to the topography and to the Eskimo names I 
should have been unable to form a clear idea of where all these 
people were living, even with the aid of the most modern published 
maps and with a thorough command of the Eskimo language; for 
besides being inaccurate, most maps carry only the names of 
European explorers, patrons of exploration, or friends of the map- 
makers. The places and names shown on such maps are unidenti- 
fiable through any information available from Eskimos, and com- 
monly even from resident whites. To have full value to the trav- 
eler an Arctic map should carry Eskimo names, either exclusively 
or as supplements to the others. 

I must pay a tribute to the adaptability of my companions. 
On the Karluk all of them had disliked the seal meat prepared for 
us by the ship's cook, who insisted on putting it through various 
elaborate processes which were supposed to deodorize it and take 
away its peculiar taste. I had imagined my own dislike for seal 
meat cooked this way to be a peculiarity due to long acquaintance 
with the undisguised article. The men all ate it on shipboard 
with so good a grace that I really thought they liked it. But 
when we killed the first seal after leaving the ship, cut its meat into 
pieces, dropped it into cold water, brought it to a boil and served it 
underdone on a platter in the true Eskimo style, every one of my 
three companions commented on its great superiority over seal 
meat as cooked on the ship. Wilkins, who was brought up in 
Australia and was used to the eating of fresh mutton, said it tasted 


very much like mutton and almost as good. That seal's fat does 
taste like fresh mutton fat is the opinion of all white men I know 
who are familiar with the taste of both. The lean, however, while 
good in its way, has a flavor quite distinct from that of mutton. 

There may be a more fundamental reason why a man used to an 
elaborate menu, as were all my present companions, is easier to 
please than one who has never eaten any but a few simple things. 
Since many of the modern theories in human dietetics are based on 
experiments with rats or guinea pigs, analogizing from dogs to 
men in this field should be no less interesting or instructive. I 
should like to cite some of our experiences in feeding dogs with 
foods that were strange to them. 

In 1908 on my way down the Mackenzie River I bought a dog 
team which had been brought up on a diet of fresh-water fish sup- 
plemented with moose, caribou, rabbits and possibly ptarmigan. 
When we got to the seacoast we had trouble to get these dogs to 
eat seal meat. I remember some sailors who told me at the time 
that they did not blame the dogs. These were men who had been 
in the country twenty years without ever tasting seal and who 
naturally knew it was bad. But it was not that seal was funda- 
mentally less agreeable to dogs; they were merely not used to it. 
It occurred to me that the dogs were refusing to eat because of the 
odor of the meat rather than because of the taste. For one thing, 
they did not put it in their mouths; for another, a dog probably 
does not have a keen sense of taste, as we may infer from his habit 
of gulping his food, but his keenness of smell is well known. I 
now provided seal meat that was more or less decayed, thinking 
that while fresh caribou and fresh seal smelled different, the putre- 
faction odor in either case would be about the same and would 
overpower the native smell. This worked at once. And I have 
never found a dog used to putrid meat of one kind that would not 
eat greedily putrid meat of any other kind. By gradually giving 
the dogs fresher and fresher seal they were easily broken to it. 

But we had more serious trouble with the same team the follow- 
ing spring when we tried to feed them on ducks. These ducks were 
fresh-killed, hence had their native odor. All the team refused 
at first, and some went for more than a week without tasting. I 
determined experimentally, however, that through hanging in the 
sun for three or four days, or until it began to smell putrid, a duck 
became acceptable to any of the dogs. 


Some years later I bought a dog in Coronation Gulf which had 
been brought up mainly on seal. On the north coast of Alaska 
the following spring we were for a few days in a position where 
we could get only geese for food. This dog refused for more than 
a week to taste goose, and I was never able to force him to it. 
We had to give up the experiment because of lack of time. As 
noted below in the case of the wolf meat, it is even possible the 
dog might have preferred to die of starvation though goose meat was 
before him. 

At another time we had a dog brought up on the Booth Islands, 
near Cape Parry. Inland on Horton River this dog, which had 
been used to seal meat only, refused at first to eat caribou and 
had to be broken to it through hunger, for this was in the winter 
time when it was not practicable to get the meat to decay. 

In Banks Island the summer of 1914 we undertook to teach the 
dogs to eat wolf. This experiment was conducted ''under laboratory 
conditions." The dogs were kept tied in one place and supplied 
each day with a dish of fresh water. A piece of wolf meat was 
placed every day beside the dish and allowed to remain all that 
day. This meat was then destroyed, for we were afraid it might 
begin to putrefy and we wanted to see how long the team would 
go hungry before eating meat that was quite fresh and still retained 
the full wolf odor. During the second week five of the six dogs 
gave in one by one, but at the end of the fourteenth day the last 
dog had not yet touched it. He was the oldest of the team, which 
was doubtless why he was the most conservative. He had been 
the fattest of the lot at the beginning of the experiment and at the 
end of the second week he was practically a skeleton. 

At this point I had to stop the test, for we had to begin travel- 
ing and needed the strength of this dog along with that of the 
others. It is quite possible that he might have chosen to starve. 
I have found by experience as well as inquiry that a man fasting 
does not get any hungrier after the second, some say the third, day, 
and long before the fourteenth day the craving for food loses its 
sharpest edge. 

This is a synopsis of only some of my experiments and experi- 
ences with the food tastes of dogs, from which I have drawn the 
following generalized conclusions: 

Dogs brought up around ships and used to foraging in refuse- 
piles and eating highly-seasoned food will eat any food offered to 
them. It seems therefore that a dog used to many sorts does not 
mind eating one sort more. 


Dogs more than a year old brought up on a diet restricted to 
two or three articles always refuse at first when an entirely new 
food is offered. They base this refusal on the sense of smell, and if 
the meat is putrid enough so that the putrefaction smell completely 
hides the native smell then the dog. has no objection. In other 
words, all rotten meats smell substantially alike and are therefore 
recognized as a familiar diet, while any new kind of fresh meat 
offends through its strange smell. 

Hunters and natives who have noticed that dogs will not eat 
wolf or fox meat commonly remark that dogs object to cannibal- 
ism. I find that the objection of a dog to wolf meat is no stronger 
than his objection to duck meat or caribou meat, provided the duck 
or caribou is an absolutely new meat in the experience of the dog. 
Once induced to eat wolf, a dog soon becomes as fond of it as 
of any other meat. 

We have found that the food prejudice is stronger the older the 
dog, and we believe that with dogs of the same age the prejudice 
of the female against new food is stronger than that of the male. 
This seems to extend the commonly believed-in principle of the 
greater conservatism of human females down into the lower 

It would be exceedingly interesting, it seems to me, to make 
further experiments in the food tastes of dogs along the following 

Pups of the same litter should be selected, one to be fed for 
two years on mutton and water, another on fish and water, a third 
on beef, and a fourth perhaps on a vegetarian diet. It would 
make the experiment more interesting if a male and a female 
could be used for each sort of diet. Judging from our experiments, 
it seems probable that at the end of two years the mutton-fed 
dog would refuse both beef and fish, and the fish-fed dog would 
refuse both mutton and beef. I believe it would also be found that 
the abhorrence for the new diet would be stronger with the female in 
each pair than with the male. 

It is well known that some Eskimo groups eat either no vege- 
table food at all or practically none. But in all parts where we 
have been, except in Coronation Gulf, they are fond of the berry 
known in Alaska as the "salmon berry" and elsewhere as the cloud- 
berry (Rubus chamaemorus Linn.) . We were astonished, especially 
my Alaska Eskimo companions, when we found that some of the 
Coronation Gulf Eskimos lived among an abundance of these berries 
and had never thought of tasting them. Since no taboo existed my 


Eskimo companions tried to introduce the fashion of eating them. 
They found no difficulty in getting children to try them, except that 
in some cases the mothers were offended by the attempt. The men 
also were commonly willing to eat them, and I do not recall that even 
one man refused, but I should say that fully half the women posi- 
tively refused even to taste the salmon berry during the summer we 
spent with them. This is really a rather good fruit and I have no 
doubt that by now most or all of the people are eating it, but our 
observation that first year seemed to indicate clearly enough the 
conservatism of the women. We observed it in many other things — 
for instance, smoking. Although nearly all western Eskimo women 
use tobacco and although there have been tobacco-using women 
on our ships when we have come in contact with the eastern Eskimos, 
we have found the men readier than the women to learn to 

I have had much experience with the food prejudice of white men 
in connection with introducing them to a diet of meat only. The laws 
of that prejudice as deduced from dogs have applied to the men 
exactly. The older the man the more probable it is that he will 
object to trying a new kind of food and to abandoning the foods he 
is used to. A dog brought up on a ship and used to a variety in diet 
would take readily to a new diet. Similarly, "well brought-up" 
men, used in their homes to a variety of foods both domestic and 
imported, take readily to any new thing — such, for instance, as seal 
meat. But men ''poorly brought-up" and used only to half a dozen 
or so articles in their regular diet, are generally reluctant to try 
a new food unless it has been represented to them in advance as a 
luxury or as especially delicious. Of course the situation here is 
not so simple as it is with dogs. For one thing, the man of "laborer" 
type has a feeling of being degraded when he is compelled to eat 
the food of "savages," while a man of intellectual type is appealed 
to by a mild flavor of adventure in experimenting with the food 
of a strange people. 

It was so with my companions now that we were among real 
Eskimos. They took readily to Eskimo cooking and seemed to con- 
sider it great sport. Doughnuts fried in seal oil were sampled as 
an adventure, and their deliciousness surprised them. So with 
every new thing they had a chance to taste. This is one of the 
reasons why "well brought-up" young men are the best material for 
polar explorers, or indeed for any type of "roughing it," except the 
sort to which the "poorly brought-up" man is native. Generalizing 


still more: an educated man of diversified experience has the mental 
equipment to meet "hardship;" the ignorant are fitted to meet easily 
only those "hardships" that are native to them. It goes without 
saying that, like all rules, this has its exceptions. 



WE had noticed in certain places along the coast sledge tracks 
going west ahead of us. The Eskimos said that the trav- 
elers were a party consisting of one white man and three 
Eskimos who had left a whaler caught by the ice and compelled to 
winter to the eastward, and were on their way to Point Barrow. 

Group after group of Eskimos happened in our way along the 
coast, and we picked up a good deal of information about conditions 
to the east as the party traveling ahead dropped a word here and 
another there. But it was not until we finally got to Cape Smythe 
that everything was pieced together. 

The Belvedere, under Captain Cottle, carrying a hundred tons 
of freight for our expedition, had been able to get within about 
seventy-five miles of Herschel Island, where she had been frozen in 
a mile from the coast. About fifteen miles farther west the Polar 
Bear was safe a few hundred yards from the beach. But the Elvira 
had been wrecked. This was not surprising for the Elvira was one 
of the vessels considered before the purchase of the Karluk and the 
reports of my inspectors had shown that she was thoroughly un- 
sound. Even in the ice-free waters of the Pacific they would not 
believe her good for more than two or three years. She had now 
been nipped in the ice, and according to the terms of the insurance 
policy, which was a heavy one, she had been promptly abandoned. 
Whalers from another vessel later boarded her and saved her catch 
of fur and a good many other things of value. Thus the event was 
auspicious to everybody except possibly to the marine insurance 
people at San Francisco. 

But most pertinent to us was the information that the Alaska 
and the Mary Sachs were both safe at Collinson Point. They, 
in common with all other ships on the coast, had followed the 
Alaska practice of going between the land and the ice. Although 
they had not been able to get as far east as we had hoped, they 
were at least safe, and we had their supplies to go on with the 
following year. 



It was especially unfortunate for us that to the Karluk, believed 
safest of all our ships, we had entrusted the most valued part of our 
cargo. One of the main things I wanted to do that next spring on 
the sledge journey over the Beaufort Sea was to take soundings, 
and most of our sounding equipment was on the Karluk. The 
Sachs and Alaska had chronometers for their own use, but the 
ones intended for sledge exploration were on the Karluk. The men 
of adventurous disposition and special qualifications whom I had 
meant for my companions on exploratory journeys were also there, 
along with the good dogs purchased in Nome, and the sledges and 
sledge material which could not be duplicated even at Cape Smythe 
and even in Mr. Brower's extensive stock. 

And of the Karluk with all these invaluable things on board we 
got no certain news. On coming to an Eskimo encampment at 
Cooper's Island about twenty miles east of Cape Smythe we learned 
that a ship had been there in the ice, three or four miles offshore, 
for several days.* She had been so near that the Eskimos could 
see the ropes in her rigging, and had theirs been an ordinary party 
they would have gone out to her. But they were some decrepit 
old people who had been left behind by their relatives traveling 
eastward who were coming back later to pick them up. These 
Eskimos had been expecting somebody to come ashore from the 
ship. When nobody came and they never saw any smoke, they 
concluded she was deserted. It had been a strong temptation to 
them to go aboard for plunder, and it was a matter of great regret 
to them that no young men had been on hand for the purpose. One 
of these old Eskimos had seen every whaling ship in these waters, 
and the Karluk had been a familiar sight to him for fifteen years. 
He was prompt and clear on the point that this was she. After 
she had been within observation for two or three days a fog and 
wind came up. When the fog lifted she was gone. 

A day or two later a ship had been seen in the ice off Point 
Barrow. She was said to have been about ten miles from shore 
and the natives did not agree as to her characteristics. One Eskimo 
said she was a schooner; in that case certainly not the Karluk. 
By the light of later events I now know that it must have been the 
Karluk, though at that time I was inclined to think it was the Elvira. 
Report at this stage was that the Elvira had been abandoned before 
she sank, so that it seemed she might have drifted westward, jammed 
in the ice and held up by it, a thing which occurs in shipwrecks 
of a certain type. 

*See "Last Voyage of the Karluk," p. 48. 


Mr. Brower's welcome when we arrived at Barrow was no less 
friendly because he regretted our being back so soon under such 
circumstances. He is an optimist by temperament, as every pioneer 
should be, and his cheerfulness and friendliness helped to reconcile 
me to the situation. By now I was completely over the idea that 
the expedition was going to be uninteresting because of being too 
easy, or monotonous because of having some one to do everything 
for me. 

After a day or two at Cape Smythe we set about preparing the 
best sort of outfit we could. My men on leaving the Karluk had 
been improperly dressed and this was now remedied through skins 
and other things supplied us from Mr. Brower's stores and through 
the assistance of the Eskimo seamstresses of the village. The one 
thing we wanted most, however, was good sledges, for I knew that 
at Collinson Point there would not be more than one or two of the 
heavy type. It takes an entirely different sled to encounter the 
rough and shifting ice on the Beaufort Sea from what is needed 
for work on shore. It had been my supposition that the Alaska 
and the Mary Sachs would in winter confine their operations to 
the land or to the comparatively level ice near land and would, 
therefore, need sledges weighing from seventy-five to a hundred 
and seventy-five pounds, and they had, accordingly, been equipped 
with light ones mainly. The kind that I preferred for rough ice 
work would weigh two hundred to two hundred and seventy-five 
pounds. With a sledge of that weight Mr. Brower could not supply 
me, but he had light material for making just one sled and he set 
about doing that. He made it himself and it was, therefore, as 
well made as was possible with the materials. It eventually gave 
us as good service as any sled I ever had of its weight, though it 
never could take the place of any one of the heavy sledges carried 
by the Karluk. 

Although it is three hundred miles north of the arctic circle 
and within sight of the most northerly tip of Alaska, Cape Smythe 
had at that time three mails going to the outside world in winter. 
The first of these was leaving in November, and with it I sent out 
to the Government at Ottawa a report of the proceedings and mis- 
haps of the expedition up to that point and a program for future 
work. This letter is summarized as follows: 

I told the Minister of Naval Service that I considered it very 
doubtful whether the Karluk as a ship would survive the winter. 
I could not be sure in what part of the ocean she was, although in- 
clined to the belief that she was to the westward. While the pro- 


gram of the expedition was necessarily curtailed, I did not consider 
that the lives of any of the crew were in danger,* for if the ship were 
crushed during the winter the breaking would be so slow that they 
would have plenty of time to put off on the ice all stores and equip- 
ment necessary for a journey ashore. I placed special faith in the 
skin-boat and pointed out that the greatest difficulty of the men 
of the crushed Jeannette in getting ashore was due to the fact that 
the boats they had to haul over the ice were very heavy and very 
fragile,** while our skin-boat was less than one-quarter as heavy 
and many times as strong, and in every way better adapted to the 
use of men retreating towards land from a ship broken in the pack. 
If the ship were lost in the dead of winter it would probably be 
safe to leave without the skin-boat. In other words, there were 
two safe methods of retreat: one carrying the boat along, and the 
other abandoning it and going directly ashore with sledges, provid- 
ing the break-up came when frost was severe enough for temporary 
breaks in the thick old ice to be quickly mended by the formation 
of young ice. Should the ship survive the winter and be broken up 
the following summer, the danger to the lives of the crew would be 
considerably increased. The ice then is more mobile, stores placed 
upon it are more likely to be lost, and the journey ashore would 
involve frequent launchings of the boat into water and pulling it 
out again for crossing ice floes to the next stretch of open water. 

Regarding the prospects of the Karluk in general, then, I gave 
it as my opinion that she might or might not survive, but that the 
crew would be certain to get safely ashore if the wreck took place 
in winter, and would have a good chance of getting ashore even if 
it took place the coming summer. I mentioned that the eastern 
part of the north coast of Asia is well supplied with food, for it is 
a settled country with hospitable and well-provisioned reindeer- 
herding or walrus-hunting natives and white traders scattered every- 
where. If the Karluk were broken to the west of Barrow her crew 
had this hospitable coast for retreat. 

As a prospectus of the coming season I reported the safety of 
the Alaska and Mary Sachs at Collinson Point. After outfitting at 
Cape Smythe I would proceed eastward by sledge along the coast. 
Alfred Hopson, a boy of sixteen or seventeen brought up at Cape 

* Bartlett, aboard the Karluk, had the same feeling. "I felt sure, come 
what might, we would get back in safety to civilization," he wrote two 
years later, in recording his feelings while drifting in the ice. ("Last Voyage 
of the Karluk," p. 50.) 

** "Voyage of the Jeannette," by Emma de Long, Boston, 1883. See 
numerous references. 


Smythe, with a good command both of Eskimo and English, had 
been engaged as interpreter for Jenness. I would leave Jenness with 
Hopson among the Eskimos near Cape Halkett where he would 
put in the winter acquiring a familiarity with the language and 
lives of the Eskimos. With the rest of the party I would pro- 
ceed east to Collinson Point. 

As to the expedition's southern section the plan had been that 
it was to spend the present winter in Coronation Gulf and survey 
in the spring the land in that vicinity. This was now impossible, 
since Coronation Gulf is seven hundred miles east from where they 
lay at Collinson Point. I thought it unwise and unprofitable to 
keep an expedition as large as that of the Alaska idle a whole sea- 
son simply because they were not in the particular district of my 
original plan. I would therefore make out a program for them on 
the following basis: 

The Mackenzie delta was interesting geographically and impor- 
tant in its commercial possibilities. And it was accessible from 
Collinson Point, being only two hundred miles east. I had myself 
made two journeys the full 2,000-mile length of the Athabasca and 
Mackenzie River system from Edmonton to the Arctic Ocean, and 
they had impressed on me the tremendous potentialities of this 
system as a waterway, should commerce for any reason develop. 
I had journeyed up the Yukon by steamer and had found that the 
steamers grounded on sandbars frequently, although the pilotage 
was expert, the channels were well buoyed, and the ships drew only 
four and a half feet of water. On the Mackenzie, with no buoys 
for the channels, with pilotage not so expert and with a boat drawing 
six and a half feet of water, we had navigated without difficulty 
an approximate distance of thirteen hundred miles — from Smith 
Rapids on the Slave River, which is the only serious obstacle to 
navigation on the system, across Slave Lake and down the Macken- 
zie River to the head of the delta. Through the delta I had passed 
several times, commonly in boats of shallow draft, but once with 
a boat drawing about five feet. If we could survey the various 
channels of the delta and find that any had a depth of five feet or 
more all the way to the ocean, the knowledge might be of great 
importance. It would be so not only to the Hudson's Bay Company 
and other traders already in the quarter, but to the public in gen- 
eral should a strike of gold or oil or other commercial development 
ever bring people into that valley as they had been brought sud- 
denly some years earlier into the Yukon valley. 

So I gave it as my intention to go from Point Barrow myself 


to the Mackenzie delta to purchase dogs, hire Eskimos, buy gasoline 
launches if they were available, and otherwise make all preparations 
for extensive work in the delta by our topographers, Chipman and 
Cox, the following spring. The preliminary task of surveying the 
coast between the International Boundary and the mouth of the 
Mackenzie might be finished in March, so that work on the Macken- 
zie channels could be begun by sled before the river broke open, and 
continued by boat, including soundings, from about the end of May 
until July when the surveyors would proceed to Herschel Island 
to rejoin the Alaska on her way eastward towards Coronation Gulf. 

But the main item of the instructions of the Government to the 
expedition had been that we were to explore the ocean north of 
Alaska and west of the already known Canadian islands to ascer- 
tain the presence or absence of new lands, and to do soundings and 
carry on other geographic and oceanographic work. I said that 
it seemed to me this part of our program could still be carried for- 
ward. Supplies to reinforce the outfits of the Mary Sachs and 
Alaska could be purchased either from the Belvedere or Polar Bear, 
or, should they be short as they might be, from the two traders, 
"Duffy" O'Connor and Martin Andreasen who were wintering on 
the coast between Collinson Point and Herschel Island. These sup- 
plies together with those on the Alaska and Mary Sachs would be 
adequate for carrying out next summer the Alaska's program of 
going east to Coronation Gulf, and the survey work for the Macken- 
zie in the spring. They would also provide a small party for a 
journey north over the ice to carry out our main geographic program. 

The report then gave attention to what the expedition's pro- 
gram would be if next year the Karluk turned up safe, and what it 
would be if we had to carry on without her. In the latter event 
we would especially need some scientific instruments, and these I 
asked to have shipped to Herschel Island via Edmonton and the 
Mackenzie River, which is the earliest and safest route. Other 
important but less essential supplies not obtainable from whalers or 
traders I asked to have sent in by ship through Bering Straits to 
Herschel Island. 

Summing up the report: 

(1) With the resources we had or could get we intended to do 
as much work this year as we could. 

(2) This year and the years following, whether the Karluk 
was lost or not, the expedition intended to try to carry on according 
to original plans, both in the Coronation Gulf district where de- 
tailed scientific studies would be pursued, and in the Beaufort Sea 


and Parry archipelago where the main object was geographic dis- 
covery — the traversing and study of unexplored seas, the discovery 
and mapping of unknown lands, and the further survey of islands 
already partly known. 

This report, mailed from Barrow in November, reached the De- 
partment of Naval Service in February. Independent reports and 
requisitions had also reached them from the station of Anderson's 
southern division at Collinson Point, which at the time they sent 
them had not heard (except through unreliable Eskimo rumors) 
from the Karluk or from me since the news of us they got when they 
followed us east around Barrow last August. The Naval Service 
also received a telegram from me sent later with the midwinter 
mail from Fort Macpherson. The Department replied to all these 
communications by sending the following telegram to the telegraph 
office nearest Herschel Island, distant about one month's rapid 
journey by dog sled: 

Ottawa, 28th February, 1914. 
"V. Stefansson, 

Care of Superintendent J. D. Moodie, 
Koyal Northwest Mounted Police, 
Dawson, Yukon. 
'Y'our reports from Barrow and wire from Macpherson received. 
Your decision to pursue expedition as per orginal plans is approved. 
Trust you will soon have news of Karluk. 

"(Signed) G. J. DESBARATS." 

This was a satisfactory message, especially the sentence: "Your 
decision to pursue expedition as per original plan is approved." 

Although this telegram was justified by the outcome, and now 
seems the only logical one that could have been sent, it represented 
at the time a decision by the Department of Naval Service which 
showed a realization of arctic problems, and a confidence in our 
prognosis of how they could be met under altered conditions not 
exactly reflected in the press. For while the Department were de- 
ciding to approve my plan of going ahead, the newspapers were 
saying that the entire complement of the Karluk had perished, that 
my plans were unsound, and that the expedition had failed. Edi- 
tors especially, who presumably had been through high school, were 
asserting that all the knowledge ever gained in the Arctic was not 
worth the sacrifice of the life of one young Canadian. 

I am one of those who think the fighting of the Great War worth 
while not so much to attain what was attained as to prevent what 


has been prevented. But I never could see how any one can extol 
the sacrifice of a million lives for political progress who condemns 
the sacrifice of a dozen lives for scientific progress. For the ad- 
vance of science is but the advance of truth, and "The truth shall 
make you free." 

As this book is going through the press I have received a letter 
from one of the scientific staff of our expedition who saw several 
of his companions die in the North, and then went home to serve 
four years on the western front to see men die by the thousand. 
Meantime some of us, his former colleagues, were carrying on the 
northern work. He is writing about a recent visit to him of one 
of our other men who remained in the North two years longer 
before going home to serve the last two years of the war. He says: 
"It was indeed a pleasure to learn at first hand of the work the 
expedition accomplished . . . and no less to hear of the men with 
whom I had had the honor to associate. My only regret has been, 
and always will be, that I was denied the honor of a more active 
association in these results. My enthusiasm for the study of polar 
problems has increased rather than diminished, and I should have 
been delighted to join Wilkins in his Antarctic venture * . . . but 
unfortunately the war has left me a legacy in the shape of a weak 
leg as the result of wounds, which incapacitates me for arctic field 
work." ** 

Thus men will always differ in their estimates, partly because of 
their nearness to or remoteness from the objective they judge; the 
soldier does not always agree with the editor. The battle for the 
advancement of knowledge is being nobly fought where doctors 
submit to malignant inoculations to test the efficacy of a serum, 
where experimenters breathe poisonous fumes through thousands 
of tests to perfect a process in economic chemistry, where astron- 
omers spend sleepless nights photographing the spectra of the re- 
mote stars. And the astronomer is not necessarily the least of 
these because it is least obvious just how his discoveries are to be 
applied to the problems of food and raiment. 

Nor are the principles established by the arctic explorer neces- 
sarily worthless because no one may see their commercial applica- 
tion, nor the lands he discovers valueless because com will not 
thrive there and water frontages cannot be subdivided into city 
lots with prospect of immediate sale. Their time will come. ''The 

*The Cope Antarctic Expedition of which our Wilkins became second- 
in-command after the ena of the war. Thej'- sailed south in 1920. 

** Letter to the author from William Laird McKinlay, dated May 27, 1920. 


Far North" is a shifting term. The Romans considered the middle 
of France too frigid ever to support a high civihzation. Fifty years 
ago the Arctic was supposed to stretch a long arm down to where 
now stands Winnipeg with its 200,000 people, and it was debated 
if potatoes could be successfully cultivated in that part of Sas- 
katchewan which is now known to be nearly if not quite the world's 
greatest wheat country. So the "Far North" will continue retreat- 
ing till the Arctic that is unpeopled with our race shall have shrunk 
far within the technical arctic circle as laid down by the mathe- 
matical astronomer and geodesist. The lands commonly supposed 
to be covered with ice are even now covered with grass; the "eter- 
nal silence" of the North exists only in books; the "vast arctic 
deserts where no living thing can flourish" are the abode of fat 
herds of indigenous grazing animals winter and summer — as you 
will see if you read on in this book. 

The "Far West" is gone. But in the North is a greater frontier 
than the West ever was, stretching across Canada and across Si- 
beria. The commercial value of the remotest arctic islands will be 
seen ere we die who now are young. 

To those of broad outlook it needs no commercial development 
to justify polar exploration, or any honest attempt to widen the 
bounds of knowledge. Though we hope for commercial develop- 
ments from the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913 to 1918, we 
need not await them for justification. More than a dozen volumes 
of scientific results are partly written (some of them are printed), 
and charts of new lands have been published as a result of the 
decision represented by the telegraphic order issued at Ottawa when 
to those of defeatist temperament everything looked black: 

"Pursue expedition as per original plan." 



WHILE at Barrow this time I observed that the average 
temperature of the Eskimo houses was lower than it had 
been with the Eskimos I had lived with farther east. Mr. 
Brower told me that when he first came to Barrow (I think about 
1881) the Eskimo houses had been much warmer than now. The 
reasons for the difference were mainly two. The people had gradu- 
ally changed their more comfortable and sanitary earth-and-wood 
houses for the nowadays more fashionable and flimsy frame build- 
ings of imported lumber; and fuel had grown scarcer and more 

Mr. Brower and others also gave information that the age of matur- 
ity of Eskimo women is on the average higher now than it was ten or 
twenty years ago. I made no connection at the time between the fact 
of the colder houses and the fact of the deferred maturity of the people 
who dwell in them, and so lost the invaluable opportunity of discussing 
the conclusion I later arrived at with Mr. Brower, who is an accurate 
observer, a keen reasoner and has had unequalled opportunities to study 
the Eskimos during their transition from their native mode of life 
which was unaltered when he settled among them to the present half- 
understood and often misapplied "civilization." 

It has been generally supposed that among the peoples of the earth 
the age of maturity comes earliest in the tropics and increases gradually 
as one goes northward through the temperate and eventually to the 
edge of the polar zone. It has been presumed that a similar condition 
would be found in going south from the equator towards the southern 

If the age of maturity increases with fair regularity as one goes 
north through Europe from Sicily to Lapland, it would seem there is 
a direct connection with the decrease in temperature, and this assump- 
tion has accordingly been generally made. Tables, the sources of which 
are not always unassailable, have been published to show this direct con- 
nection between the age of maturity and the temperature. 

But in North America this rule, if it be a rule, has a striking excep- 
tion. It is not rare among Eskimo women that they have their first 
child at the kge of twelve, and children born before the mothers were 
eleven have been reported in places where the age of the mother can be 



in no doubt because of the fact that her birth had been recorded by a 
resident missionary. 

Cases of this sort were first called to my attention by Dr. H. R. 
Marsh * a medical missionary of the Presbyterian Church, who had al- 
ready been long resident at Barrow when I first came there in 1908. It is 
only where missionaries are stationed that reliable records are obtainable, 
for the Eskimos themselves do not take any interest in their own age 
or the age of their children as measured in years, and it is seldom 
possible to know how old a person is unless his birth can be checked up 
by comparison with some known visit of an explorer, whaling vessel, 
or some event of that sort. It is easy, however, among uncivilized 
Eskimos, at least, to get information accurate in every respect but that 
of age about the coming to maturity of girls, for they have no such 
taboo as we on the publishing of that sort of information. This taboo, 
like all our other social prohibitions, is soon picked up from us when 
Eskimos become "civilized." 

Since the early maturity of Eskimo girls was first pointed out to me 
by Dr. Marsh, I have had a chance to observe a considerable number 
of Eskimos through a period of twelve years, and in many cases when 
it has been possible to check up the age correctly, I have found the 
time of maturity to be about as given by him for Point Barrow. But 
I have a general impression that in the places where I have been the 
age of maturity is now getting higher gradually. (As shown later, 
and mentioned above, I connect this with the poorer clothing and colder 
houses of the present as compared with previous generations.) 

When I first learned of this low age of maturity among people 
living in a cold climate, I supposed I had found evidence for thinking 
that racial difference, or possibly kind of food and manner of life, had 
much more importance than previously considered in determining the 
age of maturity, and that the general correspondence, if there is such, 
between the increasing age of maturity and decreasing temperature as 
one goes north through Europe would be found to be partly a matter 
of accident. It is a curious thing that during twelve years of associa- 
tion with the Eskimos during which time I have spoken and written 
a good deal about their manner of life, it never occurred to me until 
during the writing of this book that their rapid development is strictly 
in accord with the supposition that the hotter the environment the earlier 
the maturity. 

For to all intents and purposes the typical Eskimo in the country 
known to me lives under tropical or subtropical conditions (or at 
least did so until the last few years). The winter of 1906-1907 I recorded 
the estimate that the average temperature within doors of the Eskimo 
house in which I lived at the mouth of the Mackenzie River, was a 

* For an account of Dr. Marsh and his activities, see the various references 
to him in the index to "My Life With the Eskimo." 


good deal above 80° F. and frequently rose to 90° F.* From the point 
of view of those who spent most of the winter indoors in that house, it 
was a matter of no consequence that the temperature was perhaps forty 
or fifty degrees below zero outdoors, when the outdoor air seldom came in 
contact with their bodies. And even when these people went out, the 
cold air did not have a chance to come in contact with them except 
for the limited area of the face. When an Eskimo is well dressed, his 
two layers of fur clothing- imprison the body heat so effectively that 
the air in actual contact with his skin is always at the temperature of a 
tropical si;mmer. It is true, therefore, that while an Eskimo is indoors 
his entire body is exposed to a local climate as warm as that of Sicily, 
and when he is outdoors he carries that climate about with him inside 
of his clothes and applicable to ninety or ninety-five per cent, of his 
body area. 

If it be supposed that early maturity in such a country as Sicily is 
due to the direct effect of heat upon the body, in some such way as 
when heat brings early maturity to flies cultivated under experimental 
conditions, then we see that on that theory the Eskimo has every reason 
to mature about as early as the Sicilian. The same conclusion follows 
if we consider that early maturity is due to the acceleration of the proc- 
esses of metabolism due to the strain upon the body in adjusting itself 
t:> excessive heat. When an Eskimo comes into such a house as the one 
in which I lived in 1906-1907, he strips off all clothing immediately upon 
entering, except his knee breeches, and sits naked from the waist up and 
from the knees down. Cooking is continually going on during the day 
and the house is so hot that great streams of perspiration run down 
the face and body of every inhabitant and are being continually mopped 
up with handfuls of moss or of excelsior, or, according to later custom, 
with bath towels; and there is drinking of cup after cup of ice water. 
At night the temperature of the house will be only ten or fifteen degrees 
lower; or if it drops more, people will cover up with fur robes instead 
of sleeping nearly uncovered, thus keeping up the heat of the air that 
is in actual contact with the body. We have, therefore, produced locally 
within doors the same conditions which may be supposed to accelerate 
the metabolism of a dweller under the tropical sun. 

The effect of the over-heated houses is more direct among the Eskimos 
upon the women than upon the men, for they remain indoors a larger 
part of the winter. So far as the warmth of the body out-of-doors is 

* Bartlett estimates the temperature within doors in winter of the houses 
of the Eskimos and Eskimo-like people of Northeast Siberia at 100° F. See 
"Last Voyage of the Karluk," p. 211. To judge by his account these Sibe- 
rians do not ventilate their houses as well as the North Alaskan and Macken- 
zie Eskimos used to do, although his description of the foulness of the air 
is only a little more lurid than one that would be true of some of the 
Barrow Eskimo houses to-day that are cold because they are chilled through 
the thin walls by conduction and because fuel is scarce. In such houses 
every crevice by which cold air might get in is stuffed up with something. 
Not infrequently the keyhole is plugged with chewing-gum. 


concerned, the conditions are even among the sexes, for they are equally 
warmly clad. 

If an Eskimo ever becomes uncomfortably cold, it is likely to be on 
a rainy or foggy day in summer or autumn when he is wearing his old 
clothes so as to save the better ones from injury through wetting. 
Among the Copper Eskimos of the vicinity of Coronation Gulf consid- 
erable discomfort is suffered occasionally from cold, especially in the 
fall. But these people who do not usually count above six have no ac- 
curate idea (in years) of the ages of their children that are nearing 
maturity and we have no reliable data on this head from them as yet. 
They are, therefore, left out of this discussion. 

In countries like Europe where the clothing, whether it is of cotton 
or of wool, is generally porous, forming a poor protection against the 
weather and especially against a cold wind, and where the houses are 
similarly badly adapted for shutting out cold (like the modem ones at 
Barrow), and where temperature within doors is controlled by fires that, 
for one reason or another, cannot be uniformly maintained, it is gen- 
erally true that the farther north you go the colder the air that actually 
reaches the bodies of the people and has an effect upon their life proc- 
esses. In North America among the Indians, as one goes north from 
Mexico towards the Arctic Sea, similar conditions generally prevail, and 
the farther north the Indian the colder the air that is in contact with 
his body throughout the year. For the Indians (other than the Eskimos 
or Eskimo-Indians) like Europeans, generally wear clothing ill-suited 
for keeping the body warm. The most northerly of the Athabasca In- 
dians, for instance, appear to suffer a great deal from cold. 

One winter I traveled about for several months with the Dog-Rib 
and Yellow Knife Indians.* I found they were so poorly clad that dur- 
ing the day when out of doors they had to be continually moving, for if 
they stopped for even half an hour at a time they became so chilled that 
their hands became numb. These Indians are really in continual fear 
a large part of the winter of ever ceasing from active motion when out 
of doors. In the evenings their wigwams are cheerful with a roaring 
fire but by no means comfortable, for while your face is almost scorched 
with the heat of the flames, your back has hoar-frost forming upon it. 
At night the Indians go to sleep under their blankets, covering up their 
heads and shivering ail night so the blankets shake. It is, therefore, in 
accordance with the theoiy that the age of maturity increases with the 
increased cold of the air applied directly to the body, to suppose that the 
statements of Hudson's Bay traders and others in the North are reliable 
when they say that the common age of maturity of Indian girls is as 
high as, or higher than, that of north European whites. 

But when you go north from the Slavey and Dog-Rib Indians to the 
Eskimo country the conditions suddenly change. You now come in con- 

* See various references to Slavey, Dog-Rib, Hare and other northern 
Indians in "My Life With the Eskimo." 


tact with a people who have (or had, till they became "civilized") a sys- 
tem of living almost perfectly adapted to a cold climate, while the north- 
em Indians have a system almost unbelievably ill-adapted to the condi- 
tions in which they live. Here, accordingly, you have a sudden shift 
back to a sub-tropical early age of maturity which at first seems to be a 
direct contradiction of the accepted theory, but which when properly 
understood is in accordance with it.* 

Spring work was commenced by sending Jenness, Wilkins and the 
Eskimo, Asatsiak, to precede us to a fishing lake back of Cape 
Halkett where they were to attempt catching fish in quantity for 
dog- feed, so that later on we might use them for our journey from 
there east towards Collinson Point. A few days later the rest of 
us followed, except Pauyurak who wanted to leave our service. He 
told me that when he had worked for white men before he had 
usually stayed in the ship most of the winter and when he traveled 
he had been in the habit of riding, but he found in traveling with 
us not only that he didn't stay in one place very long but that 
when he traveled he had to run. He seemed to consider this latter 
partly a trial and partly an indignity. That being his frame of 
mind, I was very glad to have him remain behind at Cape Smythe. 

At Cape Halkett a little later we lost Asatsiak. Somebody in 
that community picked him out for a desirable son-in-law. That 
seemed to meet his ideas and we had to forget that he had promised 
to work for us for three years. As I have had occasion to remark 
before, the attitude of an Eskimo towards a contract seems to be 
about the same as the attitude of a sovereign state towards a 
treaty, — it is an agreement to be kept if it suits you to keep it and 
to be abrogated whenever you feel that your interests are better 
served that way. 

The defection of these two Eskimos did not hamper us especially 
as we had picked up a good traveling companion in Angutitsiak, 
a Point Hope native whom we found at Barrow. He served the 
expedition well for three years, first with me on this trip and later 
with Dr. Anderson in Coronation Gulf. 

We left Jenness and his interpreter, young Alfred Hopson, with 
the Eskimos of Cape Halkett and proceeded eastward. How this 
crossing of Harrison Bay impressed McConnell is shown by an 
interview given the New York Times several years later (Septem- 
ber 18, 1915). His enthusiasm and worshipful attitude in the inter- 
view are to be explained (unless they are due to the reporter) by 

*See The Journal of the American Medical Association, Sept. 4, 1920, 
"Temperature Factor in Determining the Age of Maturity Among the Eski- 
mos," by V. Stefansson. 


the fact that after having "perished amid a wilderness of ice," in 
the newspaper announcements of a year earher, I had now just 
come dramatically to life in the front-page headlines. Apropos 
of my resuscitation an interviewer had been sent to McConnell, 
who then was in New York, with result in part as follows: 

"... Those down here who thought he was dead did not know 
him. . . . You see the Stefansson they had met at banquets and 
functions became another man entirely when he left civilization be- 
hind him. I know because I traveled with him all one winter. He 
is at home in the Arctic. , . . The secret of his long so-called impos- 
sible trips is that he knows how to take care of his men and dogs. 
His sense of direction seems almost intuitive. I have never seen him 
become confused as to direction. On one occasion I followed his 
lead through a blinding snowstorm for hours. . . . The last two 
hours were made in darkness yet at the finish he was not over a 
hundred yards off the trail. I say 'off the trail' but in fact there 
was no trail. 

"At another time I followed him across a bay for forty miles. 
He made his own trail and at the end of the forty miles we came to 
. . . the small sandspit (he was aiming for)." 

These things seemed extraordinary to McConnell, and Wilkins 
has told me that they appeared equally extraordinary to him, but 
they were really very simple. To begin with, I knew the country. 
It is a region where only three kinds of wind blow. The strongest 
is from the southwest, the next strongest is from the northeast, and 
the third is from east-northeast. Occasionally there is a little wind 
from some other point but in general the snowdrifts are deposited 
by one of these three winds. Commonly you know as a matter of 
recent history which of the three winds it was that blew last, but 
in any event an examination of the ground will easily show which 
it was. On the same principles as are employed by stratigraphic 
geologists, you can tell by size and other characteristics which driftg 
were made by the strongest winds, and furthermore you can tell the 
direction of the wind by the fact that the drift is lowest and narrow- 
est to windward and gets higher and wider to leeward before finally 
dropping down abruptly to the general level. After as many years 
as I have had of arctic travel it would be strange if I could not 
tell at a glance, where only three kinds of drift are involved 
which was the S.W. drift, which the N.E. and which the E.N.E. 
And if it was dark so I couldn't see I could tell the shapes of the 
drifts by stopping and feeling them carefully with my feet, or if 
necessary by dropping on all fours, crawling about and examining 


them with the hands. Then, having determined either the N.E, 
or the S.W. drifts, the whole remaining problem is to cross every 
such drift at an angle of about forty-five degrees, ignoring all the 
other drifts. By doing this you are really traveling the compass 
course S.E., which takes you from our starting point on the west 
side of Harrison Bay towards a gap about four miles wide between 
the mainland and the Jones Islands on the east edge of the Bay. 
I knew if I erred by going too much to the right I should run the 
danger of getting tangled in the grassy mudflats of the Colville River 
where the traveling is very bad on account of the soft snow in the 
tall grass. So I made sure that if I did err it should be by going too 
much to the left, in which case again I would strike the rough ice 
outside of the Jones Islands. 

This was a two days' journey made largely in thick weather, 
and there was such chance for error that it was largely a matter of 
luck, although the reasoning and method were correct, which made 
me strike, as McConnell has said, within a few hundred yards of 
the desired place. However, I did not strike quite as close as he 
thought. I had noted some time before we got across the bay 
certain knobs of rough ice which indicated that I was a little too 
far to seaward and so I turned slightly to the right. 

There was also the performance which impressed McConnell and 
Wilkins (and which Wilkins has since written about) of announcing 
to them in advance, a day or two after this, when we were in thick 
weather and when the coast appeared to them to be absolutely fea- 
tureless, that in a mile or so we would arrive at a platform cache 
which I had seen some years before. This was merely a Sherlock 
Holmes trick, for the coast was not featureless but was merely 
featureless to their inexperienced observation. I had been up and 
down it so often that I knew every cut-bank, and my last journey 
had been only a year before so that the topography wag still vivid. 
To forecast your arrival at an ancient Eskimo camp a mile after 
passing a creek mouth is no more wonderful than knowing that a 
fifteen-minute walk will take you to the Flatiron Building from 
the Washington Arch. 

When we got as far as the mouth of the Shagavanaktok River 
we had a series of trivial though rather instructive adventures. We 
came upon a sled trail running to seaward and followed it ashore to 
a camp the characteristics of which told me two things: One was 
that it belonged to my former traveling companion, Natkusiak,* 

*See "Life With the Eskimo." Natkusiak was with me most of the four 
years covered by that book. 


and the other that there must be the carcass of a whale to seaward. 
Evidently the sled trail led to this carcass. We were beginning 
to run short of dog-feed, so the next day I sent McConnell and 
Angutitsiak with a sled to discover the whale and get a load of meat. 

During that day I decided to walk out to Cross Island, for 
we were now abreast of it, thinking that if the Karluk were to the 
east instead of to the west Bartlett might have sent a message ashore 
and left a communication there for me. It was about a fifteen- 
mile walk to the island. When I got there I found no message from 
the Karluk and no sign of human visits during the present winter. 

This was the time of year when the days are shortest. In a 
certain sense there are no days at all around Christmas, for the 
sun is well below the horizon and the light at noon even on a clear 
day is only a bright twilight. It had been cloudy all along and 
began to snow on the way home. Therefore I had before me in 
finding camp one of the interesting problems which continually 
confront the arctic hunter and the solution of which is as absorbing 
to me as that of a problem in chess. 

Any Eskimo or experienced white man is careful to have his 
camp near some landmark, preferably one of a linear nature. In 
other words, pitching your camp near the foot of a conspicuous 
round hill would be of little service in finding your way home, for 
whenever the weather became thick or the night dark you would be 
unable to see the hill from any distance. The landmark of most 
use is a long, fairly straight ridge or a cut-bank conspicuous enough 
and characteristic enough not to be overlooked or mistaken for 
another. Our present camp, which was the Eskimo camp from 
which its owners were temporarily absent, was at a cut-bank on 
the eastern edge of a river delta. To head straight for it I had to 
go approximately south. But the first rule, if you want to find 
camp in darkness or thick weather, is not to try making a straight 
shot towards it. For if you do and miss, you will not know to which 
side to turn to look for it. In my present case I was north of a 
camp located on an east and west coast line. It would not be wise 
for me, I knew, to set a course too far west, for if I did I should 
get myself tangled among the delta islands and mudflats of the 
river. Clearly, the thing to do was to make sure that I was going to 
strike the land too far east, for not being a delta that land would 
presumably be of simpler topography and I would merely have to 
follow the shoreline west until I came to the camp. In fact, I 
thought I knew the coast, for I had passed it several times although 
I had never stopped there to hunt. On the present occasion, al- 


though we had slept a night at the camp I had not seen the topog- 
raphy, for we had arrived after dark and I had started for Cross 
Island before daylight in the morning. But I imagined that the 
camp was on a round point with lowland lying to the east and 
rolling hills commencing two or three miles back. 

With confidence in this analysis, I took the wind at a certain 
angle on my cheek, made sure occasionally with the luminous dial 
of my pocket compass that the wind was not shifting, and walked 
steadily so as to strike the land, as I thought, a mile or two east 
of the camp. I knew my rate of walking and timed myself care- 
fully. After awhile I began to worry a little, for I had walked 
about an hour longer than I expected without striking any land. 
It was now about nine o'clock at night with thick clouds and light 
snowfall so that it was not possible to see even a dark object on the 
snow background more than five or eight yards away. 

At the end of this superfluous hour of walking I had one of the 
surprises of my life, for I stumbled against a heap of stones. Now 
it happens that years ago my former commander, Leffingwell, wrote 
a geological paper in which he said that stones were absent from 
the coast west of Flaxman Island, and that in a published review 
of that paper I have pointed out that while stones are nowhere 
numerous, I have in repeated journeys along that coast observed 
a few. I had seen Leffingwell since and found we then agreed that 
there were a few stones on the coast. But here I was stumbling 
over a heap of boulders that could not be called "a few" by any 
reasonable stretch of the vocabulary. I sat down on one of them 
to think. 

It first occurred to me that I might have struck to the west of 
the camp instead of east of it and that I might now really be up in 
the valley of the Shagavanaktok River, having by accident entered 
the delta by a straight channel without striking any of the islands. 
I thought this over carefully and decided that it could not be. 
Daylight had lasted on my backward road until I was only eight or 
nine miles from camp and I had then set a course to strike two 
miles east of it and I considered it absurd that I could make an 
error of more than two miles in a distance of eight. The conclusion 
was that I must be east of the camp. But this seemed also absurd, 
for observations in previous years had told me that to the east of 
the camp the land was continuous, with a low coastline and flat land 
back of it for two or three miles. And here I had stumbled against 
the face of a cut-bank covered with boulders that seemed like a 
moraine. At first sight it would seem that this reasoning had led 


to the absurd conclusion that I was neither east nor west of the 
camp, but the answer had to be that my observation of the land on 
passing it in previous years must have been wrong and that instead 
of it being a low land gradually rising towards the interior, it 
must be in reality a practically landlocked bay with a narrow en- 
trance which I had never noticed. I knew that this entrance could 
not be wide, for had it been I would have noticed it in passing the 
coast, which I had done both by boat in summer and by sled in 

Having decided that I must have discovered a new bay lying east 
of the camp, I also had to conclude that the bay might be of any 
conceivable contour and that the only safe thing would be to follow 
all of the coast line. This I set about doing. For awhile the bank 
was conspicuous and I could see the loom of it even in the darkness, 
but after awhile it became more sloping and lower and I had to be 
continually stooping and picking up handfuls of snow or scratching 
the ground to find whether I was on the grassy land or on the snow- 
covered ice. I knew I could not be more than about three miles 
from camp in a straight line, but I did not know, except very gen- 
erally, which direction this was, so there was nothing for it but to 
keep following every indentation of the bay. It took several hours, 
and I arrived home at one o'clock in the morning, having been on 
my feet about seventeen hours. 

I was, of course, not tired. When one is in good training almost 
indefinite walking leaves you still ready to walk farther, and I was 
in an especially good humor through having solved one of the most 
interesting problems of the sort I had ever met. It seemed to me 
an opportune moment to use it as an example for impressing a 
valuable lesson upon my companions and I accordingly gave them 
an extended lecture on the subject. It was only later it dawned on 
me that they might not have been much interested at the time, and 
it must be admitted that no one is likely to be in a very receptive 
frame of mind who has sat up waiting for hours expecting somebody 
to come home, and then fallen asleep to be awakened in the middle 
of the night. It seems that on an earlier occasion I had impressed 
on them what is really one of the first principles of arctic technique: 
that if ever at night they came to the conclusion they were lost, 
they should stop quietly where they were and wait for daylight. 
One of them now wanted to know why I didn't follow my own rule 
and sleep out all night. This was a point of view that had never 
occurred to me, for it had never struck me that I was lost. 

This incident shows that it takes years of experience with any 


peculiar environment such as a desert, the ocean, or the Arctic, be- 
fore one can judge correctly between the merely spectacular and the 
really difficult. Here were two keen young men who had been lost 
in admiration over the elementary trick of using snowdrifts as a com- 
pass in crossing a forty-mile bay, and who could see nothing inter- 
esting or particularly worth explaining in the comparatively credit- 
able feat of finding a camp in darkness under the conditions I have 
just described. 

In my whole arctic experience there is nothing of which I am 
more tempted to brag than of these eight or nine hours during which 
I groped ahead amid falling and drifting snow through dark- 
ness, never doubting that every step brought me nearer to a camp 
that I could not see till I was within five yards of it. Every now 
and then I had to dig deep pits with my hunting knife to see if 
I was on land or ice. I never dared try to follow the shoreline 
exactly for I never knew when I should come to the camp and 
pass it unnoticed. So that no matter which way the coast line 
trended I always zigzagged it, groping my way inland and digging 
till I found grass or soil, then groping my way seaward till my dig- 
ging revealed ice. I knew the camp was not far away if I only 
could walk straight to it, but I also knew that though I was almost 
sure to be able to figure out its direction, I never could figure out 
its exact location. Each time that impatience whispered to me, 
"Make a shot at it, you might hit it," discretion answered, "Yes, but 
if you miss once you never will know if camp lies to the right or to 
the left, ahead of you or behind. Now you know it is ahead 
and that you will inevitably find it at last. You will never for- 
give yourself if you allow yourself to get lost when you needn't." 

And so I kept on, groping, zigzagging, digging, now to find earth 
and now to find sea, and I got home. But the trouble is that when I 
want to brag about it nobody seems to see the importance of the 
achievement as I do. 

After my lecture and its comparative failure, we seemed about 
to commence a discussion of whether I had or had not been lost 
when McConnell remarked that he and the Eskimo had been unable 
to discover the whale carcass. He confided to me later that the 
Eskimo had not seemed very anxious to find it. They had followed 
the trail for awhile and when McConnell could no longer see it he 
had assumed that Angutitsiak could, for he then retained his child- 
like faith in the infallibility in such matters of the Eskimos. But 
when after awhile he asked the Eskimo where the trail was, he 
answered that he had lost it long ago but was hoping to find it again, 


The hope haphazardly to find again a trail which you have long 
ago lost may show merely a sanguine temperament, but I think 
McConnell was right in interpreting it to mean that Angutitsiak 
thought chopping whale meat for dog-feed would be pretty hard 

The next day I sent McConnell and Angutitsiak again to look 
for the whale, never dreaming that they might not find it, and went 
out for a walk in another direction. On the way home I struck 
for the place where I thought the whale would be and found it, with 
plenty of evidence of Eskimos having been there to get meat several 
weeks before. I also found a white fox dead in a trap, but I saw 
no trace of McConnell and the Eskimo. On coming home in the 
evening I found that they had miraculously missed that whale a 
second time. This amused me almost as much as it annoyed. But 
two days seemed enough time to lose, so we proceeded next morning 
towards Collinson Point, feeling fairly certain that we would fall 
in with Eskimos who could give us dog-feed. This proved to be 
correct, and the Eskimos also gave us news of interest. Natkusiak, 
I learned, had gone east to Collinson Point to pay a visit to our 
ships there, but a pile of seal and whale meat belonging to him had 
been cached in the neighborhood of my informant's house. The 
next day we picked up all we needed from this cache and proceeded 
to Flaxman Island. 

Here we found Leffingwell in the house which had been built in 
1907 from the wreck of the Duchess of Bedford. He had already 
spent several winters there, although he had made two visits to his 
parents in California, passing each time a winter in the south. The 
house had been added to and was rather palatial for those latitudes. 
He had an extensive library in several languages, one of his rooms 
was furnished with a roll-top desk, and altogether the equipment 
ranged from the sumptuous almost to the effete. 

But I must make clear immediately that while the outfit was 
elaborate it was in the main a relic of the times when he had been 
a tenderfoot and his tastes had not yet been turned towards sim- 
plicity by his experience in the North. The first year he was there 
he had "lived well," as the saying goes. He had no end of variety 
of jams and marmalades, and cereals and food of all sorts. At the 
end of the year he complained on arrival in San Francisco (or at 
least the reporters quoted him so) that he had had a very hard time. 
He had been several weeks without butter and so many more weeks 
without something else. How his tastes had altered in the seven 
years since then was best shown when McConnell volunteered to 


cook breakfast the next morning and suggested that the breakfast 
might consist af oatmeal mush and hot cakes. This struck Lef- 
fingwell as an extraordinary suggestion and the genuineness of his 
surprise was clear from the tone in which he said, "Mush and hot 
cakes! If you have mush what's the use of hot cakes, and if you 
have hot cakes what's the use of mush?" 

This principle is the essence of dietetics in the North. The 
simplicity of living on few foods contributes not a little to the charm 
of the North which one does not appreciate fully till he comes back 
to the complex menus of civilization. I would not go so far as 
to say that you could decide which was better, mush or hot cakes, 
and then live forever on the one or the other. But if instead of one 
of these you select some complete food, such as fat caribou meat for 
instance, then it contributes considerably to your satisfaction in 
life from every point of view, including that of enjoyment of your 
meals, to have for every meal indefinitely caribou meat and nothing 
else. I am aware that this sounds like a joke to the ordinary reader, 
but it is truth to all who have tried it. I have never had experience 
with a man who did not protest in advance that he would be sure 
to get deadly tired of a diet of nothing but caribou meat, but I have 
never found a man who in actual practice did get tired of it. They 
invariably like it better the longer they are confined to it. This, 
of course, is no unique experience in the world. There are probably 
no people on earth so fond of rice as those Chinese who get little 
else. And if it be true that there are Scotchmen who live mainly on 
oatmeal, then it is certain that those Scotchmen will prefer oatmeal 
to almost any food. 

Leffingwell was able to tell us a good deal about the Alaska and 
Sachs, making more explicit the information we had received at Cape 
Smythe. Everything was going well. The men were living at Col- 
linson Point, but Charles Thomsen and his family of the Sachs 
were at a trapping camp six or eight miles this side. Most of the 
men would be at the camp except Dr. Anderson who would prob- 
ably not be at home, for he had expected to take mail to Herschel 
Island for the Mounted Police to carry to Dawson in January. 

That everything was so well with our people was largely thanks 
to Leffingwell. It was one of the best pieces of luck of the expedi- 
tion that he happened to be coming to the Arctic in 1913 and 
accepted my invitation to be our guest on the Sachs. Chipman, 
whom I had placed in charge of her to take her to Herschel Island 
where she was to be handed over to Murray, was new in the coun- 
try, though in every other respect a good man for his task. Al- 


though an old hand in Bering Sea, Captain Bernard had never been 
on the north coast of Alaska. It was just here that Leffingwell.'s 
local knowledge, of the kind the Sachs needed, was fuller than 
that of any other man. He has himself made the only good map 
of this part of Alaska.* This map shows the soundings by which 
vessels of light draught can follow the devious channels inside the 
"lagoon," while protected from the sea pack by the line of reefs and 
islands that fence most of the coast from the Colville to Flaxman 
Island. What was more, LefRngwell himself, first with the Anglo- 
American Polar Expedition schooner Duchess of Bedford in 1906 
and later with his own private yacht Argo, had navigated these 
channels and was therefore an ideal pilot. So the Sachs, though 
she had been in some tight places with the ice between Point Hope 
and the Colville, had had little trouble when once she got to the 

Dr. Anderson, who like myself knew the coast better (from our 
1908-12 expedition) by sled in winter than by boat in summer, had 
had more trouble bringing the Alaska through, though he got her 
creditably and without injury to the same wintering place, Collin- 
son Point. Here the schooners were frozen in, quite safe both 
of them, Leffingwell said, though they were not in a real harbor 
but merely protected from winter ice pressure by shoals to seaward. 

We were comfortable and had a good time at Leffingwell's, but 
it worried my companions a little that we stayed three or four days. 
In fact, they had been worried a good deal on the entire journey 
east from Barrow by my conspicuous lack of hurry. Their book 
notions required heroism and hardship. I really think they felt 
we were falling conspicuously short of the best standards of polar 
travel in making a midwinter journey in comfort. If it could not 
(as by the best canons it should) be a flight from death, a race with 
the grim terrors of frost and hunger, we should at least refrain 
from the almost sacrilegious levity of making a picnic of it. But 
it almost was a picnic and I at least was enjoying myself. For good 
or ill, we were evidently unable to affect the destiny of the Karluk 
in any way and so she was, in a sense, off our minds. Nearly every 
Eskimo we met on the coast (and we met more than double the num- 
ber that I have had the temerity to discuss in this narrative) was an 
old friend. Then there was my insatiable interest in the study and 

* This map has since been published by the U. S. Geological Survey in 
connection with Leffingwell's painstaking and excellent monograph on "The 
Canning River District, Alaska." 


practice of the language which after six years I knew well enough 
to talk fluently although not nearly well enough to be satisfied. 

The beliefs of men of our own country often lack freshness to 
us because we have been familiar with them from childhood, and 
lack interest because we have outgrown most of them. But here 
were people in whose daily conversation unheard-of superstitions 
kept cropping out continually. When they were telling about their 
sealing experiences I could enjoy the intellectual gymnastic of trying 
to separate the biological knowledge from the superstition, the facts 
from the theories. Very few Eskimos are really liars, and still there 
is scarcely an Eskimo who can describe to you a day's seal hunt 
without mixing in a great many things that never happened (al- 
though, of course, he believes they have happened). Their delight 
in seeing you when you come, the hospitality and friendliness of 
their treatment no matter how long you stay, and the continual 
novelty of their misknowledge and the frankness with which they 
lay their entire minds open to you — all these are not only fascinat- 
ing at the time but profitable for record and reflection.* 

Continually there recurs to me the thought that by intimacy and 
understanding I can learn from these people much about my own 
ancestry. These men dress in skins, commonly eat their meat raw, 
and have the external characteristics which we correctly enough 
ascribe to the "cave man" stage of our forefathers. But instead of 
ferocious half-beasts, prowling around with clubs, fearful and vi- 
cious, we have the kindliest, friendliest, gentlest people, whose equals 
are difficult to find in any grade of our own civilization. They may 
not come up to all our high ideals (in which case the question may 
also arise as to whether our ideals are really high). They do not 
meet misfortune with a noble fortitude, but they have the happier 
way of refusing to recognize it when it comes. They eat a full meal 
though the larder be empty at the end. They may die of starva- 
tion (they hardly ever do) , but if so it is usually their optimism that 
is at the bottom of it. Perhaps they have been dancing and singing 
for week after week, neglecting the hunt on the theory that to- 
morrow will take care of itself. It may be true as Shakespeare says 
of the valiant, it is certainly true of the optimistic, that they never 
taste of death but once. 

* For some account of the beliefs and mode of thought of the Eskimos, 
see "My Life With the Eskimo." For more detailed statement see "An- 
thropological Papers of the Stefansson-Anderson Expedition," published by 
the American Museum of Natural History, New York, 1914. 


One reason we stayed over at Leffingwell's was to help him meas- 
ure a base for his triangulation, but the spell of bad weather lasted 
too long and he was not particular about doing it just then, so 
that eventually we proceeded towards Collinson Point without hav- 
ing done him this little service. 

The distance to Collinson Point was about thirty miles. Al- 
though the morning was fair, it turned out to be later one of the bad 
blizzards of the year, and we did not know exactly where Thom- 
sen's house was. But I did not want to pass it by, so we followed 
along the coast about two hours after the last twilight gave way to 
pitch darkness. Finding it was one of the feats that McConnell 
has since written about as an example of what by analogy to wood- 
craft may be called polarcraft. But that again was like finding your 
way about in your home town. I knew that certain places were 
suitable for house-building and others were not, and did not have 
to look everywhere for this house but only at certain places where 
it could reasonably be expected. I knew that Thomsen, being the 
ordinary type of white man, would be sure to build where drift- 
wood was especially abundant, and that driftwood accumulates only 
on a particular kind of beach — usually facing northwest in this dis- 
trict, as the high tides come with a west wind. It turned out when 
we found the house that Captain Bernard was there with his dog 
team. It had been a fairly long day, so the rest of our party stayed 
overnight at Thomsen's, while Bernard hitched up a dog team and 
took me on to Collinson Point. Wilkins and McConnell arrived the 
following morning, thus bringing to an end their first winter jour- 
ney. In my eyes they had covered themselves with credit, for they 
had proved as adaptable to polar conditions as any men I ever saw — 
and Wilkins not the less of the two though he hailed from sub- 
tropic Australia and had never spent a winter north of England. 
But, as intimated above, I think they were disappointed — here it was 
almost Christmas time, this was the very middle of the dreadful 
"polar night" (so called because for weeks the sun does not rise), 
and they had finished a three hundred-mile sledge journey without 
a hardship that came anywhere near storybook standards! 



AT Collinson Point I got the warmest sort of welcome, al- 
though it could scarcely be said that they were glad to see 
me, for seeing me here meant that something had gone 
wrong elsewhere. From the reports of whalers and their own 
knowledge of the condition of the ice, they had inferred long ago 
that the Karluk was in trouble. The Belvedere, too, had seen our 
smoke, as mentioned earlier, and had inferred from its position and 
stationary nature that we were keeping up steam while held fast 
by the ice ten or fifteen miles out in the pack. The common whaler 
opinion was that we ought to have abandoned the vessel imme- 
diately, coming ashore as best we could, for that is the method the 
whalers have always followed. 

As Leffingwell had told me. Dr. Anderson and three or four 
other men were absent, having gone east towards Herschel Island 
to get their letters and government dispatches into the hands of 
the Royal Northwest Mounted Police at Herschel Island, to be 
carried to Dawson by the Peel River Patrol in January. In Dr. 
Anderson's absence Chipman was in command, and the next day he 
gave me verbally a report of the situation and of the plans as they 
stood up to the moment of my coming. 

Chipman reported it had been the opinion of Dr. Anderson that 
their resources were inadequate for doing, the coming spring, any 
survey work except the coastline between the International Boun- 
dary and the mouth of the Mackenzie River. They had discussed 
the possibility of surveying the Mackenzie delta but had concluded 
that it was too far away from Collinson Point and beyond their 
resources. They had planned, therefore, in addition to this coast 
survey merely a reconnaissance of the Firth River (sometimes called 
the Herschel Island River) which heads in the Endicott 
Mountains to the south. Contrary to my view, it was the view of 
Dr. Anderson, in which the other men had necessarily concurred 
through their lack of local experience, that no survey work either 
geological or topographical could be done in the middle of winter, 
and that everything would have to wait for the warm weather of 



spring. It has always been my opinion that the arctic cold need 
not entirely prevent work of this kind and that some sorts of geolog- 
ical work can be even better done in winter than in summer, espe- 
cially in places where the wind keeps the snow away and in river 
canyons where the ice of winter gives more ready access to the foot 
of a cliff than is possible when the stream bed is full of turbulent 
water in summer. 

One point that naturally interested me was that Chipman told 
me they had made a trial of my method of "living off the country" 
and had found that it did not work. The account which he gave 
me of their adventures in this connection sounded like the resume of 
a comic opera. 

It seems that in the fall (as some said, to see if there were game 
in the mountains, and as others had it, to demonstrate that there 
was none), a party consisting of about half the expedition had made 
a foray up the Ulahula River.* 

When a man hunts for a living seriously in the autumn months, 
he gets up in the dark of the night. By dawn at the latest he leaves 
camp and is eight or ten miles away, beyond the area from which 

* Probably because the Eskimos who now occupy this country are immi- 
grants and because none of the real aborigines or their descendants are 
living in the vicinity, the Eskimo names of two rivers in this locality seem 
completely lost and in their stead we have the "Ulahula River" and "Jags 

Ulahula is a jargon word which may have its source in some South Pacific 
language, perhaps that of the Hawaiian Islands, and which in the "Pidgin" 
used by whalers in dealing with the Eskimos, signifies "to dance" or "to 
celebrate." The natural inference, then, is that the name Ulahula was given 
to the river by some whaler who knev/ that the Eskimos had either at a 
particular time or else customarily held dances or celebrations near it. This 
may connect the name of the river with the island at its mouth, Barter 
Island, which is so called because the natives from the coast eastward and 
westward as well as Indians from the Porcupine valley and other. parts of 
the interior used to meet here for purposes of barter every summer. We 
have records of these meetings from many sources. I have talked with a 
number of Eskimos and some Indians who themselves took part in these 
meetings, and with Mr. Joseph Hodgson and Mr. John Firth, of the Hudson's 
Bay Company, who were both stationed in the Porcupine valley as Hudson's 
Bay factors while the Indians with whom they traded also made these jour- 
neys regularly to Barter Island. 

A somewhat smaller river east of the Ulahula is called the Jags. The 
origin of this name is definitely known. It is connected with a western 
Eskimo who was a r/;ighty hunter in the employ of the whaling ships and 
who made the valley of this river his special hunting ground. At first he was 
a sober, industrious and efficient man but later he became so addicted to 
drink that his usefulness was greatly lessened. At the same time his real 
name was forgotten, making way for the nickname of Jags. When he died 
his name which had attached itself to the river was retained, both by the 
Eskimos and the whites. 

Winter Quarters at Collinson Point. 
Toj) Picture: In upper bunks, Cox and O'Neill. Below, Anderson, Chip- 
man, LefEngwell. At Table, left to right: Bernard, McConnell, Johan- 
sen, Chipman, Leffingwell, O'Neill, Anderson, Brooks, Cox. Below: 

EC Ch 

> < 
O E^ 




game can have been scared by the barking of dogs or the smoke 
smell of the camp, by the time that daylight enough for good shoot- 
ing comes into the southern sky. He then uses to the best advan- 
tage the four or five hours of hunting light, going from high hilltop 
to high hilltop and examining with his field glasses every exposed 
hillside or valley. If he does not see game the first day, he hunts 
similarly the second; and if he finds none the first week, he con- 
tinues the second week. For it is an essential of hunting conditions 
that although game may be abundant in a large region of country, 
it may at any time be absent from any small specific section. 

But this hunting party, which was partly a picnic and partly 
a baptism in the hardships of polar exploration, was, from Chip- 
man's description, a noisy rout of convivial spirits who seldom 
v/ent far out of each other's road and who in various ways gave 
the game ample notice to leave, if there was any game. Probably 
there was none, for the excursion only lasted a week and it would be 
a matter of mere chance if in such a short trip game should be 
found. However, the trip served the useful purpose of easing their 
consciences, for now they knew that no game could be got and that 
there was no occasion for them to do anything but wait for the 
spring in the orthodox way of explorers, reading the Encyclopaedia 
Britannica or penny novels, according to temperament, making long 
diary entries, listening to victrolas and having flashlight photo- 
graphs taken now and then, showing the comforts and conviviali- 
ties of an arctic home. 

A report had been sent to Ottawa, Mr. Chipman informed me, 
to the effect that the fall hunt had been a failure and that there 
was no game in the country, that winter would be spent in camp, 
and that when the weather became reasonably warm in the spring 
surveys would be made of the Herschel Island River and of the hun- 
dred miles or so of coast between the International Boundary and 
the Mackenzie mouth. When summer came the party would pro- 
ceed to Coronation Gulf to take up the work which had of neces- 
sity been deferred a year through the compulsory wintering at Col- 
linson Point. 

Chipman being a new man in the country, it was easy for me 
to convince him that a far wider program was open to us. When 
I showed him a copy of my report to the Government from Point 
Barrow, outlining the project of surveying not only the Herschel 
Island River and the coast from the Boundary to the Mackenzie 
(as they had planned), but also surveying and sounding the Mac- 
kenzie delta, he was delighted. Like any good workman he was 


anxious to do as much work and to have as much to show for his 
time as possible. 

Before my arrival the point of view had been that they could 
use for scientific and exploratory work only the resources which 
they actually had in their own personnel and in the dogs and sup- 
plies brought from Nome. My view was, on the contrary, that 
when the Government had an expensive expedition in the field with 
a large staff of scientific men it would be folly to hamper any of the 
staff by confining their operations to what could be done with two 
or three dog teams and limited supplies, when good dogs could be 
purchased at a reasonable price locally and natives and whites 
engaged to assist in the carrying out of a more extensive work. 
Groceries and other supplies were available for this larger program, 
both from the whalers and traders along the coast just east of us 
and from the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Macpherson. 
I felt confident, too, that the Royal Northwest Mounted Police 
would assist us with whatever resources they might happen to have 
either at Herschel Island or Fort Macpherson. 

A few minutes after I arrived at Collinson Point Andrew Norem, 
the steward of the Mary Sachs, asked me for a confidential inter- 
view at the earliest possible moment. The Collinson Point party, 
apart from those who, like Thomsen, had trapping camps scattered 
about, were all living in a large log cabin originally built by "Duffy" 
O'Connor when he had his trading station there the year 1911-12, 
a cabin purchased by us and fitted up, with the kitchen in an alcove 
and a storehouse adjoining. With ten or fifteen men around in the 
evening when there was no outdoor work to do, it was not possible 
to talk privately, and I had to put Norem's request off until next day. 

What he had to tell me then was that he thought he was going 
insane. He said that during his lifetime he had seen various men 
become insane and that his own symptoms were like some of theirs. 
In particular, he had occasional fits of despondency. At these times 
he not only felt that every one was displeased with him but even had 
the idea that they were persecuting him in a most malicious way. 
If he lit his pipe he imagined that the tobacco had been adulterated 
with some evil-tasting and evil-smelling mixture. This usually made 
him angry, although he sometimes had enough sense to realize that 
he was probably imagining things. On several occasions he had 
induced one or more of the men to take a puff or two out of his 
pipe and they had always said that the tobacco was all right. When 
the fits of depression were on he took this verdict as a sign of con- 
spiracy against him; but in his lucid intervals he realized that the 


tobacco had not been adulterated and that the whole thing was 
imagination. Lately these fits had been coming on two or three 
times a week. They had never lasted longer than a day. 

After a first momentary doubt I was convinced that Norem's 
case was serious. Chipman told me that Norem had been acting 
queerly for several weeks. Lately he had begun to tell members of 
the expedition in confidence that he thought he was going crazy. 
Hereupon the camp was divided fairly evenly into two parties: some 
thought the trouble was really serious, while others believed it was 
merely a trick to get out of doing his proper share of the work — 
"malingering," although the war had then not yet enriched the com- 
mon vocabulary with this word. 

It seemed that after the two ships went into winter quarters, 
arrangement had been made that Charles Brooks, steward of the 
Alaska, should be in charge of the cooking one week and Norem, of 
the Mary Sachs, the next. This arrangement had been in effect only 
a short time when Norem began to do his work badly. I found in 
the camp a feeling against Dr. Anderson because of his leniency 
towards Norem, whom some of the men regarded as a plain shirker, 
and I knew my decision was by no means popular when I took 
Anderson's view, confirming the arrangement that for the present 
Norem should be required to do none of the cooking and should be 
given the most healthful possible outdoor work, such as chopping 
wood, going with dog teams to fetch driftwood, and the like. I 
also arranged with Captain Nahmens of the Alaska, who had a 
trapping camp about six miles away, to invite him now and then 
for a visit. An apparently spontaneous invitation of that sort would 
be more likely to relieve his mind than an order directing him to 
go out to Nahmen's camp and stay there. 

For the time this plan seemed to work well and during my brief 
stay at Collinson Point Norem did not have the melancholia. Cap- 
tain Bernard and one or two of the others who had known and 
liked him in the mining camps of Alaska were rejoiced at the 
change, but others said that he was merely holding back so as not 
to give me any chance to determine from his tactics whether his 
condition was assumed or real. 



I STAYED only a day or two at Collinson Point and then 
started eastward along the coast, encouraged by the enthu- 
siasm with which Chipman had received my plans for 
enlarging the work, and anxious to overtake Dr. Anderson before 
he sent away his mail, so that he could, if he desired, alter that 
report to the Government, eliminating the sections describing our 
lack of equipment and consequently restricted program and substi- 
tuting the more ambitious project which I had outlined from Barrow. 

But on meeting Dr. Anderson's party about twenty miles east 
of Collinson Point, I found that his views and mine w^ere far from 
coinciding. He insisted that we must abide by his program, which 
he had already sent off to Ottawa, and said that he did not believe 
we had any right to purchase dogs and supplies or to hire men for 
the projected survey of the Mackenzie delta, nor did he think the 
Government would approve of these expensive and too ambitious 
plans. He was of the opinion that the Mackenzie delta was too far 
from Collinson Point and could not be successfully reached for 
survey work, and also of the opinion that no really useful work 
would be done in sounding the river channels. He considered we 
had been instructed to work in the vicinity of Coronation Gulf and 
that we should practically mark time until we got there, husbanding 
all supplies and incurring the least possible expense no matter if this 
economy did limit very narrowly the scientific work done. 

My reply to this was that the instructions telling the expedition 
to do its first year's work in the vicinity of Coronation Gulf had 
been originally formulated by myself, although issued over the sig- 
nature of others, and that I could not but know exactly what they 
meant. We had expected to reach Coronation Gulf this year, but 
now that we could not I took it as our duty to do as much as pos- 
sible where we were. It seemed to me that as we had already in 
the field an expedition with a large staff of scientists drawing pay 
and costing as a whole perhaps one or two hundred thousand dol- 
lars, it would be folly to lose this entire sum just to save an addi- 
tional expenditure of fifteen or twenty thousand dollars. 



When it became clear that our views were so diametrically at 
issue, Dr. Anderson tendered his resignation, saying that he would 
continue as a scientist on the staff but would no longer remain sec- 
ond in command and in local charge of the southern section. He 
changed his mind about resigning when I pointed out that in that 
event I should have to put the party under command of Chipman 
and it would lead to an untenable situation to have him, a man of 
many years of experience and older, under the command of Chip- 
man, a young and inexperienced man no matter how competent. 

Anderson's alternative was that I should stay and take local 
command myself. This I could not consider, both because it was 
not in accord with my judgment and also because I had already 
reported to the Government that I would not myself remain on 
shore in Alaska but would go north over the ice trying to fulfill the 
geographic purposes of the expedition. Exploration of the Beau- 
fort Sea had always been our main task and the main reason for 
there being an expedition at all. This had applied from the earliest 
stage when it was under American auspices; and it was the car- 
dinal point when I discussed the expedition with the Prime Minis- 
ter of Canada, Sir Robert Borden, at the conference which led to 
his taking it over as a Government enterprise. Later, at a meeting 
of the Cabinet, to which Sir Robert invited me, I had again presented 
the same plans, receiving for them the approval of the Premier's 

While partly conceding these points. Dr. Anderson still main- 
tained that as the Karluk had been lost, I had no right to divert 
any supplies or men from any other section of the expedition to the 
part which the Karluk had been expected to carry out even though 
it had been the central part. Here I replied that I had purchased 
the Mary Sachs as a sort of tender to make herself useful wherever 
she was needed. The commander of the expedition must judge for 
himself the meaning of the instructions by which he was bound, and 
do whatever seemed to him within the purpose of those instructions. 
I could not escape the blame if the expedition failed; it was for me 
therefore to insist on the carrying out of the plan I thought most 
likely to bring success. 

Dr. Anderson said he considered it impossible to explore the 
Beaufort Sea with any resources which we could get in Alaska and 
that any attempt to do so would be abortive, resulting in the expen- 
diture of money, the waste of supplies and probably the loss of 
lives, without any adequate result. I thought our prospect of suc- 
cess good even with only the resources we already had or could 


scrape together. This amounted to another phase of the dispute 
over whether an exploring party can live by forage on the ice of the 
polar sea. I had full faith in that method and my colleague had 

The result of the discussion was that I refused to take Ander- 
son's resignation and decided that he must remain in local charge 
of the Collinson Point base, advising him that he could protect him- 
self by making any written protests or declarations he liked, trans- 
mitted to the Government directly, or through me, or in both ways. 

This clash was by no means encouraging, but I felt sure that Dr. 
Anderson on mature consideration would see the advisability of 
following instructions, protecting himself as I had suggested by 
putting his disapproval on record and assuming the position that he 
considered it his duty to carry out orders, irrespective of his opinion 
of their wisdom. 



THE meeting with Dr. Anderson had taken place at the camp 
of the engineer of the Mary Sachs, J. R. Crawford. He as 
well as several other members of the expedition had been 
hired on the understanding that they would work for the Govern- 
ment during six months of the year and would have leave of absence 
the other six, during which time they were free to trap or do what- 
ever they wanted to do in their own interests. There had been three 
reasons for my making this sort of agreement with some of the men. 
First, they preferred that arrangement; second, it is generally inad- 
visable to retain in a winter camp a large number of unoccupied men, 
for friction will then develop and it is better to have them scattered, 
each on his own and doing something in which he is interested; 
third, it was a manifest saving of money to the Government to feed 
and pay a man only for that part of the year when he is useful, 
still having him at hand when he was needed the following 
spring. Yet it must be said that this arrangement, although logical, 
did not work out very well, and before the expedition was over 
all the men had been taken back on a yearly salary basis. 

Proceeding east along the coast, we visited some Eskimo camps 
and then arrived at the winter quarters of the Polar Bear, now in 
charge of Hulin S. Mott. Besides the crew, the Polar Bear carried 
a party of sportsmen, including two scientific men, from Boston, 
Massachusetts, who had chartered her for a hunting expedition and 
had been frozen in and obliged to winter. They were Winthrop S. 
Brooks, Joseph Dixon, John Heard, Jr., Samuel Mixter and George 
S. Silsbee. Two of the original party, Eben S. Draper and Dunbar 
Lockwood, had gone home overland in the fall with the captain and 
owner of the ship, Louis Lane, and his photographer, W. H. Hudson, 
crossing the mountains by sled, going south to the Yukon and thence 
to the Pacific by way of Fairbanks and Cordova. 

Not having expected to winter in the Arctic, the Polar Bear, 
when she was caught by the ice, found herself with incomplete equip- 
ment and limited food supplies. One of the great needs in this 
country for a party spending the winter is dog teams and sledges, 



and these the Polar Bear lacked. The variety of food was also 
small, and in the case of some items the party could have eaten in 
a week what they, through their strict rationing, made to last a 
year. If I remember rightly, their bacon allowance, for instance, 
was less than a quarter of a pound per man per month. About the 
only things they had enough of were sugar and flour, and I remem- 
ber their telling me, with the enthusiasm of a great discovery, that 
they had never imagined a "sugar sandwich" would taste so good. 
On occasions when I was there the sugar sandwich came at midnight 
— two slices of bread with granulated sugar between. 

This group, four men from Harvard and one from Leland Stan- 
ford, impressed on me more forcibly than any other single instance, 
although I have seen many cases of a similar kind, the superior 
adaptability of young men of the college type as compared with 
those of the type of sailor or ordinary laboring man. There were 
also in the party one or two young high school boys from Seattle, 
and Mr. Mott himself was an excellent sort. Accordingly, I heard 
no grumbling, but some of my companions who associated more with 
the sailors told me that there was a great deal of dissatisfaction 
with the food. Much of the conversation of these men was about 
what fine things they were used to eating. In other words, what 
struck the college men as an adventure involving the interesting 
discovery that a sugar sandwich could be as delicious as anything 
they had ever eaten in Beacon Street, struck the sailors as a phys- 
ical hardship and social indignity. 

Going east from the Polar Bear fifteen or twenty miles, we 
came to the steam whaler Belvedere in the ice a mile or two off- 
shore. She carried among other things supplies which she had 
intended to land for our expedition at Herschel Island. She was 
now so short of certain kinds of food herself that she had already 
arranged with Dr. Anderson for the use of some barrels of salt 
beef and salt pork of ours, for which she was to pay by giving the 
expedition bacon the next year. As this bacon was to be sent in 
from Seattle, its arrival in time to transfer to our ships at Herschel 
Island in August, 1914, was very problematic. Considering it as 
too much a bird in the bush, I asked Captain Cottle to give us in- 
stead something which he had actually on hand, so he arranged pay- 
ment in flour and canned milk, of which the Belvedere had a super- 

It turned out that my distrust was well-founded, for although 
the bacon had been ordered and an attempt made to send it in, it 
did not arrive in time for connections at Herschel Island. As for 


trading salt meat for flour, that I was delighted to do ; on the basis 
of market values in Seattle and at the prices which then prevailed, 
the food value of a dollar's worth of flour was far greater than that 
of a dollar's worth of salt meat. Furthermore, having always looked 
upon the Arctic as abundantly stocked with meat, I have never seen 
the use of bringing any in. What we had brought was in deference 
to the food tastes of our sailors. Personally I have none too much 
sympathy with a man who has an abundance of caribou meat and 
must have bread with it, but I have far less with a man who, hav- 
ing caribou meat, wants to change off to salt beef now and then, 
A great advantage, too, of flour over salt meat is that it is far 
more satisfactory for emergency dog-feed. It is not an ideal dog- 
feed, but mixed with other things it can be cooked up into a passable 
ration, while salt meat cannot be fed to dogs without the bother of 
soaking it first in several changes of water, and in the Arctic in 
most places water is in winter one of the hardest things to get. 

At the Belvedere I spent Christmas very pleasantly with Cap- 
tain and Mrs. Cottle, old friends. There was no hurry about getting 
down to Herschel Island, for I learned from Captain Cottle then 
that the police did not intend to send their mail out before the 
New Year. 

A day's journey east from the Belvedere was another old friend, 
"Duffy" O'Connor, who had been landed there with a trading outfit 
by a ship which had later gone away and left him. His goods con- 
sisted largely of articles which our expedition needed badly. He 
was not making much of a success of the trading venture, for the 
compulsory wintering of the Belvedere just west of him had given 
him a competitor that he had not counted upon. So it suited 
O'Connor to sell out to me, and I arranged to purchase the lot for 
eight thousand dollars, a cheap price for the locality at the time, 
although high as compared with prevailing wholesale prices in the 
trading centers of the world. 

Ten miles east of O'Connor's place, Captain Martin Andreasen 
was wintering with the North Star. He also was an old friend and 
a man who had been trading in these regions for a number of years. 
I had met him last at Point Atkinson east of the Mackenzie when 
I spent several days at his camp there in 1912. 

Captain Andreasen and his ship, the North Star, were exponents 
of not exactly a new but nevertheless an uncommon theory of arctic 
navigation. The one idea familiar to those who read arctic books 
is that a ship for ice navigation should be tremendously strong, 
tremendously powerful, and shaped in such a way that she has a 


chance to be lifted up by ice that presses around her. This is the 
theory upon which all explorers of late years have worked. The 
traders who navigate the Beaufort Sea do not work on any such prin- 
ciple, nor, in fact, on any principle at all, except that of using com- 
monsense and then taking their chances with almost any kind of 

For instance, when Captain Cottle was in command of the Ruby, 
in 1915, he loaded her so heavily with a deck cargo of lumber that 
her hatches had to be battened down and even in a quiet sea she had 
eighteen inches of water over her decks. In other words, he was 
navigating a sort of submarine. This would have been considered 
a very heroic or a very foolish thing for an explorer to do, but 
in a trader it attracted little attention. In addition to his crew 
Captain Cottle had with him, as was usual, his wife, and on that 
particular trip he also had Mr. and Mrs. C. Harding, who were 
going to establish a trading post for the Hudson's Bay Company at 
Herschel Island. Of course he could not have got in with the Ruby 
in 1915 had it been an unfavorable ice season as in 1913. But in 
he did come, landing his passengers and his cargo safely at Herschel 

Such navigation as that of the Ruby cannot be said to be based 
on any system, but Matt Andreasen and the North Star had a sys- 
tem that was very definite. The basic idea is that on most of the 
north coast of Alaska and north coast of Canada the ocean is 
shallow inshore, with a number of rivers in the spring bringing 
warm water from the land to melt away the inshore ice. It happens 
frequently that while the heavy ice still lies offshore so strong that 
no ice breaker yet constructed could possibly get through it, there 
is a lane of thaw water along the land through which a boat of very 
small draft can worm her way, following the beach. Andreasen had 
purposely built the North Star to draw only four feet two inches 
of water, loaded, and in place of a keel a centerboard that could 
be withdrawn into the body of the ship. He had demonstrated 
through several seasons that he could wriggle along faster than strong 
whalers could bunt and break their way eastward. 

Andreasen had made no attempt to build the North Star strong, 
for he had a method of which he may have been the inventor, of 
dealing with the closing in of the ice around her. The ship was only 
about fifty feet long and could turn around almost in her own 
length. When he saw the ice closing in and there seemed to be no 
chance of getting out of the way entirely, he would select in the 
neighborhood some big ice cake that sloped down to the water's edge 


on one side. He would then steam full speed against this floe. The 
bow of the North Star was so shaped that instead of hitting the ice 
a hard blow, she would slide up on it, standing level because she 
had a flat bottom. Thus by her own power she was able to put 
herself half-way on top of the ice. The crew were prepared to jump 
out, fasten an ice anchor, and with blocks and tackle to haul the 
ship entirely up on the floe, so that when the ice cakes closed in 
and began to crowd each other their pressure did not come upon the 
ship but merely upon the ice on which she was standing. If this 
was a solid piece it was likely not to break, and as a matter of fact, 
on the one or two occasions when Captain Andreasen had been 
compelled to use this method the ice selected had stood the test. 
Later when it slackened out and there was a chance to continue 
navigation, a small charge of powder placed in an augur hole in the 
ice would shatter the cake and let the ship down into the water again. 

I have always been temperamentally inclined to deal with nat- 
ural difficulties by adaptation and avoidance rather than by trying 
to overcome them by force. The Andreasen idea of ice navigation 
was congenial and its application convincing. Since I had first 
seen the North Star in 1912 I had admired her and intended to buy 
her some time if I could; for with my theory that a white man can 
live in the Arctic anywhere, supporting himself and his men and 
his dogs by hunting, a little ship like the Star, though she is capable 
only of carrying about twenty tons of freight, is as good as a much 
larger ship would be to those who work on the carry-all system. 
Accordingly, I now arranged to buy her from Captain Andreasen, 
along with his entire trading outfit, and at a price under the circum- 
stances equally reasonable with O'Connor's. 

Through buying the O'Connor and Andreasen supplies and 
through purchase and exchange of goods made with Captain Cottle 
and Mr. Mott, I now had supplies enough so that the entire program 
reported to the Government from Point Barrow could be carried out, 
with a remainder for Dr. Anderson to take east with him into 
Coronation Gulf that was larger than his total supplies for that 
purpose would have been had the plans not been altered when I 
came to Collinson Point. 

Our arrival at Herschel Island at the Royal Northwest Mounted 
Police barracks was just before the New Year. The post was under 
the command of Inspector J. W. Phillips, and he and the men under 
his command did everything to make our party welcome. This 
was their natural disposition as well as a part of the hospitality com- 
mon in the North, although they had also received instructions 


from the Commissioner of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, 
Colonel A. Bowen Perry of Regina, to cooperate with the expedi- 
tion in every way they could. 

The police patrol was starting in a day or two for Fort Mac- 
pherson, which lies a little over two hundred miles to the southeast 
up the Peel River, just above the head of the Mackenzie delta. 
This patrol, made by the Inspector himself and Constable Jack 
Parsons, I was able to share. The journey revealed both men tem- 
peramentally and physically well adapted for the sort of work they 
were doing. It is certainly true that the Royal Northwest Mounted 
Police is a force of men with a remarkably high average from what- 
ever point of view they are regarded, although they naturally vary 
among themselves and do not in every case come up to storybook 
standards. But these two could scarcely have been better adapted 
to the work they were doing, a corollary of which is that they liked 
it and liked the country. Parsons has never left it since, although 
he left the Mounted Police service and is now a trader in the employ 
of the Hudson's Bay Company at Cape Bathurst. Inspector Phil- 
lips had been north before and this was his second assignment to 
the Arctic coast. He made every effort to stay there as long as he 
could, and when eventually ordered out he was able to get his 
superiors to send him back North again. Just now he is not in the 
North, however, and admits that the country does not come up to 
what it used to be. The climate and topography are still the same 
but, as the Inspector puts it, "the place is getting too damned 

I found on this trip that Inspector Phillips had the important 
qualification of being genuinely interested in everything that per- 
tained to the natives. At first he had a hope of being able to learn 
the language, but after a discussion of this subject with me he gave 
that up and confined himself like all the police inspectors before 
him, to the use of the jargon, a sort of "pidgin English." * 

About the only people for whom it is practicable to try to learn 
Eskimo are missionaries who expect to devote their entire lives to 
the field. The principles of the language are entirely different 
from those of European languages, and in order to talk Eskimo 
you have first to adopt in general a different mode of thought. 
Then, like most "primitive" languages, Eskimo is so highly in- 
flected that all the complexity of Greek declensions, conjugations 
and grammar gives but a faint idea of it. Further, between ten 

* See V. Stefansson : " Vocabulaiy of the Herschel Island Eskimo Jargon," 
published in the American Anthropologist, April-June, 1909. 


and fifteen thousand words are used in everyday speech, which is 
a far larger vocabulary than is employed to-day by persons speak- 
ing any ordinary European language. When you combine the pe- 
culiar mode of thought with the complexity of inflection and exten- 
siveness of vocabulary, it is seen to be a task of intense application 
for many years to get a command of the language.* 

It is not so strange, therefore, as it seems at first sight, that 
there are white men who have resided for thirty or forty years on 
the arctic coast, with Eskimo wives and grandchildren, who never- 
theless have so small a command of the language that when their 
own wives talk to their own children they have often no idea 
even of the subject they are talking about. Of those who have been 
long resident the exceptions known to me are Mr. C. D. Brower 
of Cape Smythe, and about five or six missionaries who during 
the last twenty or thirty years have worked in Alaska and north- 
ern Canada. Of the three expeditions with which I have been 
connected, Mr. Lefiingwell, the commander of the first, and Mr. 
Jenness, the anthropologist of the present one, are the only men 
who have even tried to learn anything beyond the jargon. With 
Mr. Leflfingwell, who is a geologist, the language was a pastime, but 
Mr. Jenness needed it in his studies as an ethnologist and acquired 
in three years a better command of it than I was able to in my 
first three. 

Inspector Phillips turned his interest to the customs, beliefs and 
mode of thought of the Eskimos as he could get them through in- 
terpreters, and for that purpose he made good use of me while we 
traveled together towards Macpherson, visiting Eskimos along the 
road and talking with our own Eskimo companions. Two bits of 
information that came out on the journey seem interesting enough 
to relate. 

One evening Inspector Phillips and I were discussing the ques- 
tion of whether the missionaries as a whole had done a great deal 
of good in the country. Taliak, an Eskimo I had just hired who 
had lived for a year or two with one of the Church of England 
missionaries, listened to the discussion and gathered from it that 
we were not as favorable in our attitude towards the missionaries 
as he thought we ought to be. As with any other Eskimo, the in- 
tensity and sincerity of his newly-acquired religious opinions are 
beyond question. He also wants it distinctly understood that they 
are beyond question. Phillips and I had not been paying special 

* See discussion of the principles of the Eskimo language in Chapter 
XXIV of "My Life With the Eskimo," Macmillan, 1913. 


attention to him and had not noted that he was getting angrier and 
angrier, until out of the corner of my ear I heard him say to Sik- 
sigaluk, the Inspector's interpreter, that there would be no Eskimos 
living to-day in the Mackenzie district if it had not been for the 
missionaries. That remark I repeated to the Inspector, and sug- 
gested that if he cross-questioned Taliak he would probably get at 
first hand some views about the missionaries that would be quite as 
interesting as any he could get from me. 

So we turned to Taliak and asked him what he had meant. He 
said he had merely made a remark in Eskimo to another Eskimo, 
one not intended to be taken up or discussed with a white man ; and 
it took a good deal of pressure to get from him what he had in mind. 
But it finally came out that he considered it well known that a 
few years ago there was a large body of armed white men over in 
the Yukon valley in Alaska who had come there for the purpose of 
making a foray across the mountains into the coast land to kill off 
all the Eskimos and take their land for occupation by white people. 
This purpose would undoubtedly have been carried out if it had 
not been for the missionaries, who induced the Government to send 
the Royal Northwest Mounted Police into the country to protect 

At first this seemed so grotesque that it was difficult to deter- 
mine any foundation for it. The explanation turned out to be a 
garbled version of the incipient dispute between the United States 
and Canada as to the location of Herschel Island, it having been 
originally assumed by the American whalers that the island was 
on the Alaska side of the International Boundary, and accordingly 
that the Canadian Government had no authority over them when at 
their winter quarters. The United States Revenue Cutter Thetis 
was sent to Herschel Island in 1889 to determine the position of the 
island, and found it to be well within Canadian territory. Later 
the missionaries were doubtless in part responsible for getting the 
first detachment of police sent in to Herschel Island to establish 
Canadian law among the American whaling fleet there. From 
this boundary dispute and this effort of the missionaries to get 
police sent in, Taliak and apparently all the Eskimos of the district 
had got the idea that the police were protecting them from the 
incursion of an army or a horde of armed people who desired to 
dispossess them of their land. 

Another interesting point that came out on the patrol journey 
was that the Eskimos had a very definite opinion as to why the 


summer of 1913 had been such a very bad ice year. Siksigaluk, 
the police interpreter Eskimo, told us that during the summer 
when a large number of his people were at Herschel Island awaiting 
impatiently the arrival of trading ships from the west, and when 
in their daily walks to the top of the island they kept finding 
that the ice was jammed in against the land to the west of them, 
Mr. Young, lay missionary of the Church of England, told them 
that probably the Lord had sent the ice to keep the wicked scien- 
tists in the Karluk from getting into the country. From this re- 
mark the Eskimos had deduced, and very logically, that the same 
ice that was sent to keep the scientists out of the country had also 
kept the trading ships out. For this reason the community were 
very resentful against us for the non-arrival at the island of the 
Belvedere, Polar Bear and Elvira! 

Later on at Fort Maepherson I saw Mr, Young and found that 
he denied, no doubt with entire truth, that he had ever made any 
such remark. However, the Eskimos got the idea somewhere, per- 
haps from their own inner consciousness, and the fact throws an 
interesting light not only on their mental status but on the some- 
what external Christianity which they have espoused so warmly. 

Just as children may be kindhearted, attractive and in every 
way charming and still believe in Santa Claus or even in Jack 
the Giant Killer, so the Eskimos are no less a delightful people for 
all their childlike notions. In common with nearly all other ob- 
servers, I find them less charming as they grow more sophisticated, 
but this should not be charged against the missionaries, for the 
sophistication is only in small degree their work. It is the aggre- 
gate result of the intercourse of the Eskimos with all sorts of white 
men, and not the particular result of their intercourse with mission- 
aries, which is changing them gradually into a less attractive and 
less fortunate people. 

The second day out from Herschel Island on the journey to- 
wards Maepherson we overtook in a deserted Eskimo house Storker 
T. Storkerson, who had been first officer on the schooner Duchess 
of Bedford in 1906-07. This was the expedition with which I had 
been connected as anthropologist, having intended to join it at 
Herschel Island in the summer of 1906. On that occasion I had 
come down the Mackenzie River and arrived at the appointed 
rendezvous in August, waiting there until September for the expe- 
dition. They never got through that far, however, for the freeze-up 
overtook them at Flaxman Island, where the ship was eventually 


broken up to build the house in which Leffingwell, one of the joint 
commanders, afterward hved for many years and where he had 
recently entertained us so hospitably. 

Storkerson was traveling alone. His family was living in the 
forested section about half-way up the Mackenzie delta, where he 
had left them to make the round journey of about five hundred miles 
to Captain Andreasen's trading establishment near the Interna- 
tional Boundary. He was now on his way back home from what 
had been a hard trip, for he had lost some of his dogs by disease 
and had been compelled to harness himself to the sled to help the 
remaining animals haul the heavy load. From the first it had been 
my intention to try to engage Storkerson, who was about the best 
"all around" man it was possible for the expedition to get. P 
now found he had not been very prosperous in his trapping and 
had been spending his money quite as fast as he made it, so that 
he was glad to give up trapping for a while and join forces with us. 
There was enough of the poet about Storkerson so that he could see 
as well the romantic side of the search for undiscovered lands, and 
of such forays into the unknown. 

On the way up the delta I found that for purposes of negotiat- 
ing with various residents I had to travel rather more slowly than 
the police, and they preceded us to Fort Macpherson. About half- 
way up, in the same neighborhood in which Storkerson lived, were 
two white men, Peder Pedersen and Willoughby Mason, with whom 
I spent several days. They were on a diet restricted by the cir- 
cumstances of the entire neighborhood. 

It seems that the previous summer most of the Eskimos had 
made journeys either to Herschel Island to meet the traders, or 
to Fort Macpherson to meet the missionaries, during the time 
when they should have been fishing. When they returned to their 
fishing places the "run" for the year was largely over, and as a 
result nearly everybody in the delta was short of fish and on the 
verge of starvation. Fish are hard to catch in the delta in mid- 
winter, and it was a very bad rabbit year. Moose are uncommon and 
caribou usually absent. There was no danger of anybody actually 
dying of hunger but there was more than a possibility that some 
of the dogs might starve. Mason had come down the Mackenzie 
a few years before as a member of a party of prospectors who had 
with them two horses and carried a large quantity of corn for 
horse feed. The first year they had made hay for the horses with 
scythes (this was about two hundred miles north of the arctic 
circle, by the way) and had fed them during the winter on hay 


supplemented with corn. During the second summer they had 
come to the conclusion that their "prospects" were not going to 
yield much gold, some of their companions had left the country, 
and the horses had been turned loose to forage for themselves. 
According to native report, the horses survived much of the winter 
and it is probable that they were eventually killed by wolves. The 
thing pertinent to our situation was that about the only food of 
Mason and Pedersen was boiled corn from the stock originally 
brought in as horse-feed. 

I was Mr. Mason's guest for about a week. This diet was a 
new adventure, and I took to it enthusiastically. Two companions 
of mine were also guests, one the sailor Louis Olesen, whom we 
had picked up in Nome, and the other the Eskimo boy Taliak, 
whom we had engaged on the coast. Both of them objected to 
living on corn, the Eskimo because he preferred meat, and the 
sailor because he was not a horse and had not joined the expe- 
dition to live on horse-feed. That attitude amused both Mason 
and me a good deal, and I think that while Olesen was there the 
diet was more strictly confined to corn than would have been the 
case otherwise. 

During that week I worked out pretty clearly the details of 
the delta survey program for the coming spring. I bought from 
Mason a gasoline launch which had belonged to his mining outfit. 
This launch, the Edna, was of the "tunnel-built" type, thirty feet 
long, and her speed was said to be sixteen miles an hour. She had 
an excellent reputation with the Police, who had seen her come 
to Herschel Island (which necessitates from forty to sixty miles of 
ocean voyage, according to which branch of the delta one uses), 
and she had an adequate supply of fuel. Pedersen, who said he 
had been engineer on a gasoline tug in the harbor of San Francisco, 
was hired to put her in condition and to operate her. He and 
the boat were to be at the service of Chipman during the spring, 
while Cox was to have a smaller launch purchased from the 
Belvedere. Between the two survey parties and the two launches 
a good beginning would be made on the survey. The Mackenzie 
delta is a mass of islands and tangled channels like the delta of 
every great river, and it was not reasonable to hope that a survey 
of all the channels could be made. But the experience of local 
white men and Eskimos had already shown which channels were 
the most hopeful for navigation by big ships, and these I expected 
to get mapped and sounded. 

Although out of chronological order, I will say here that this 


program was practically carried out, although it developed that 
Pedersen's knowledge of engineering when running the gasoline 
launch in San Francisco had been confined to his ability to start 
and stop an engine that was in perfect condition and to hoist a 
distress signal when anything went wrong. Nothing went wrong 
with the Edna, except that there was too much oil in her cylinders 
and the "timing" of the electric spark was not quite right, but 
these simple difficulties were not understood ; she could not be used 
at all that summer, and Chipman had to do what work he could 
with a whale-boat. This cut down the extensiveness of his work 
by much more than half. The other launch with Cox in charge 
did excellent work, for he himself was a good engineer, thanks 
to which the aggregate of the work done by the two parties was 
almost as great as I had hoped, including the sounding of one 
channel with evidence that a ship drawing six feet of water can 
enter the Mackenzie from the sea. This together with what we 
know of the navigability above the delta shows that a ship draw- 
ing six feet of water can steam fifteen hundred miles up the river 
from the sea to the rapids at Fort Smith. 

In addition to buying the launches for the two survey parties, 
I secured from the Mounted Police a quantity of provisions which 
were cached at strategic points in the delta, and made all necessary 
arrangements for the prosecution of their work. 



SO far as my personal plans for ice exploration were concerned, 
the engagement of Storkerson had set them a good deal for- 
ward, for they demanded a few very good men rather than a 
large number of ordinary ones. As soon as I could see clearly 
what the program in the delta would be, I wrote out a summary 
of it to transmit to Dr. Anderson so that the topographers, Chipman 
and Cox, and O'Neill, the geologist, would know what facilities 
they might expect to work with. I also wrote out a second letter 
of instructions, giving in detail the plans for the outfitting of my 
own party for the journey north over the Beaufort Sea. 

Directions were that the outfitting base should be at Martin 
Point, about forty miles east of Collinson Point and fifteen miles 
west of the Polar Bear. Storkerson's advice about the outfitting 
was to be followed in general, but in order not to disarrange Dr. 
Anderson's routine, I asked him to put Chipman or some of his 
other men in direct charge of that work. Various details of prepara- 
tions were included: tents of silk or Burberry were to be made 
or altered, the sounding machine was to be overhauled by the 
marine biologist, Johansen; watches, purchased for use as pocket 
chronometers, were to be carefully rated, and any chronometers 
which the topographers could spare me from their outfit were to 
be rated and put aside for my use. Storkerson was to be given the 
use of several dog teams and the men to handle them, certain sup- 
plies were to be hauled from Collinson Point to Martin Point, and 
other supplies from the Belvedere and Polar Bear. Everything 
was to be ready by the first of March for our start north over 
the ice from Martin Point. 

When these letters were completed, I gave them to Storkerson 
to take to Collinson Point, giving him Olesen and the dog team, 
while I purchased other dogs in the delta and kept the boy Taliak 
with me. 

When Storkerson started towards Collinson Point I proceeded 
up the river to Fort Macpherson where I completed my dispatches 



to the Government, giving details of how the program which I had 
already sent to them from Point Barrow was being carried out. 
During this time I had the opportunity of many pleasant chats 
with my oldest friend in that country, John Firth, whom I had 
known since 1906, as well as with the police, missionaries, and 
traders both of Macpherson and of Red River. All of them were 
as helpful as possible and greatly interested and as a result, I ex- 
plained our plans more in detail to them than I did to most other 
people. It may be for that reason that later on, when we had 
disappeared from sight into the ice north of Alaska and were sup- 
posed to be dead by Eskimos and whalers as well as by the members 
of our own expedition (and by the arctic explorers in Europe and 
America to whom the Ottawa Government later referred for an 
opinion). Inspector Phillips and Mr. Firth were among the few 
who stuck to the idea that our plans were sound and that we were 
probably alive. 

One of the reasons why I had always wanted Storkerson as a 
member of the expedition was that I had full confidence in his 
energy and judgment in carrying out orders. So far as the prepa- 
ration of the equipment for the ice work was concerned, he was a 
far better man than I, and the best thing to do in that regard was 
to leave him alone. Dr. Anderson having been directed to put at 
Storkerson's disposal facilities ample for carrying out all instruc- 
tions and plans for the ice journey, there was no need for me to 
hurry back to the outfitting camp. It was enough to arrive at 
Martin Point about the time when everything was ready, since a 
day or two of rest would be all I should require before starting 
out upon the ice. 

So I was able to be leisurely about completing the work in 
the Mackenzie, but once it was done I started promptly westward. 
On the third or fourth day, about fifteen miles west of Herschel 
Island, I met several sledges proceeding eastward. When I saw 
that they were ours and recognized the men with them, I realized 
I was facing the most serious development of the expedition so 
far. For some of these were men who should have been now em- 
ployed at Martin Point, getting things ready for the ice trip. The 
written directions had been definite, and yet they had not only not 
been carried out, but things were being done incompatible with 
both their spirit and letter. 

J. J. O'Neill, geologist, proved to be in charge of this party. 
He brought me a letter from Dr. Anderson. I asked O'Neill to 
walk with me back to the police barracks at Herschel Island, 


allowing the sledges of his party as well as my own to precede 
us there. It seemed best to say nothing more to him before reading 
the letter. 

As we walked I read it. Together with O'Neill's answers to 
occasional inquiries where some point was not quite clear, the letter 
made me understand that our situation could scarcely have been 
worse. Dr. Anderson, my second in command, acknowledged the 
receipt of my instructions brought to him by Storkerson and said 
that, after consultation with the scientific staff and with the other 
members of the expedition, he had decided not to obey them. He 
himself and the rest were of the opinion that my proposed journey 
north over the ice was a "stunt" to get me newspaper notoriety; 
that no serious scientific work was intended; and that if any were 
intended none could be accomplished on any such plans as I was 
contemplating. They considered themselves justified not only in 
withholding assistance for this journey, but also in preventing me 
from using any supplies that were at Collinson Point on either of 
the ships Alaska or Mary Sachs. 

The letter then referred to the supplies of the expedition being 
carried by the Belvedere and said that the writer and the scientific 
staff would protest against Captain Cottle's turning any of these 
over to me, and would take the position that if I used any of them 
it was "a criminal misappropriation of Government property." 
The criminal part must have been that Dr. Anderson interpreted 
the Government's instructions to mean that I had no right to these 
supplies for any work except that in the vicinity of Coronation 
Gulf, and my using any part of them for the ice work would be 
disobedience to the Government. 

The wording of the letter, while it showed by its violence that 
it had been written in what might be fairly termed "the heat of 
passion," left no doubt of the full sincerity of its writer and the 
staff. They were no stage villains bent themselves on being crimi- 
nal. In their own esteem they were acting in the public interest 
in trying to forestall misuse of public property. In the interests 
of science they were preventing a foray into a frozen ocean which 
in their opinion could yield no knowledge, predestined as it was 
to failure through inadequate plans; and in the interests of human- 
ity they were discouraging a venture which, if carried as far as I 
said I intended, would lead to multiple death through freezing or 

* Dr. Anderson's letter later had the following history. On leaving land 
for the ice trip March 22, 1914, I left it, with other valuable papers and a 


After I had read the letter, a conversation with O'Neill added 
light. Apparently members of the expedition had been discussing 
both with the local Eskimos and with the whalers my plan of walk- 
ing north over the frozen ocean with intent to depend for food and 
fuel on the animals we might find. The Eskimos considered the 
project suicide, saying that seals and polar bears would not be 
found at any great distance from land, and that we should inevi- 
tably starve if we did not lose our lives through some accident 
of travel over the broken and continually shifting ice. The whalers 
were of the same opinion. The members of the expedition then 
felt no doubt of the substantial insanity of my project, and no 
doubt that they were justified in taking steps to prevent me from 
carrying it out. They were quite sincere in their opinion that the 
Government at Ottawa and public opinion in general would sustain 
them in that position. 

A little quiet discussion with O'Neill shook his confidence a 
good deal. Before we arrived at the police barracks he told me 
that his mind had been changed so far that, although he could not 
very well go back on his agreement to stand by the rest of the 
Collinson Point people in their opposition, he would at least go 
so far as to give me his pocket chronometer. 

And then it came out that one of the conclusions reached by 

small sum of money belonging to a member of the expedition, in a locked 
iron box of which I had the key. This box was later placed in charge of 
the Royal Northwest Mounted Police at Herschel Island. During the spring 
of 1914 the opinion grew stronger that my companions and myself had 
died out on the ice. This opinion was held, with two or three exceptions, 
by Eskimos, whalers and members of tlie expedition who were at Herschel 
Island. On the theory that I was dead, my iron box was broken open. One 
reason assigned for this was to get for the owner the money which the box 
contained (I think about twenty dollars). 

When I arrived at Herschel Island a year later. Inspector Phillips of the 
Royal Northwest Mounted Police turned over the box to me with the 
explanation that it had been broken open by Dr. Anderson. I missed noth- 
ing from it except the money, which had been given to its owner, and the 

Desiring the text of this letter for the completion of the records of the 
expedition, the Deputy Minister of Naval Service of Canada in 1919 wrote 
to Dr. Anderson asking him for a copy of the carbon which, since the letter 
was typewritten, he presumed the writer had retained. Dr. Anderson replied 
that he had kept no copy. He also stated to the Deputy Minister that my 
box had not been broken open by himself but by Wilkins. Wilkins was 
asked if he had broken open the box. He replied he had not; and he did 
not really know who had, but had always understood it was Dr. Anderson. 
I referred the matter again to Inspector Phillips. He says he is prepared 
to say both that he told me Dr. Anderson had broken open the box, and 
that he believed Dr. Anderson opened it, but that he cannot say positively 
that he knows he did. Anyway, the letter is lost. 


the staff at Collinson Point had been that I should probably be 
unable to get a pocket chronometer, and that if they were to refuse 
to turn any over to me I should be thereby prevented from going 
out on the ice. Certainly to go witliout a chronometer would not 
only put our lives in extreme danger, but would prevent us from 
being able to say at the end of the journey accurately where we 
had been. This would rob any soundings we might take, for 
instance, of most of their scientific value. 

O'Neill's decision to give me that chronometer really turned 
the tide for me, for the chronometer point was the only one where 
I felt myself legally weak. The expedition was under the Naval 
Service, but the chronometers were the property of the Department 
of Mines, and had been handed by them to the men who carried 
them, who could make a claim on that ground that they were 
not part of the equipment of the expedition proper and therefore 
not subject to my requisition. 

This watch was the one we relied on in our successful ice jour- 
neys of the next several years and without which they could not 
have been made. I have felt that O'Neill's handing it to me 
without either request or demand of mine was a pretty fine thing, 
in view of the fact that he seemed to be sincerely convinced that 
our undertaking was stupid and was doomed. Only, he had the 
sporting fairness to feel that he did not want the mere lack of a 
reliable timepiece to prevent my having a chance to try it out. 

O'Neill said in our conversation that before he and the other 
members of the Geological Survey left Ottawa the question had 
been discussed between them and their superiors as to what they 
were to do if Stefansson's conduct of the expedition did not appear 
to them to be the right one. He said that they had been assured 
that if they thought it advisable to disobey my orders, their posi- 
tion would be sustained at Ottawa. A day or two later O'Neill 
made that statement again to the police at Herschel Island, adding 
that from the point of view of the Geological Survey, he and several 
of the other men were mere passengers on my expedition and not 
subject to my orders beyond their own discretion. At Nome sev- 
eral months earlier O'Neill had said the same thing to Mr. Jafet 
Lindeberg and others, and it had been reported to me. I discussed 
it with the representative of the Naval Service, Mr. George Phillips, 
who advised me to dismiss the entire portion of the staff that had 
been furnished by the Survey. My conviction then was, however, 
that this was mere talk on the part of the men and that in their 
own interests they would refrain from bringing it to an issue. 


Furthermore, I knew that the Chief of the Survey, Mr. R. W. 
Brock, had never intimated in any way to his men that they 
would be justified or supported in disobeying orders. O'Neill ad- 
mitted, in fact, on being questioned that it was not Mr. Brock 
who had said this, but some one whose name he declined to give. 

O'Neill's purpose in coming with the present party was to 
proceed up the Firth River for a survey. This was the survey 
planned and outlined in my dispatches to the Government from 
Point Barrow, and was one of the points where the plans as out- 
lined by Dr. Anderson coincided with plans as outlined by me. I 
had every interest in seeing the project itself carried through; what 
had disturbed me on meeting O'Neill's party was not that it should 
be on its way but rather that it should have in it Captain Bernard 
and Louis Olesen, both of whom should then have been engaged 
in helping Storkerson with the outfitting for the ice trip. Instead 
of these men O'Neill should have had with him other white men 
and local Eskimos with their dogs, an arrangement that would 
have served quite as well. 

Captain Bernard and Olesen now faced the unhappy question 
of whether they were going to obey my orders or Dr. Anderson's. 
Olesen took the position that Dr. Anderson was his real commander, 
there having been two expeditions with two independent heads, 
myself in command of the Karluk, and Anderson of the Alaska and 
Mary Sachs. Captain Bernard expressed the opposite view, so I 
did not argue Olesen's, for O'Neill had to have somebody to help 
him with his geological work and my opinion of Olesen was such 
that I was well pleased to let somebody else have him. 

It had been O'Neill's intention to proceed forthwith up the 
Herschel River, but as he had, in common with most of the men 
at Collinson Point, spent the entire winter in the house, he was so 
"soft" and became so badly laid up with the fifteen-mile walk from 
where he met me to Herschel Island that his departure for the 
mountains had to be deferred several days. Such "softness" is the 
inevitable result of the time-honored polar explorer custom of spend- 
ing the winter in camp whether in study (where the officers teach the 
men), theatricals, and the publishing of busy-work newspapers 
known as Boreal Bugle or North Polar News, as was done by the 
British expeditions from Parry to Nares; or whether in reading, 
listening to phonographs and writing reams of home letters for next 
summer's mail, as has been the custom on recent expeditions. Such 
idleness makes muscles flabby and (what is worse) breeds discontent, 
personal animosities and bickerings of all sorts. That is one reason 


why I seldom spend more than a few days in any winter camp. An- 
other reason is that there is always plenty of work to be done. 

The following morning Captain Bernard and I started west 
along the coast and arrived that evening at Captain Martin And- 
reasen's, near the International Boundary, a distance of over forty- 
five miles. This is much more than an ordinary day's travel when 
one is carrying even moderately loaded sledges, but I had learned 
from O'Neill that our preparations at Martin Point were about a 
month behind schedule, so there was every reason for hurry. 

Captain Andreasen told me that on their way east O'Neill's 
party had stopped there and told him of the disobedience of my 
orders at Collinson Point and had informed him that the Govern- 
ment would undoubtedly, when they got the reports which were 
being sent in from Collinson Point, disavow all my actions. In 
particular they told him that if he sold me the North Star he 
would have to "whistle for his money," for the Government would 
never pay the draft. He said the idea had struck him pretty hard 
at the time but he had thought it over since and decided that he 
would take his chances. For one thing, he believed the draft 
would be paid; and for another, he could see that my plans of ex- 
ploration would be seriously handicapped if I could not get the 
North Star and he said he was enough interested in the project to 
be willing to take some risk to see the work successful. 

At Andreasen's I received a letter from Captain Cottle, sent 
to meet me to warn me of conditions. He said that members of 
my party had come to the Belvedere, had explained to him that the 
Government would not make good any arrangements I might make 
with him, and had endeavored to dissuade any of his men from 
helping us in any way. He said that he had, however, paid no 
attention to this and had assured his men that should I want 
their services I should be able to pay for them, and that he would 
himself pay them any bills which I might be unable to pay. Cap- 
tain Cottle had also had an interview with "Duffy" O'Connor. 
O'Connor had been talking with members of the expedition and had 
decided to go back on his bargain to sell me his supplies, the reason 
being that he now feared non-payment of the draft that I was 
going to give him in return for the outfit. Cottle said he had 
assured O'Connor that the draft would be paid and urged him 
to stick to his bargain, saying that I was the commander of the 
expedition and that the Government would undoubtedly stand by 
whatever I did. 

This letter prepared me for my interview with O'Connor the 


next day. It seemed he had had several changes of mind. First, 
he had agreed in good faith to sell me the supplies; second, he 
had decided not to sell them when he heard from members of my 
expedition that I had no authority to buy them; third, he had de- 
cided he would sell them after all when he had talked with Captain 
Cottle; and, fourth, he had finally decided that perhaps he had better 
not sell them, for after all it was about an even bet whether he 
would get drafts issued by me paid or not. After some talk, how- 
ever, and after his raising the price slightly to compensate him for 
the risk he now thought he was taking, I eventually closed the bar- 

That same evening at the Belvedere I got more details of how 
everything was going. Captain Cottle had sent three or four of 
his men to help Storkerson with the work at Martin Point and had 
supplied him with everything he could spare. His influence had 
been especially useful in keeping our credit good with the Eskimos, 
who might otherwise have been afraid to work for Storkerson, think- 
ing they would not get paid. 

When I got to the Polar Bear I found that feeling ran pretty 
high. After telling me what they thought of the conduct of my 
people at Collinson Point, several of the party volunteered to do 
anything for me they could in helping on shore with the prepara- 
tions. Four of them also volunteered to go with me out over the 
ice if I should be unable to get enough satisfactory men from my 
own party. To make this definite, Mott handed me a letter saying 
that himself. Heard, Mixter and Silsbee would go with me wherever 
I would take them and that all supplies or resources of theirs were 
at my disposal. 

At Crawford's I met Storkerson. He confirmed everything told 
me by O'Neill and everything I had learned since, adding a good 
deal thereto. Several dog teams had been standing idle in our 
barn at Collinson Point. He had asked for some of these to use 
in preparations for the ice work but had been refused. Natives 
who had been willing to help him had been discouraged from doing 
so. No preparations had been made at Collinson Point and nothing 
had been done looking towards any possible ice journey we might 
make except that Mr. Chipman was rating some watches I had 
purchased from Captain Andreasen and sent to him for that pur- 
pose, and Mr. Johansen had overhauled the sounding machine, 
doing his best to put it in working order. Dr. Anderson had refused 
to hand over to Storkerson any of the supplies I had asked for, 
but had given him some socks, mittens, etc., for his own use. 


telling him distinctly that he was not doing that in obedience to 
any instructions from me but that these garments were presents 
from him to Storkerson. Storkerson could not say too much of 
the help given him by Captain Cottle, Mr. Mott and, in fact, 
every one on the ships Belvedere and Polar Bear. But neitner of 
these ships had dogs and one of Storkerson's great difficulties had 
been inability to hire dogs and sledges for freighting supplies from 
the Belvedere (about twenty-five miles away). He and the men 
he had been able to hire from the Belvedere and some Eskimos who 
were working for him had been compelled to harness themselves to 
the sledges, taking the place of dogs in hauling them. The very fact 
that they had to do this while several teams of the expedition's 
dogs stood fat and idle in the barns at Collinson Point, had done 
a great deal with the Eskimos to undermine my credit, for it 
seemed obvious to them from these circumstances that I was no 
longer in any control of the equipment or supplies of the expedition. 
From this they deduced that I should probably not be able to pay 
them if they worked for me, for, of course, Eskimos usually expect 
to be paid in goods. 

With the friendship and help of the whalers on the Belvedere 
and the party of sportsmen on the Polar Bear I might almost have 
ignored the Collinson Point difficulty and saved the precious time 
it took to go there (for the season was getting late) and started 
off on the ice directly. But I could not do this for two reasons: 
First, we needed the rifles, ammunition, light tents, scientific equip- 
ment, cameras, etc., which were in our stores and could not be se- 
cured from whalers. Further, for any journey out over the ice I 
should need the cooperation of the various ships the following 
summer, and I could not leave shore before making definite ar- 
rangements for the movements of the three vessels, and especially 
those of the North Star, for she was the one I had bought for the 
purpose of cooperating in my explorations of the Beaufort Sea. 
If I left shore while my authority was being openly defied I could 
rely on no cooperation from the ships in future — any written orders 
I might send would presumably be treated like the ones already 
disobeyed. Especially I must arrange for the North Star to follow 
me to Banks Island, for that had become an integral part of my 

On the way from Martin Point to Collinson Point Captain 
Bernard and I spent the night with Crawford in his cabin at the 
mouth of the Ulahula River. I found then that while both he 
and Captain Bernard had at one time been dubious as to which 


side of the controversy they were to take, they were so no longer. 
They assured me that Charles Thomsen and Charhe Brooks (the 
steward on the Alaska) would be with me, and they believed Wil- 
kins would also. It was known that McConnell, who was just then 
absent on a trip to Point Barrow, Would be on my side when he re- 
turned. In fact, they felt that as soon as the men really thought 
things out and came face to face with definite action, they would 
probably all decide to obey orders. 

We arrived at Collinson Point just about dinner time. I told 
the men at once that we would postpone all discussion until eight 
o'clock, when the evening work was done and everybody could be 

When the time for discussion came, I asked Dr. Anderson 
whether he was taking the position which Louis Olesen had men- 
tioned to me at Herschel Island: that there were two expeditions, 
he in command of one still in existence and I in command of the 
other, now defunct; or whether he was taking the position outlined 
by O'Neill that he and several of the other men were merely pas- 
sengers with the expedition and had authority from Ottawa to 
disobey orders whenever they liked? 

It was Johansen who answered, saying that they considered 
Dr. Anderson to be in command of that part of the expedition 
which was left, that I had had authority only over the Karluk, 
and had none in the expedition at present and had better go home 
to Ottawa to report the failure of my side of the enterprise. With- 
out replying to him, I persisted in my inquiries of Dr. Anderson. 

Dr. Anderson eventually answered that my position was anal- 
ogous to that of certain kings of England who had been undis- 
putedly kings as long as their conduct was worthy of a king and as 
long as the people had confidence in them. But when the kings 
of England had become either insane or criminal they had been 
deposed and in some cases executed. While he disclaimed any 
intention of an execution, he thought that I had already shown 
by what I had done and by the plans which I had announced, 
especially the much-talked-of "ice trip," that I was either not 
quite sane or was outlining plans which I had no intention or 
prospect of carrying out to any useful conclusion, but which would, 
nevertheless, use up a good deal of the resources of the expedition. 
He considered himself responsible to the Government for the car- 
rying out of certain plans of theirs and his, and he considered 
that he would be unable to carry them out if he acquiesced in 
mine. My motive in making the journey over the ice, he felt 


sure, was merely a desire for notoriety. It was well known that 
no useful purpose could be served by it, the theory on which it 
was based had the support of no well-known arctic explorer or 
any one on the expedition, and of no whaler or Eskimo, in so far 
as the soundness or tenability of the basic hypothesis was con- 
cerned. If I were not prevented I would doubtless go out on the 
ice with several sledges; we would have as many hardships and 
adventures as possible within a safe distance from land, would stop 
when we had had enough and come back, reporting that we had 
made a brave attempt but that the difficulties were insuperable. 
To all of which farce he and the rest had made up their minds 
they would not be parties. They were going to report everything 
in full to Ottawa and felt sure that the Government would sustain 

When Anderson's statement had been made, I asked him whether 
they intended to withhold by force supplies which my compan- 
ions and I needed for making the proposed trip: to which he re- 
plied that there would be no companions, for no one would go 
with me. 

Hereupon I made a sort of roll-call of the men to find out from 
each one whether he would obey my orders and go with me out 
on the ice if necessar3^ I began with Captain Bernard, for I 
knew he would say he would go. Obviously his prompt agreement 
surprised the others. I fear that some of the men had in a meas- 
ure deceived Dr. Anderson, misleading him into thinking he would 
have the whole-hearted support of everybody. Besides expressing 
enthusiastic support of my project, Captain Bernard informed the 
gathering that Crawford, too, would take part in the ice trip, if 
desired. The break in the ranks having been made, the others 
followed. Wilkins said he would go; Captain Nahmens of the 
Alaska expressed willingness to do anything I might direct; Thom- 
sen, who was not present, had sent word by Captain Bernard that 
he would volunteer; Johansen said he would go "if I would make 
him certain pledges." When I asked what those were, they turned 
out to be merely that he was to be allowed to do scientific work. 
As Johansen could never conceivably have been taken on such a 
trip except for the purpose of doing the sort of work which he 
wanted me to promise he should be allowed to do, it was a simple 
matter to make him that promise. 

Chipman considered he could not go even for the ''support 
party," for it would make him too late for his topographical work 
on shore. In this I agreed. Had we been able to start two, three 


or more weeks earlier, as I had planned, he could have gone out 
with us for two weeks and still have been back ashore before the 
time he wanted to start his survey work (March 20). The same 
considerations applied to Cox. They should have been commenc- 
ing about now their coast survey so as to have the work done 
between Collinson Point and the Mackenzie delta before the thaws 
began. I had, in fact, brought with me from the Mackenzie delta 
(I forgot to mention above) Peder Pedersen with his dog team to 
pilot the topographers east. Pedersen had been about the Macken- 
zie delta for about twenty years and was an excellent guide. 

At this point Dr. Anderson agreed that they would all cease 
opposing my project if I would sign a statement, making certain 
promises and giving certain guarantees. When I asked what they 
would be, he said I must promise to let all the scientific men go 
on doing scientific work, — not to hinder the various members of 
the party in doing geological, topographical, zoological or other 
research. In general the demands were merely that the plans 
which I had always wanted to carry out should be carried out. 
The evident purpose of the demands was to make it appear that I 
had been compelled to allow them to do these things, whereas 
it had in fact been my desire all the time that they should do them. 
To sign the proposed document was a willing move, for, luckily, 
I had sent out from Point Barrow in October, or announced before 
the expedition ever started, that we intended to do all the things 
which they now asked me to promise I would not prevent them 
from doing. 

It was a rather tense two hours, but before eleven o'clock a 
modus vivendi had been agreed on. By eight o'clock the next 
morning every one was at work doing the things which he should 
have begun doing not the morning after I came home but a month 
earlier, on the morning after receiving my instructions from Stork- 

Things done in a hurry are seldom done quite as well as when 
full time is allowed. Still, it is impossible to say too much for the 
energy and good will with which some worked with sewing ma- 
chines, others with needles, others with carpenter tools, and still 
others classifying and packing up supplies, no one now sparing 
any effort to get the preparations through as quickly as possible. 



THE threatened mutiny had blown over and nothing was wholly 
lost save a month of priceless time. For, although autumn 
and mid-winter may well enough be passed in mere prepara- 
tions, the precious months following January are the time for real 
work, and one of them was gone. There had also arisen, besides 
these differences between some of the men and me, bickerings among 
themselves that died down slowly. Old friendships were broken and 
wounds made that to this day remain unhealed. 

The causes of the difficulty were partly genuine differences of 
opinion and partly personal jealousies. The variance in opinion we 
have explained, the jealousies are gradually being forgotten and have 
no place in this book. 

When it had been decided that no active opposition would be 
made to my trip north over the ice, there came the question of 
whom I could get to go with me on the advance section of the trip. 
Of those who had volunteered the previous evening to follow orders 
(which really included all the men who could reasonably have been 
considered as material for the work) , the majority were either physi- 
cally ill-adapted for so protracted and serious an adventure, or else 
so badly needed ashore in connection with the operation of one of the 
ships or with helping in scientific work that they were not eligible. 
For an undertaking so serious as most people considered ours 
to be, no man is suitable unless he volunteers freely and has a 
degree of faith in the practicability of what is being attempted. 
Accordingly, as a preliminary to asking for volunteers, I went over 
the whole situation discussing every argument for and against. 
This was in conversations with individuals, now trying to get them 
to change their minds, now to stick to previous decisions. But 
for simplicity's sake I shall present the case here as I had presented 
it earlier in the year when first I attempted to get the men of the 
Alaska and Sachs interested in our geographic program. 

It was our greatest loss when the Karluk drifted off, that we 
lost with her several ambitious men whose romantic dispositions 



had made it their dream to undertake some forlorn hope — if it were 
anything unusually dangerous and difficult (so long as there was 
a fighting chance) then so much the better. 

The first thing that had to be stated was the scope of the ex- 
ploratory journey for which I wanted the men to volunteer. 

Briefly, the plan was to start north from Martin Point the first 
week in March (later experience showed that the first week in 
February would have been better). We would travel north roughly 
along the 143rd meridian to 76° N. Latitude, if we could. If during 
this journey the ice over which we traveled was drifting west or 
northwest rapidly (4 miles per day or over), we would return from 
our "farthest north" to Alaska by a route which (partly because 
of the assumed drift and partly to cover new ground) would be 
west of our outbound course. We would land presumably some- 
where between Cape Halkett and Point Barrow. Then, perhaps 
in May or June, we would follow the coast east and join our ships. 

But it was always possible we might find land on this journey. 
If it were small, we would map the coastline roughly and return 
to Alaska to join our ships in the late spring; if it were large, we 
would spend a year upon it. If such large land were fertile and 
had driftwood, we would live on the caribou or musk oxen found 
there and burn wood for fuel during the winter; but if it lacked 
driftwood and was for any reason devoid of land game, we would 
live on seals on the coast, eating them for food and burning their 
blubber for fuel. The following spring we would travel, according 
to convenience, back to Alaska or east over the sea ice to Banks 
or Prince Patrick Island, where the North Star was to be either 
near Cape Alfred or Land's End, and the Sachs between Cape 
Alfred and Cape Kellett. 

But if no current carried us west and if no land were found, 
we would, after getting as far north as possible, turn east when the 
approach of summer made sledge travel difficult, and land on Prince 
Patrick Island or near Cape Alfred (near Norway Island) on Banks 

On the whole trip, whatever its duration or destination, we 
would live exclusively by hunting after the first five or six weeks 
which would use up any supplies we might bring from home. The 
trip would last twelve weeks at the shortest and a year or two years 
at the longest. 

This journey, all but the first fifty miles of a total distance of 
five to seven hundred miles, would be over an ocean area hitherto 
unexplored because the massing in it of ice even in summer had 


made it in the past impenetrable alike to exploring and whaling 
ships. But to our point of destination (if no land were found and 
if we did not drift west) there did exist a roundabout passage 
already charted and sailed by at least two ships— McClure in the 
Investigator in 1851 and Captain George Leavitt in the Narwhal 
in 1906. McClure proceeded along the coast of Banks Island to 
Mercy Bay. Leavitt returned by nearly a "great circle course" 
to Herschel Island. Captain Leavitt has told me that the Nar- 
whal was the only ship of the whaling fleet that ever went to 
Norway Island, but I have heard of others which went within 45 
miles of it — to Terror Island. 

The North Star, when the summer came, was to follow this 
well-known route, first east along the mainland to Cape Bathurst 
or near it, then north to Cape Kellett. It was especially here I 
expected the Star's light draft to be valuable — she would worm her 
way up the coast through the shallow shore lead between the land 
and any heavy ice that might be grounded offshore. On reaching 
Norway Island (N. Lat. 73%° approx.), she was to look for a 
beacon containing a message from us. If she found none she was 
to proceed to Prince Patrick Island if she could; otherwise, she was 
to winter at the most northerly convenient point on Banks Island. 
If we were in the east somewhere we would find her sometime dur- 
ing the winter or spring 1914-15. If we did not, she was to do 
whatever exploring she could the spring of 1915. During the sum- 
mer 1915 she would return south if she had not found us. 

As more fully explained later, the Sachs was also to come to 
Banks Island, though she was not to try to come as far north 
along the coast as the Star. 

For a journey that might develop along any of the three plans 
outlined above (according to the natural conditions we found in the 
unexplored area), I wanted at least four volunteers — preferably 
more so that I might try them out while the support party were 
still with us, taking with me eventually those who turned out to 
enjoy the work most — which is another way of saying the best 
men. In polar work, physique is of some significance but tem- 
perament is far more important. 

In order to get my four or more volunteers I had to justify 
the hypothesis upon which the plan of the journey was based. 
Part of the ground did not have to be gone over in stating the case, 
for up to a point our methods would be essentially those of the 
Eskimos or of Peary. We would use Eskimo dogs, Nome sledges 
(the two we had), snowhouses for camps when the weather was 


cold and Burberry tents when it was warmer. At the start we 
would cook food brought from Nome with primus kerosene stoves, 
in the manner of Nansen or Scott. So far there was no difficulty, 
no reluctance among the men. 

But here strange issues arose. Other explorers had planned 
to turn back before the food and fuel brought along had been ex- 
hausted; we planned to go ahead without either, relying on the 
sea ice or on undiscovered and uninhabited lands to supply both 
indefinitely. This was where our plans branched off from those 
of previous explorers and where our men were dubious — or more 
than that. It was the striking out along a new path that I had 
to try to justify before I could expect any one to volunteer for the 

I think any lawyer or other person used to pleading a cause 
will agree that the first principle of good argumentation is to con- 
cede in the beginning every point which the opposition are even- 
tually going to make you concede. Accordingly, I admitted freely 
at the start that my plan of traveling away from land an indefinite 
distance over moving sea ice, relying for food and fuel on animals 
to be secured by hunting, was considered unsound by, so far as I 
knew, every polar explorer and every critical authority on polar 
exploration. We were going to traverse the Beaufort Sea west of 
Banks and Prince Patrick Islands. This is the very region referred 
to specifically by Sir Clements Markham in his "Life of Admiral 
McClintock" as "the polar ocean without life" when he is con- 
trasting the comparatively fertile regions around Melville Island 
where musk oxen and caribou can be killed on shore and where 
there are resources of a sort, with the region west of Prince Patrick 
Island which, according to him, is devoid of all things that may 
sustain human life.* Markham could not be dismissed as an 
"armchair explorer," for he had been a member of one of the 
successful British polar expeditions at the time of the Franklin 
search and had later, in his position of President of the Royal 
Geographical Society and leading authority on polar matters, been 
in personal contact with every arctic explorer of note from the 
middle of the Nineteenth Century, up to and including Nansen 
and Peary, 

And, indeed, the testimony of Nansen and Peary was neither 

* Markham says about Prince Patrick Island: "It forms the boundary 
between the arctic paradise of Melville Island and the polar ocean (west of 
it) without hfe." Op. cit., p. 172. 


equivocal nor friendly to my hypothesis. Nansen and Johansen 
made their remarkable journey first north from the Fram and 
then towards the Franz Josef Island group without any plan of 
sustaining themselves on the road by the products of hunting. 
They carried rifles and ammunition and made good use of these 
when they got into the shore waters of the Franz Josef group, 
but did not rely on them at all, while on the high seas. 

One need not go to any declaration on this point made by 
Nansen for his actions speak louder than words. The two of them 
started from the Fram driving three sledges, each with a large 
team of dogs. Any one used to dog driving would instantly object 
that it is not practical for two men to drive three sledges, but 
Nansen's answer is that they needed all the dogs they could take, 
for they intended to use them as food, first for each other and, in 
an extremity, for themselves. He looked upon dogs as portable, or 
rather self-carrying, provisions. 

He tells us that as they struggled northward he gradually be- 
came fonder and fonder of the more faithful of his dogs. Some 
of them worked more consistently and single-mindedly for his 
success every day than he did himself. This is the common ex- 
perience of all men of feeling who have used dogs in polar work. 
It is common experience also in more southern lands that we be- 
come fond of even the toy dogs that are useless and incapable of 
doing us any service. How much more affection then would one 
in Nansen's position have for the dogs that labored for him more 
faithfully day by day than any but the rarest men would have 
had the moral strength to do, growing hungrier, thinner and weaker 
with each strenuous march but never sparing their strength, never 
whimpering, always eager to please and to do their best. 

But day by day the food became less in the sledges and the 
time drew nearer when some of these faithful friends had to be 
sacrificed on the altar of science and geographic discovery. At 
first he could kill the lazier ones without quite so much compunc- 
tion, and this made easier because more gradual the approach to 
the final horror of killing the ones he most dearly loved. Our 
imagination makes it easy for us to fill in the gaps, and there 
are few, in Nansen's descriptions of his own mental sufferings as 
he killed these friends of his and cut their exhausted bodies into 
pieces of food. We all agree that his feeling does him credit, 
although some wonder how any goal can be worth the deliberate 
planning of things like these. For this had been the plan not 


only before he left the ship on the particular journey, but even 
before he left Norway. He calls these the "stern necessities of 
polar travel." 

From the point of view of the moralist, there are many angles 
from which to consider Nansen's plan and procedure. But from 
our present point of view the lesson is clear. No man with the 
sympathetic attitude toward dogs which Nansen describes himself 
as having would have killed them for food had there been any other 
food available. No matter how sympathetic a man may be 
towards all creation, he would surely rather kill a seal that is a 
perfect stranger than a dog he has brought up from puppyhood 
and that has been faithfully serving him for months. So it is 
clear that there were no seals for dog-feed that Nansen might 
have secured with his English rifle which he tells us was so good 
and had cost so much. In reading his book we all accept as neces- 
sary though deplorable the killing of dog to feed dog until the last 
survivor was killed for the explorers themselves (presumably) to 
eat. For it is a commonplace of our knowledge that, as Markham 
puts it, the polar ocean is "without hfe." 

It may be said about Nansen that he did not have the advan- 
tage of understanding Eskimo methods of seal hunting and possibly 
seals were there though he was unable to secure them. But here 
the testimony of Peary to the contrary is explicit. 

Peary was a great admirer of Eskimo methods of travel and 
employed them generally in his work. In outfitting his ships, for 
instance, he carried on some voyages little meat and on others none 
at all, for he relied on his Eskimo hunters to supply him with fresh 
meat for his crew and food of some sort, usually walrus, for his 
dogs. On all of his later journeys he had Eskimos with him to 
build the snowhouses, drive the dogs and to do practically all the 
menial work. He had spent nine winters in the North when he 
wrote his book, "The North Pole," describing his last and success- 
ful journey. In summing up his "fundamental principles" of suc- 
cessful traveling over the north polar pack, he says that when you 
start on a journey you must have in your sledges enough food to 
take you all the way to where you are going and all the way back 
to land. He says that you must similarly have enough fuel to 
take you where you are going and back again to shore. He was 
fully aware of the fact that the ocean waters near land are com- 
monly well supplied with game and that both in them and on the 
land you may expect to secure meat to eke out your stock of 
provisions. He always made use of this principle on his journeys, 


going so far to seaward that in one or two notable cases he had 
just barely enough food to reach land and had to get his first 
meals on shore from musk oxen or caribou. Peary also says that 
it is essential to success that your plans shall command the confi- 
dence of enough Eskimos to help you to carry them out. 

There is then no denying that Peary's testimony is against such 
ventures as I was planning. We were going north from Alaska into 
the Beaufort Sea which has been uniformly described by the British 
explorers and by the American, Leffingwell, and the Dane, Mikkel- 
sen — which means all the explorers who have been there — as the 
region of the heaviest polar ice known. This is presumably the 
least promising part of the whole polar regions for the method 
of living by forage; this is the section specifically described by 
Markham as ''the polar ocean without life." Seals might be 
found in shallow waters in certain parts of the polar basin even at 
some distance from land but they certainly would not be found 
in abysmal depths. Leffingwell and Mikkelsen's soundings, taken 
on their journey north of 72° N. latitude in 1907, had given the 
presumption that the ocean north of Alaska would be deep, thus 
supplying with one more argument those who believed food could 
not be secured. 

To make the case against me all the stronger, there were the 
Eskimos. As mentioned above, Peary thinks that it is one of the 
essentials of a successful journey over the moving pack that you 
shall have Eskimos with you. And no Eskimo in northern Alaska 
was willing to go with us. Many of them were good friends of 
mine and some had worked for me on other expeditions. Nat- 
kusiak, for instance, had been with me for four years and was 
anxious to enter our service again. But he specified that he would 
not under any conditions go out on the moving ice. And so said 
all his compatriots. They considered being out on the sea ice dan- 
gerous enough through the accidents that are possible when, under 
stress of wind or current, the ice floes crush each other, rising on 
edge and going through other antics that are admittedly threaten- 
ing in spite of their ponderous slowness. But the main obstacle 
was the fear of starvation. Most of them said they would not go 
with us at all, and the most venturesome said that they would not 
consider going any farther than until half the food carried in the 
sledges had been eaten. They wanted to have the other half to 
bring them back ashore again, or to bring them at least into the 
familiar shore waters where there were seals. 

I used to tell them that both they and we knew how to get 


seals and that we would find no trouble in securing enough meat 
for food and blubber for both food and fuel, and that it would be 
much easier to travel light, relying on killing bears, than to haul 
sledges loaded heavily with provisions. But their answer was that 
there would be no seals or bears to kill. I tried to argue that they 
had no means of knowing there would be none, for neither they 
nor their ancestors had, so far as we knew, been in the habit of 
going more than five or at the most ten miles from land. Their 
reply was that their ancestors never went farther because they 
knew there was no food to be secured on the deep sea, and that 
their ancestors' wisdom was good enough for them. I tried to bribe 
them by promising more pay for a day at sea than they were getting 
for a week's work ashore, and got in answer the question: "What 
is the use of big pay if you die?" 

I could get no more support for my plans from the Eskimos 
than I could from geographers and explorers. 

Neither were the whalers more favorable. Many of them had 
been in these waters for twenty years and they were all of the 
same opinion as the Eskimos. The reason for this was that they 
had borrowed their opinions from the Eskimos. It appeared to 
them that ideas which they had borrowed twenty years ago and 
had held ever since without investigation had somehow received 
conclusive confirmation through the mere lapse of time. They 
told me that it "stood to reason" and was "well known" that the 
polar ocean in winter far from land was a barren and desolate 
waste without any resources. They were far more pessimistic than 
any ordinary explorer, for among us as a class it is conceded that 
men can travel with dogs and sledges over the ice. But the whalers 
commonly said that such journeys as Peary's could not be made in 
the waters north of Alaska. Not only would the difficulties of 
travel be so much greater that, even granting safety, progress 
would be much slower, but also the ice was so mobile that you 
would be in continual danger north of Alaska when you might be 
in comparative safety on the heavy and sluggish ice north of 

The reply to their argument had to be based on the journeys 
of Baron Wrangel north of eastern Siberia and Leffingwell and 
Mikkelsen north of Alaska. Judging from their narratives and 
from Peary's, it is indeed much more difficult to make a good 
mileage near Alaska or Siberia than north of Greenland, mainly 
because of the strenuous currents that multiply by ten or by a 
hundred in the vicinity of Alaska and northeast Asia the leads 


which have to be crossed and which are in every icy ocean the 
most serious handicap that the explorer has to meet. These same 
strong currents break up the ice into more pressure-ridges, making 
sledge travel more difficult and the breakage of sleds more likely. 
Also when, by the opening of leads all around, you are com- 
pelled to cease traveling, the currents carry you with greater speed 
— usually in a direction that does not suit you — than the sluggish 
waters north of Greenland. But allowing all that, Wrangel and 
Leffingwell and Mikkelsen had at least shown that sledge travel 
was practicable. It was also reasonable to assume that the diffi- 
culties would be greatest near land, and would lessen when you got 
farther out to sea than even they had been. 

The whalers were all personally friendly and willing to help 
me when they could. They agreed that it was "my funeral," and 
were anxious to see that nothing prevented our making the trial; 
but they were equally eager in their advice that upon the first 
clear evidence of the absence of game at sea we should (if we ever 
got started) turn back towards shore and safety. They pointed 
out that it is not cowardice but discretion which yields gracefully 
to the inevitable. Captain Cottle and some of the other whaling 
officers, such as Mr. William Seymour, were willing to go so far as 
to urge eligible young men in the crews to take their chances with 
us. This was because they were good friends and good sports 
and not because of any real confidence in our program, although 
I think I came nearer convincing Captain Cottle than I did almost 
any of the members of our own expedition. 

But I had to admit that with the exception of such men as 
Captain Bernard, who with blind loyalty would go anywhere, Wil- 
kins who was ready for any adventure, and my friends at the 
Polar Bear who were sportsmen in the best sense of the word 
and looked upon our venture as one of the sort which might work 
out and ought not to be allowed to fail for want of men to try 
it out — apart from these, I had to admit that I had secured no 
support and that geographers, explorers, whalers and Eskimos 
alike were of the opinion that our plans were unsound and thart 
the attempt to carry them out would be disastrous. 

This was the case of the opposition stated, as it seems to me, 
with fairness, allowing weight to every real argument. It looked 
like a strong case. 

In rebuttal I appealed to the science of oceanography which, 
although not so old as some, is as well established as most of the 
biological sciences. Thousands of observations taken by careful 


men had established the principle clearly laid down, for instance, 
by Sir John Murray in "The Ocean" and in his larger work, "The 
Depths of the Ocean," that the amount of animal life per cubic 
unit of ocean water is least in the tropics and increases gradually 
as you proceed towards either pole.* This is really a fact of com- 
mon observation, although the ordinary observer neglects to make 
the proper deduction. 

The great commercial fisheries of the world are not in the 
tropics. We get the name sardine but not all the sardines from 
Sardinia. The well known fisheries are in the north Atlantic, on 
the Newfoundland banks, in the North Sea and on the coasts of 
Norway and Iceland. That is where the cod, the herring, the 
haddock, and the halibut come from. When the ornithologist 
explains to you why there is guano on a certain part of the coast 
of Chile, he tells you that the cold waters from the Antarctic bring 
in the tremendous quantities of marine animals upon which the 
birds live that deposit the guano. At the marine-biological station 
at Wood's Hole, Massachusetts, you learn that the polar current 
sets in to that coast more at certain seasons than at others and 
that marine life is most abundant when it does. Millions of seals 
and of walrus live on northern fish and Crustacea and have to be 
hunted mainly in subarctic and arctic (or antarctic) waters by those 
who pursue them in ships for their hides, ivory and oil. Indeed, the 
chemist and marine biologist are both ready to explain that the 
conditions of rapid chemical change and decay are such in warm 
waters that an animal or plant that dies is soon resolved into its 
elements and removed from the domain of food; while if a similar 
organism dies in cold water its body floats around for a consid- 
erable time ready to be devoured by other organisms.** This in 
simple terms is the explanation of why more animal life can sub- 
sist in cold than in warm ocean water — there is more to eat. 

But here the critic can object that the oceanographers them- 
selves, such as Sir John Murray or Nansen, while pointing out 
the tremendous abundance of animal life at the outskirts of the 
polar ice, assert that it becomes rare when you penetrate far within 
the ice-covered area. On such a point men like Murray can 
reason only upon a priori grounds, inference and hearsay; but 
Nansen can appeal to the testimony of his own drift in the Fram, 

* The Ocean," by Sir John Murray, Home University Library, New York 
and London, pp. 162-164. 

** See "Fishes of the High Seas," by J. T. Nichols, in The National Ma- 
rine, July, 1920, pp. 26-34. 


and he tells us that he found Crustacea and in general all small 
animal life rare when you get far within the ice.* Without mini- 
mizing the great wealth of knowledge brought back to us by the 
Fram at the end of her first voyage, I would provisionally in my 
reasoning assume that Nansen's failure to find animal life in great 
abundance was due not to its actual absence so much as to its 
presence having escaped his observation. 

That animal life in the ocean is extraordinarily abundant on 
the edges of the ice-covered area I have said is well known. It is 
equally well known that there are great currents that sweep into 
the Arctic and under the ice to take the place of the water that 
flows south in the form of cold currents. It is asserted that fish 
do not take kindly to the ice covering over the sea at high lati- 
tudes. The polar ocean is generally several miles in depth, and 
what difference should it make to a fish though there be numerous 
pieces of ice floating on top? When the presence of ice on such 
lakes as Winnipeg, Bear or Baikal does not appear to interfere with 
the happiness of the fish that live in them, then why should we 
assume that it does in the ocean? You can scarcely think of 
scum or dust so thin on top of a basin of water as not to be 
proportionately thicker than five or ten or even fifteen feet of 
sea ice on top of fifteen thousand feet of ocean water. 

But even if all the fishes were to turn tail and swim south when 
they came to the edge of the ice, there would still remain the tre- 
mendous quantity of plankton or floating life which without voli- 
tion of its own is carried north under the ice with every movement 
of the upper two or three hundred fathoms of the sea surface 
(any life deeper than that would be unreachable by seals). Nan- 
sen's own theory of drifting across the polar basin, which was so 
triumphantly vindicated by the Fram, postulates that any object 
found at one edge of the icy area this year will have drifted 
across and will be found at the other edge two or three or five 
years from now. If the given object drifts across, evidently the 
water in which it 'floats has also been drifting across and in that 
water at the beginning of the voyage were living myriads of float- 
ing plants and animals. 

Why is it logical to assume that these will all have died and 
disappeared before a particular cubic unit of water in question 
gets into even the center of the inaccessible area? Even were it 
to die and disappear when the center of the inaccessible area is 

*See article by F. Nansen in Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia 
Britannica; title "Polar Regions." 


reached, it would have by then lasted long enough to serve all 
our purposes. We were going to start from that edge of the ice 
from which the drift is assumed by Nansen and others to be north- 
westward or northerly; we should assuredly have with us as fellow 
travelers all these docile animals that allow the currents to carry 
them where they please. 

It was thus I reasoned that the animals upon which seals live 
will be found everywhere under the ice of the polar sea. And 
if the feed is there, the seals will follow the feed. We can travel 
along with confidence, killing seals as we need them, using the lean 
and part of the fat for food and the rest of the fat for fuel. For 
a seal that weighs two hundred pounds will give something like 
eighty pounds of meat and bones, twenty or thirty pounds of waste 
and nearly a hundred pounds of blubber. When you have killed 
enough seals to furnish you with the lean meat needed for men and 
dogs and when the men and dogs have eaten all the seal's fat they 
care for, there will be left over blubber for fuel to be used extrava- 
gantly, with still a remainder to be thrown away. 

Does it seem that even if the seals were there we might not 
be able to get them? I am glad to say that none of the members 
of our expedition raised that point very seriously. Both Storkerson 
and I had lived for many years with Eskimos. They remembered 
that we knew every trick there is of detecting and securing seals 
and, further, that these tricks are easily acquired. It is true, al- 
though puzzling, that it is possible to live in close contact with 
people who are doing certain things and still to keep the mental 
attitude that we ourselves undoubtedly could never learn to do 
them. The feeling is familiar not only to men who hire Indian 
guides to take them miraculously through the wilderness, but to 
those who own cars or hire taxis and yet feel that their driving 
and repair are things in which they could never become adept. 
But none of our men supposed Storkerson or me to belong, so far 
as seal hunting went, to the class of those who own cars and can- 
not drive them. 

At this point it was common for my auditors to say something 
to the effect that, while this reasoning sounded all right in a warm 
room, they did not think they cared to risk their lives upon it. 
Rather than an argument ever so sound, they preferred the evidence 
of eye witnesses, such as Nansen and Peary, who had been there 
and come back with testimony of the absence of seals. It was 
unreasonable to assume that all polar travelers before our time 


had been fools and incapable of finding this royal road to ex- 

To these objections I could reply sincerely that I yielded to 
no one in my admiration for Peary and that he had been my friend 
and adviser for many years. But according to plans which he 
considered (and found) adequate to the task of reaching the Pole, 
Peary had started from Grant Land with food enough to take him to 
his destination and back again; there was no reason why he 
should stop to hunt for seals. Furthermore, Peary himself does 
not ever appear to have hunted seals by the Eskimo method and 
probably was not familiar with the technique of it and especially 
with the unobtrusive signs by which the expert hunter can detect 
the presence of seals. The reply to me was that Peary had Eskimos 
with him who were presumably expert seal hunters; to which it 
could be countered that, while Peary could speak to his Eskimos in 
the jargon which he used for intercourse with them and while 
they would always understand him and be able to reply in the same 
jargon, he never tried to learn their language, or, as he calls it, 
their ''secret language." * At the end of a day's travel the Eskimos 
might very well have discussed with each other in the vernacular 
or "secret language" the seal signs they had noticed during the 
day and Peary would not have known what they were talking 
about. For it would not have occurred to him to ask, having con- 
cluded a 'priori that there were no seals; and it would not have 
occurred to them to speak, for they would not have supposed him 
to be interested. Peary's Eskimos, too, were usually in a hurry to 
get back home, and if they had supposed him interested and had 
told him about the presence of seals it might have delayed the 
journey and kept them away longer than they liked. Possibly the 
conditions out at sea were so different from those they were used to 
around Smith Sound that they themselves may have failed to notice 
the seal signs. On this point I cannot speak, for I have never vis- 
ited Smith Sound, and no one who has has had enough command 
of the technique of seal hunting to write instructively about it. At 
any rate, no such observations have been published. 

It is possible for a business man to buy a passage from New 
York to Liverpool and to cross the Newfoundland banks without 
ever seeing a codfish or any evidence to lead him to think that 
codfish are there. But a fisherman on the banks would have no 
doubt of the presence of codfish nor any trouble in getting them. 

♦See "The North Pole," by Robert E. Peary, p. 50. 


It seemed to me that in an analogous way even keen observers like 
Nansen and Peary, preoccupied with the carrying-out of plans 
having nothing to do with seals, might have traveled for months 
over an ocean full of them without ever suspecting their presence. 

But our plans did have to do with seals very definitely. By 
the theory that governed them seals were there. We would there- 
fore look for them, and if they were there we should know how 
to get them. The conclusion to me had an appearance of soundness. 
If it were to work out, we would have solved the problem of com- 
missariat, hitherto the crucial difficulty in polar exploration. 

But at the end of the most elaborate and logical argument the 
ordinary "hard-headed" listener would still demur on the changeless 
ground that all eye witnesses were on the other side. If the thing 
contended for were so, some one would have discovered it long 
ago; there must be a flaw in the reasoning somewhere. Most of 
the men said they declined to go on any such enterprise, and that 
public opinion would sustain them in their refusal. 

Perhaps they were right about public opinion. Perhaps they 
were right in their own decision. Whether we think so or don't is 
a matter of temperament. 

It was on the basis of this reasoning as I have stated it that 
some of my local judges came to the conclusion that my plan 
of an extended journey where men and dogs would live on seals 
or die without them amounted to insanity and justified them in 
their general lack of confidence in all my plans, at least in so far 
as they hinged in any way on this central idea. As a matter of 
fact, most of them did hinge on it. 

I pointed out that when those plans had been laid before the 
National Geographic Society in Washington, the Museum of Nat- 
ural History in New York, the Geographic Congress at Rome, and 
Sir Robert Borden and his Cabinet at Ottawa, the proposal to 
try "living by forage" had always been the central idea and it 
was exactly this that the Canadian Government had sent me North 
to try out. 

The Karluk had carried a sumptuous outfit of the orthodox 
kind with which we could have outfitted parties for ice exploration 
by any of the well-known and often-tried methods. It had in fact 
been my intention to use substantially the Peary methods when 
within 500 or 600 miles of our base, and then to extend the length 
of the journeys both in mileage and time by continuing ahead and 
living by forage instead of turning back when the last of perhaps 
twenty sleds we had started with were empty. But the Karluk 


was gone and we had only two good sledges to start with; the 
system of relays of many support parties was out of the question. 
It was now a case of either letting the geographic program go or 
else trying out the method of "living off the country" while doing 
with that program what we could. 

How thoroughly beyond the scope of our diminished equipment 
the Pear>^ system of relays or support parties was, can most clearly 
be shown by a brief review of Peary's trip to the North Pole. 

When Peary started north from Cape Thomas Hubbard he 
had before him a journey of just over 400 miles and back. Accord- 
ing to his calculations, he needed for this 139 dogs, 24 men and 
19 sledges. The sledges were loaded mainly with food and fuel 
for, on his theory that you have to carry with you everything you 
are going to use, clothing, camp gear and the like had to be cut to 
the minimum. For 24 men he carried only two rifles. On other 
journeys he had carried only one and had even sawed off half the 
barrel to make it lighter. I believe he carried only one pair of 
field glasses for the entire party. No matter what the latitude, 
it is always uncomfortable to sleep at night in the clothes you 
wear in the daytime, but the saving of weight was so essential 
that he permitted the carrying of no bedding and he and the men 
slept in their clothes. 

As they traveled north the sledges rapidly became lighter. The 
139 dogs ate a pound each per day, the 24 men ate two pounds 
each, and there was a certain amount of fuel consumed. Before 
many days several "standard loads" of 600 pounds each had been 
used up, leaving that many empty sledges. Peary would send these 
back with the poorest dogs and the men who were for one reason 
or another least suited to the work, giving them just enough food 
for a rapid journey ashore. A few days later a few more sledges 
would be empty and similarly sent back. No man ate an ounce 
more than he was entitled to, seldom was an extra ounce of fuel 
used to warm even the coldest camp; the men worked to the limit 
of their strength and the dogs beyond the limit, so that one by 
one they fell behind on the trail and either lay there frozen or 
were fed to the other dogs. By this system Peary finally found 
himself with three sledges loaded with provisions and with three 
or four of the men best adapted to traveling, within striking dis- 
tance of the Pole. He made it and he got back safely. But he 
has said to me that had the Pole been a hundred miles farther away 
it probably could not have been reached with this method in a 
way to provide for a safe return ashore. 


On this point I saw no reason to disagree with Peary. Four 
or five hundred miles away from the base and back seems to be 
about the limit of a journey that can be made with that system. 
But though the North Pole is only about 400 miles away from the 
nearest land upon which a base can be established, there are many 
other points within the polar regions that are much more remote 
from a base on any known land and these would be unattain- 
able by the Peary system. It is in this connection that we have pre- 
pared the map of comparative inaccessibility of various points 
within the polar regions which is published in this volume.* 

This consideration of the Peary system, which is admirable 
within its scope, shows clearly why we could not possibly have 
carried on by that method. To begin with, to be successful in the 
task entrusted to us by the Government we had to make journeys 
longer than either the one Peary made, or any he considered the 
system capable of. And then we had not the men nor the sledges, 
though we could doubtless have purchased the dogs. It was liter- 
ally a choice between the absolute failure of our geographic pro- 
gram and the testing of the method of "living off the country." 

As a last plea I used to point out to the men that I had an- 
nounced the intention to live by forage on the sea ice not only in 
the official statements of the expedition but also in newspaper 
interviews, in speeches made to "Canadian Clubs" and other or- 
ganizations just before leaving, and, in fact, in every public state- 
ment made by me on the point. They had known from the start, 
therefore, that I might call on them for just this work. Some of 
them replied they had never supposed this was anything but news- 
paper talk. It might perhaps be justifiable to use this argument to 
create public interest and secure funds for an expedition. But a 
man's life is the only one he has and he can not be expected to risk 
it lightly. 

But I did get volunteers enough for the minimum number of 
assistants needed. To these loyal men, poets enough in their out- 
look on life to be willing to take new risks that new lands might 
be found, new seas charted and a new idea tried out, I owe grati- 
tude for support at a critical time. And no less do I owe it to 
Storkerson, Andreasen and Castel whom I was able to engage 
from outside. Their consistent support when they were with me, 
their energy and discretion when they had to carry out tasks on 
their own, enabled us finally to do without the Karluk most of the 
geographic work that we had been expected to do with her help. 

* See ante, p. 8. 


No courage nor hard work can replace years of technical train- 
ing, nor can delicate scientific instruments be improvised with a 
jackknife. There was no replacing McKinlay, Malloch or Murray 
in the northern section any more than Beuchat could be replaced 
in the southern. But the lands were discovered, the seas were 
sounded and the field covered though most of the detailed scientific 
work has to remain for the future. 

The men of the expedition who were willing to go with me as 
far as I might care to go myself were Bernard, McConnell (as I 
knew, though he was not now at Collinson Point) and Wilkins, 

Those who were willing to go on the support party were James 
Crawford, Frits Johansen, Otto Nahmens and Charles Thomsen. 
There were also the four volunteers from the Polar Bear, but it 
had always been understood that their volunteering was to take 
effect only if I proved unable to get men otherwise. That storm 
had now blown over. 

Of those members of the expedition who did not volunteer for 
the advance work, many were not expected by me to do so because 
they had too important work to do ashore either of a scientific 
nature or in connection with managing the ships or camp. Some 
were also physically disqualified. And I was able to get all the 
men I thought I should want. What I needed from the others 
was merely the cooperative spirit and the help of a few of them as 
a relay party to go a short distance from shore to help us through 
the worst belt of broken ice, perhaps fifty miles. 

Of the men I have mentioned as willing to go with me on the 
ice, all were at Collinson Point or in the vicinity except McConnell. 
He had been sent shortly after Christmas from Collinson Point 
to Cape Halkett, a distance of about 150 miles, to fetch Jenness 
down to Barter Island for archaeological work to be done in the 
spring. McConnell should have returned long ago and we were 
beginning to worry a little about him. While the journey was by 
no means an agreeable one to make during the absence of the 
sun, there was little chance for anything to have gone wrong. But 
I wanted McConnell to be of the company and we needed badly 
the good dogs he had with him and his sled, a better one for the 
use of our support party than the one we would have to take in 
its place. 

It was on the Belvedere I got Aarnout Castel. I had first seen 
him as a sailor on the Bowhead under Captain John Cook in 1906 
and had before now found reason to consider him an excellent 
man. Partly through the good offices of Captain Cottle, but mainly 


because Castel was made of the right stuff, he volunteered for the 
advance work. 

I set much store by Ole Andreasen, a brother of Captain Matt 
Andreasen. I did not really know exactly the sort of man Ole 
was going to be, but he had at least the admirable quality of cheer- 
fulness under all circumstances and an absolute inability to see 
how anybody could be lonesome anywhere, no matter how isolated 
or remote from various things that ordinary people enjoy. This 
I knew from my experience with him on my second expedition 
(spring, 1912). I suppose that those who philosophize on such 
things would say he had "resources within himself" which are lack- 
ing in most of us. 

Captain Bernard, who was going in our support party, was an 
excellent dog driver and one of the best traveling companions I 
have ever had in spite of his fifty-six years. It was largely thanks 
to him that our sledges were in as good condition as they were, 
for among other accomplishments he was an excellent sled maker. 

The last man to be mentioned of those I eventually selected 
for the start out on the ice was Frits Johansen, marine biologist. 
In a sense he was the most important because, in addition to his 
other work, he was expected to make whatever oceanographical or 
biological observations he could. At one time on the support jour- 
ney he got so interested that, contrary to his feelings when he was 
on land, he wanted to continue with us to the limit of our journey. 
But both his own judgment and mine was that the expedition 
could not afford to have him do this, for he had a great deal of 
biological paraphernalia ashore which nobody but he understood 
and of which he alone could make full use — as he eventually did, for 
his scientific results were perhaps the most voluminous of the expe- 

Map Showing Opeirationb of Expejdition, December, 1913 to December, 1914. 



THE third day after I got home everything was ready for the 
journey to Martin Point and thence out on the ice. But now 
nature took a hand. One of the worst gales that any of us 
had ever seen blew up from the southwest. Not only was the wind 
terrific for two or three days, but the temperature was lower, con- 
sidering the wind velocity, than I had previously seen it on the 
mainland of North America (37° below zero F. with a wind we 
estimated at 60 to 80 miles an hour), although I have since seen 
worse weather out on the Canadian islands. This wind delayed 
us for two or three days, at the end of which our caravan started. 
We arrived in two days. 

On the way to Martin Point we saw to seaward black patches 
in the sky, the reflection in the clouds of open water not far off- 
shore. From the information of Eskimos, whalers and our own 
people alike, we knew that for a month or two previous to this 
the ice to an unknown distance from land had been lying quiet 
and fairly level. It must have been unbroken for twenty or thirty 
miles out at least, for no water sky had been seen from shore even 
in the far distance since shortly after Christmas. If we only could 
have started two or three weeks earlier, as had been planned, 
or even a week earlier, we could have made rapid progress away 
from land for the first twenty or thirty miles. This is the most 
critical belt, for the obstructions to travel are usually greater the 
nearer you are to shore. 

Now the prospects did not look good, for the blackness was 
reflected so high in the clouds that it was clear the open water was 
not more than four or five miles from the beach. What we had to 
hope for was a spell of cold and calm weather, giving young ice a 
chance to form over the open stretches out of which the wind had 
blown the old ice, drifting it to seaward. But that was just the 
sort of weather we were not having and did not soon get. The early 
part of the gale had been at a temperature of 37° F. below zero, 
which is extraordinary for a wind of over 80 miles an hour, as 



this was at its maximum. But as the gale proceeded the tempera- 
ture had risen. Now that it was over the weather kept so warm 
that, although the season was still winter, the temperature was 
actually that of spring. At times it came almost up to the freezing 
point. This was pretty serious, for when the ice has some tendency 
to movement, as is usual after a gale, it is not likely to be set fast 
solidly enough for travel by a frost of less than ten or twenty degrees 
below zero. 

On Sunday, March 22, 1914, we made the start out on the ice 
northward from Martin Point. This was about three weeks or a 
month too late. The sun was getting higher every day and spring 
was approaching, when on the ice of the polar sea no man can work 
with safety or comfort. But with the failure of the Karluk behind 
us it was now or never. Neither the Government at Ottawa nor 
the men of our own party would have continued their support had 
we failed to accomplish something that spring of 1914. 

Besides the men of our own party, we had at Martin Point vis- 
itors from the two whaling ships wintering in the vicinity, Heard, 
Mott and Silsbee of the Polar Bear; Baur, Hazo and McKin- 
non of the Belvedere. These were some of the men without whose 
assistance and encouragement we could not have been ready to start 
even then and probably could not have started at all. I remember 
distinctly the warmth of their farewells and good wishes, but my 
recollection of the weather seems less acute, or at least different from 
theirs. Neither my diary nor my memory tells anything of a ter- 
rific gale that was raging, yet Mr. Mott in a magazine article gave 
this account of our departure: "When Stefansson started the ice 
was soft and the weather bad, with a strong wind blowing. It 
was so bad that we felt we couldn't go home that day, although our 
camp was only ten miles away. It was an awful day. The wind 
was howling and the snow was swirling as they pulled out into the 
teeth of the blizzard, and before they had gone fifty yards they were 
out of sight. We fought our way back to our tents, thankful we 
weren't in their places. The next day I wrote in my diary that I 
never wanted to be an explorer, that they earned all the glory and 
all the honor that the world can give them. It is worse than being 
in the trenches." 

This is the point of view of a man who was present when we 
started and who wrote of it later, after going home and serving the 
full American part of a war we were never even to hear of for more 
than a year. Unfortunately, as I believe, for Mr. Mott, the arctic 
blizzards which he encountered had always found him in the vicinity 

-I :,l 





< Z 





of his ship or some Eskimo house into which he could retreat, and 
where in a cozy interior his mind was free to endow the gales out- 
side with the horrors that those of us fail to notice who fight them 
daily as an incident of our work. My weather entry for that day is, 
"Clear, snow drifting, wind N. E. 30°;" which being translated 
means that although the snow was whirling around us enough to 
explain the statement that we soon disappeared from sight, there 
was clear sky to be seen overhead. 

My diary does go into some detail as to equipment. The first 
sled was driven by Captain Bernard with seven dogs and a load of 
1,020 pounds; Wilkins came next with seven dogs and 789 pounds; 
then Castel with five dogs and 644 pounds; and Storkerson last 
with six dogs and 960 pounds. Andreasen and Johansen held them- 
selves ready to assist any of the teams that might get stuck in a 
snowdrift or to right any overturned sled. It was my part to go 
ahead carefully picking a way between the masses of jagged, up- 
turned ice that make the surface of the northern seas in winter not 
the level expanse those may imagine who have seen only lake ice, 
but something between a system of miniature mountain ranges and 
the interior of a granite quarry. 

This first day everything went as well as could be expected. The 
gale of the 17th had broken up badly all the offshore ice beyond the 
six-mile limit, so that at the end of three hours we came to the meet- 
ing line of the land-fast ice and the moving pack. Seal hunters 
from the Belvedere and Polar Bear had assured us that for twenty 
or thirty miles offshore there had been since Christmas no move- 
ment of the ice before the 17th, but now it was an archipelago of 
large ice islands floating in a sea of mush and water and moving 
past us to the east at the rate of half a mile an hour. 

We had some hope of heavy frost that night. Ten or fifteen 
hours of twenty or thirty degrees below zero would, had the wind 
ceased, have solidified everything into ice possible to travel over, 
although scarcely with safety, for the chief danger zone in polar ex- 
ploration is the mush belt where the pack grinds itself into pieces 
against the edge of the land-fast ice. But the temperature in spite 
of calm did not go below zero, and although there was little motion 
in the ice outside of us, the next morning the conditions were by 
no means ideal. By pressure from seaward the ice cakes were 
heaped against each other and against the shore floe, and as the 
season was too late for awaiting more favorable opportunity, we 
struck off on this insecure ice. For about a mile and a half we went 
on, crossing from cake to cake where the corners touched and occa- 


sionally over narrow cracks filled with loose mush ice that bore 
up the dogs and sledges, but compelled the men to lean their weight 
on the handle-bars to prevent themselves from breaking through. 
Even at this, some of them broke through enough to wet their feet. 

Then our progress was stopped not by adverse ice conditions 
but by the most serious and most nearly fatal accident I have 
ever seen in the North. Captain Bernard was still driving the lead- 
ing sled just behind me when we passed over a little ice ridge not 
more than three feet high. From off this ridge on to the level ice 
beyond there was a sheer drop of between two and three feet, which 
is not a serious circumstance ordinarily, so that I did not even look 
around. But Captain Bernard unfortunately had his hands on the 
handle-bars and when the sled dropped failed to let go. By the 
weight of the sled he was pulled forward and fell on his forehead, 
striking the cross-piece between the handle-bars. There was a 
slight outcry, probably from some one else. When I looked around 
Captain Bernard was sitting on the level ice holding one hand to 
his forehead. A moment later he removed his hand, being about to 
stand up, when a flap of his scalp dropped down over his eyes, ex- 
posing the skull and hiding nearly all the face above the mouth. 
He had cut the scalp in an inverted curve from about an inch above 
the outer corner of the left eye to a little outside the outer corner 
of the right eye, the arch of the cut passing up over the entire 

We hastily pitched a tent, took some stitches in the wound, and 
carried the Captain ashore in an empty sled. Two men were at the 
handle-bars to keep it from upsetting and two were at the front end 
to ease it over the rough ice. In spite of this the Captain received 
a great deal of jolting which further increased the bleeding, so that 
by the time we got him ashore his underwear was soaked with blood 
and his boots nearly full of it, while his strength was so diminished 
that he had to be helped into the house. The marvel was that he 
did not once lose consciousness. 

Next morning it appeared both that the Captain's wound would 
probably not prove serious and that we could not in any event do 
him any good by staying, so we started off again. The other men 
had meantime returned to the edge of the land-fast ice where they 
waited for us. It was true misfortune that Captain Bernard could 
not go on with the journey, for he was a good man from all points 
of view and his enthusiasm and cheerfulness were especially valu- 
able. His place was taken by Crawford, and McConnell was taken 
on as an extra man. He had caught up to us on the ice just before 


the accident to Captain Bernard. He had arrived at Collinson Point 
several days after we left there and, although told he could prob- 
ably not catch up, he pluckily started after us, tired as he was from 
the long trip from Barrow. Unfortunately he had no means of 
knowing how badly wc needed the sled he had been using, so he 
left it at pollinson Point for a lighter one with which he pushed 
on to Crawford's camp at the Ulahula mouth. Here Crawford had 
joined him to help him on till he overtook us. The morning of 
March 23 when we had, as we thought, left all communication with 
land behind, he arrived at our camp while we were still asleep to 
give us the Barrow mail and beg for a chance to go along. Later 
it was he who volunteered to take the 14 stitches that were neces- 
sary to close the Captain's wound. And a good job he made of it. 

Once more we were ready and fortune was against us. In an 
ordinary arctic winter the last two weeks of March should have 
an average temperature of twenty or thirty degrees below zero, 
but from the 20th to the 30th of that March we had weather that 
seldom went down to zero and occasionally almost up to the thaw- 
ing point. The ice outside the six-mile wide land floe, which had 
been broken up by the gale of the 17th, was now no longer subject 
to strong currents and was moving very sluggishly. It could have 
been set fast and firm by a single night of good frost. But this 
good frost refused to come. 

Just what moving sea ice is like may interest the general reader. 
A certain amount of ice in winter is frozen fast to the beach, and 
in some cases for a few hundred yards and in other cases several 
miles is grounded solidly upon a shallow bottom. But as you pro- 
ceed away from land you come to what we call the "floe," or place 
where the edge of the shelf frozen fast to the land meets the moving 
pack. When the pack is in rapid motion, as after a severe gale, its 
speed on the north coast of Alaska may be as much as two miles 
an hour, rarely a little more. The ice masses are of all sizes and 
all thicknesses. When a heavy floe moves along the edge of the 
land ice in such a way as to rub against it, we say that the pack is 
"grinding." Sometimes this is a terrific phenomenon. Instead of 
a description of my own, I shall borrow one from the diary of Mc- 
Connell who now saw it for the first time. 

"In the afternoon the Chief and his right-hand man, Mr. Stor- 
kerson, went over to the lead, and when he returned he told Wilkins 
and me that we could see a sight worth seeing by walking over there, 
but not to go too near the edge. It was a magnificent and awe- 
inspiring sight that met our eyes. The whole field on the other side 


was in motion to the eastward and often would come in contact with 
the floe on which we stood. Then the rending and tearing and 
crushing of the floes was almost deafening, and pieces of ice larger 
than an ordinary house would be tumbled about like corks in the 
water. The opposite floe would come tearing along at a speed of 
over a mile an hour, and when it encountered the land-fast ice 
something was sure to happen. Ridges thirty feet high and more 
would be formed one moment, and tumble back into the sea the 
next as the pressure from the moving field was abated. Wilkins 
took my photograph with one of these ridges for a background. 
Then we returned to the tent with the first inkling, on my part at 
least, of the resistless power of the arctic ice in motion because of 
either current or wind. It was a weird and impressive sight. I 
was a little sobered by it." 

The grinding of the fioes against the land-fast ice and against 
each other makes what we call the "mush ice," which may be a soft 
slush or may consist of fragments the size of your fist, the size of 
a kitchen range or of a house. As the floes spin about open patches 
of water of all shapes and sizes will form, to close again when the 
floes continue their revolution. After such a heavy gale as we had 
just had, pieces more than a dozen acres in area are rare in the 
vicinity of land ice, but the farther from land the larger the pieces, 
and fifty miles from shore the hardest gale will leave most of the 
ice still in the form of big, coherent masses, miles in diameter. Nat- 
urally, when the edges of such floes meet, a certain amount of mush 
ice is formed, no matter what the distance from shore. 

It is evident that no camp on sea ice is ever entirely safe. Even 
fifty miles from shore a crack may open in the middle of the floor 
of your snowhouse or tent, though the chances of this decrease with 
the distance from land. The original crack may be several hun- 
dred yards from camp, yet when the two floes begin to grind past 
each other the edges of both tend to break up. The greatest danger 
comes when the ice mass that strikes yours is traveling so that the 
lines of motion of the adjacent floe and of your floe intersect at 
some such small angle as ten to thirty degrees. Huge pieces are 
then torn rapidly off the edges of both floes if they are of similar 
thickness, or off the edge of the weaker. If you happen to be 
camped on the weaker one it behooves you to move quickly. Pieces 
of your floe the size of a city lot will rise on edge and tumble to- 
wards you, and the ice around camp and under will begin to groan 
and buckle and bend. Where it bends little rivers of sea water 
come rushing in, and where it buckles small pressure-ridges form. 


Since the relative speed of the floes can never differ by much more 
than two miles, the rate at which you have to flee is never more 
than two miles an hour and commonly less. Still, if the breaking 
up begins when you are sleeping, the awakening is abrupt and some- 
thing has to be done in a hurry. 

We have learned to make our winter camps so comfortable that 
when on land we always undress at night, and on the sea ice we do 
so whenever the camp site seems to be comparatively safe. One 
important aid to safety is that the tremors of breaking ice and the 
groaning of it are transmitted for miles through ice, where they 
might not be audible at all through the air. A snowhouse is so 
sound-proof that the barking and snarling of fighting dogs outside 
can seldom be heard, but their spurning of the snow and tumbling 
about is plainly audible, especially if you are lying in bed with 
your ear to the ice. This is how we hear dog-fights, which have to 
be promptly stopped. And this is how we hear the approach of a 
bear, for the crunching of snow under his heavy tread can be heard 
through the ice for even a hundred yards in spite of a gale whose 
whistle and hum would make it difficult for men to converse stand- 
ing close to each other out-of-doors. In case of a dog-fight or the 
approach of a bear we commonly enough run out naked, no matter 
what the temperature ; for we find it true in fact as in theory that 
a chilling of the entire body simultaneously produces no ill effects, 
and the fight can be stopped or the bear killed in from thirty sec- 
onds to two minutes. 

But with the breaking up of ice it is different. When we feel 
the quivers of the approaching pressure, or hear the detonations of 
the breaking or the high-pitched squealing as one heavy flat piece 
slides over another, one of us may run outside to spy out the situa- 
tion, but unless his report is most reassuring we dress as quickly 
as firemen upon the ringing of an alarm. Clothes have no buttons 
and shoes no laces, and it isn't long till we are ready to move. The 
sleds are kept loaded except for bedding and cooking gear, and 
these can be rapidly taken from camp and added. Harnessing 
the dogs is also a quick process; each man can harness about two 
dogs per minute. 

In our five years of work on moving ice it has never actually 
happened that we had to flee precipitately except on one occasion, 
when by good fortune our sleds were already loaded. But it has 
often happened during the day's march that a situation quite as 
dangerous, though not so startling, has developed. This is when 
we are traveling across ice that has been grinding and is still under 


pressure, crossing from one cake to another by the corners where 
they touch. If we find ourselves upon a weak cake a few acres in 
area that is surrounded on all sides by stronger cakes, its edges 
crumple up if the pressure is steady, and a ring of ice ridges begins 
to form around. As the pressure continues the ridges get higher 
and the area of our cake gets smaller. It is a rather uncomfortable 
thing to have these ridges marching towards you slowly from all 
sides, with a noise that is anything between a slight rumble and a 
deafening roar, and the ice shivering where you stand. The worst 
thing is that the shivering and the crashing will paralyze the dogs 
with fear and make them worse than useless. This is where we need 
several men for each sled. The thing to do is to select some rather 
low place in one of the advancing ridges where the motion is slower 
and there is a solid floe beyond. To find such a place is difficult, 
more difficult because the weight of the forming ridgQ depresses the 
edge of your floe and causes a moat of sea water to separate it 
from you. 

At twenty or thirty degrees below zero the dogs are even more 
afraid of putting their feet in the water than of putting them upon 
moving pieces of ice. If there are four or five men with two sledges, 
as has been the case in some of our trips, we take the teams one at 
a time and usually have little trouble in dragging dogs and sleds 
over the ridge, for the tumbling motion of the cakes is slow enough 
to cause a sure-footed man no great trouble. When there are only 
three of us there is the advantage of only one sled, with no return 
trips necessary. But there is the disadvantage that with one man 
at the handle-bars to keep it from upsetting, the other two men are 
scarcely stronger than the six dogs, and we should be unable to 
move the sled at all were it not that the scared dogs seldom balk 
in unison, and two or three will be pulling ahead when the others 
are pulling back. In an emergency of this sort the style of harness- 
ing is important, and it is especially here that I favor the tandem 
system where each dog is kept in his place between the two traces. 
In harness such as is used in Nome the dogs have too much freedom 
and are able to turn completely around and face the sled. The fan 
system used in Greenland and which we have used in Victoria Is- 
land is even worse, for there each dog has complete freedom and 
can pull in any direction he likes. 

Breaking ice would mean a greatly complicated danger during 
darkness. For this reason we frequently camp an hour or two ear- 
lier when we come upon an exceptionally firm ice cake that promises 
a night without a break-up, or travel three or four hours longer 


when we fail to discover one firm enough for a campsite. It is for 
this reason too that we do not care to leave land in the beginning of 
our ice journey until after the first part of February in any year, 
for before that the nights are so long that the probability of getting 
into ice pressure during darkness is very high. This danger is not 
so great if your base on land is in some region of sluggish ice move- 
ment, such as northern Prince Patrick Island or Ellef Ringnes Is- 
land or, to judge from his account, Peary's starting point. Cape 
Columbia. But any one beginning a journey from a region of vio- 
lent ice movement, such as the north coast of Alaska where we 
worked, or the northeastern coast of Siberia where Baron Wrangel 
worked nearly a century earlier, is taking serious chances if he 
starts out before the full moon of February. 

Bright moonlight gives most help after sunlight in ice travel, 
but cloudy nights hold danger, and for a reason special to arctic 
latitudes. Sea ice is seldom in reality smooth, but when sun or moon 
is behind clouds it will appear smooth through absence of shadow. 
In the more commonplace latitudes the hole out of which you have 
just pried a stone looks distinctly different from the stone lying 
beside it, no matter what the conditions of light, so long as you 
can see at all. That is because the stone is gray or brown or some 
other shade which differs from the earth walls of the hole. But 
in the frozen sea a boulder of ice and a hole beside it are just about 
the same shade of white or blue, and you cannot see either unless in, 
the relief produced by shadows. Now either sun or moon shining in' 
a clear sky will cast sharp shadows; but neither will do so when 
obscured by clouds, though either may give diffused light enough 
to reveal a man or stone at half a mile or a mountain at twenty 
miles. On the rough sea ice you may on an unshadowed day, with- 
out any warning from the keenest eyes, fall over a chunk of ice 
that is knee high or walk against a cake on edge that rises like the 
wall of a house. Or you may step into a crack that just admits your 
foot or into a hole big enough to be your grave. It is the strain on 
the eyes on such days of diffused light, the attempt to detect almost 
or quite undetectible hindrances, that makes us snowblind in 
cloudy weather more easily than on the most shimmeringly clear 
day. And bad as the cloudy day is the cloudy night is worse. 

In taking the chance of starting on a polar journey late in Janu- 
ary or early in February, the encouraging factor is that your great 
danger zone is a narrow one in the vicinity of land, and if you have 
a period of a week or so of calm and intensely frosty weather it 
may be temporarily quiescent, so that by a sort of dash you may 


be able to get forty or fifty miles offshore before the first gale 
strikes, beyond which distance we consider travel to be reasonably 
safe, no matter how little the daylight. 

In our present case there would have been no wisdom in leav- 
ing the land-fast ice for the mush beyond. For ten days the frost 
had amounted to so little that the mush remained congealed. Light 
snow was also falling now and then, blanketing the weak places, 
not only preventing freezing but disguising the danger spots. It was 
naturally tedious to remain encamped on the edge of the shore floe 
only six miles from the land, especially with spring almost upon 
us and the chances of success diminishing day by day; but there 
was no other sensible thing to do. In the water at the floe's edge 
seals were numerous, and partly to have something to do and partly 
because we knew that our people ashore were a little short of meat 
for dog feed, we killed a number with a view of taking them ashore. 

Now came a day when one of our kerosene tanks sprung a leak. 
We had two, each holding about six gallons, so that the loss of the 
contents of one was more than we could afford. I had intended at 
first that Wilkins should retain his motion picture camera forty or 
fifty miles offshore, thinking he might get some interesting pictures 
of moving ice and possibly of polar bears, but I now concluded that 
time would be so precious if we ever got away from the land floe 
that we could not afford either to stop for pictures or to carry the 
camera itself. So one day about noon I asked Wilkins and Castel 
to make a quick trip ashore, taking back the camera and the leaking 
tank as well as three or four seals, and returning with a sound tank 
full of oil. We had already been over this trail twice, first in 
coming out, then in taking the injured captain ashore, and the 
round trip would under ordinary circumstances have been made in 
about four hours. 

When Wilkins' party left us, the shore could be seen through 
a slight haze and there was a gentle breeze from the southwest. 
Two hours later, when they should have been nearly ashore, there 
were heavy snowflakes falling and the rising wind had in it the prom- 
ise of a gale. It seems that the gale began with them a little sooner 
than it did with us, for I learned later that by the time they got 
ashore it was blowing so hard that they had great trouble in getting 
the dogs to face the wind going up the hundred yards or so to the 
house, and after unhitching them, Wilkins has told me he himself 
had to crawl the distance on his hands and knees. Six hours from 
the time Wilkins and Castel left us we were in one of the worst of 
arctic gales. I have heard that the anemometer at Collinson Point 




a fe 

2 a 

W o 

!zi o 

15 O 

M (u 


P- TO 



fifty miles away registered 86 miles per hour, which may have been 
lower than the wind was, because these instruments tend to clog 
through thickening of their lubricating oil at low temperatures. 
The mild spell of the last few days had been too warm for snow- 
houses, and we were living in tents which, although good as tents 
go, were very unsatisfactory in such weather. 

Although the ice we were on had been frozen to the beach all 
winter and in ordinary weather would have remained so till spring, 
we realized that a piece of it might break off and carry us with it 
out to sea. Andreasen, Crawford, Storkerson and I took turns 
standing watch outdoors, but this was really only a matter of form, 
for the blizzard was so thick that even while there was daylight 
one's eyes could be opened only momentarily, and the howl of the 
gale and the flapping of the tent made it impossible to hear the noise 
of groaning ice which we could have heard easily inside a snowhouse. 

Many gales in the North last for three days, but this one had 
abated by the following morning, and at noon it was practically over. 
At first it did not seem as if anything particular had happened. 
Looking towards shore we could not see the mountains, but this 
was not surprising, for a haze commonly hangs over them for some 
time after a storm. To find out the situation I walked towards 
shore along the sled trail which should have wound in and out among 
grounded pressure-ridges for six miles towards the beach. But it did 
so no longer, for in less than half a mile I came to an expanse of 
open water several miles wide. Clearly the "tide" had risen during 
the gale, as it always does with violent sou'westcrs in this region. 
The field of ice which was ours had first been lifted off the bottom 
and then been broken off from the land floe, and we were afloat on 
it and being carried we did not for the present know where. 

When I got back to camp with this news the air had cleared to- 
wards the land and we could see the mountains. The Endicott 
range to the south had been familiar to Storkerson and me for six 
years. We knew every peak. There was no doubting the evidence 
of our eyes, although it was a little startling to realize that the 
mountains abreast of us were those which had been forty miles to 
the east at noon the previous day when our two companions started 
for shore. From the very slight elevation of the peaks above the 
horizon we judged that instead of being six miles we were now 
twenty miles from the beach. 

This was the second misfortune of a trip which as yet had hardly 
begun. The separation from us of Wilkins and Castel was in its 
effect more serious than the injury to Bernard. They were both ex- 


cellent men, and Castel had been intended as the third man with 
Storkerson and me to make the advance ice trip. But we still had 
good men, so that the most serious blow was that the two had taken 
with them some of the best dogs, one of our two good sleds, and 
some tools and other special equipment that were in a bag per- 
manently attached to the sled. The lack of these tools was for 
months afterwards an inconvenience which amounted to a serious 
handicap, while the loss of the sled compelled an immediate read- 
justment of plans. Of the four sleds we had when we left shore, 
two were very good and two almost worthless. These worthless 
sleds were to have been sent back about fifty miles from shore. 
Now we had only one good sled left. 



BEFORE Wilkins went ashore his sled had of course been 
unloaded and the contents dumped on the ice. With one sled 
less, it was impossible to take along the same amount of 
stuff. The first task was to go through our possessions and discard 
what could most easily be discarded. We threw away some food 
and some spare clothing, and planted a flag on a high ice hummock, 
thinking this cake might drift inshore and be discovered by some 
Eskimo seal hunters or even by Wilkins and Castel. We knew that 
they would make some attempt to rejoin us, but felt that it was sure 
to be futile, for not only was there an expanse of impassable water 
between us and land, but there was no means by which they could 
tell how far east or to seaward we had drifted. 

The second day after the gale we were able to commence travel- 
ing. The ice was under no pressure now, for the storm had blown 
it offshore and had drifted our island against the edge of the pack 
where it had stuck fast. The temperature, to our great distress, 
continued warm — never below zero, Fahrenheit. Still, as there was 
no pressure, the mush solidified enough in two nights to permit 
crossing in several places, although we were able to make only three 
miles the first traveling day. In some cases where the cracks be- 
tween floes were no more than three to five yards wide, we used to 
bridge them by chopping ice for an hour or two with our pickaxes 
and throwing the fragments into the water until their combined 
buoyancy was enough to support the sled during the crossing. And 
the farther from shore we got, the fewer the cracks we had to cross. 

A lead of open water appeared in front of us on April 4th. We 
could have crossed it by using the sled boat, but because in half a 
dozen such crossings the mush ice would have chafed holes in the 
canvas we did not do so. Furthermore, the pack was in motion and 
we expected the lead to close at any time, giving an easy cross- 
ing. So we did no traveling that day. 

To encourage the men, and to demonstrate to them how easy it 
was to make a living at sea, I shot a number of seals and so did 



Storkerson and some of the others. A few animals sank but we re- 
covered six. When there seemed no use in killing more, I oiled the 
barrel of my rifle, as I always do when the temperature is not low, 
put it in its case and strapped the case on a sled. Meantime the 
men had made a bonfire of blubber and cooked some fresh seal 
meat. While we were feasting there was a sudden commotion among 
the dogs, which were still hitched to the sleds, for we expected to 
cross the lead at any moment. The sled with my rifle strapped on it 
was about six feet from the water, the other sleds only a little 
farther away, while the fire over which we were cooking was about 
twenty yards. 

The cause of the barking was a polar bear, the first one that some 
of the men had seen. By the time he arrived the lead had closed 
to a width of not more than five yards and on the very brink of 
it was the bear, pacing up and down, trying to make up his mind to 
plunge in, like a bather reluctant to take a dive into cold water. 
I don't know what it really was made him hesitate. It can hardly 
have been the chill of the water, though he gave distinctly that 
impression. But even while I theorized about his motives and be- 
havior, there came to mind the need for instant action, for some 
of the excited dogs might jump into the water to get at him, 
dragging a sled after them. Were the bear to cross the lead to our 
side the dogs, all tangled in their harness, would doubtless attack 
him. He would probably run away, but there was no certainty of it. 
Clearly he bore no hostility towards them nor had he any fear of 
their barking, or of the shouting of the six men who ran back and 
forth telling each other what to do. 

According to his own account McConnell must have been one of 
the coolest of us, for he said afterwards that he immediately ran for 
his camera, asking us to wait until he got a picture. To get at my 
rifle I had to run around to the side of the sled nearest the lead, and 
while I was unstrapping the case my back was towards the bear 
about five yards from me. Storkerson's rifle was on the sled next 
to mine, and while he was getting it I noticed that I was in direct 
line between him and the bear. He had his rifle first, for it had 
not been lashed to the sled, and seeing that he was likely to fire 
I requested him to be careful to get the bear and not me. There 
was doubtless no likelihood of the mistake, but I thought a word of 
caution wouldn't hurt. When it came the explosion was so close 
to my ear as to leave me partly deaf for some time. The bullet 
struck the bear, of course, and probably surprised him as much 
as it hurt. He was leaning over the water just getting ready to 


dive and was startled into falling on his back in the lead, splashing 
water over me as he fell. The water was perfectly clear and look- 
ing around I saw him going down like a sounding lead, with his 
feet at first uppermost, though he soon straightened out, rose to 
the surface and scrambled up on the far side. As he was strug- 
gling out, Storkerson gave him a second shot and a moment later as 
he was running away a third; but the rifle was only a .30-30 and, 
although he was bleeding profusely, the bear was making off with 
considerable speed. For the further encouragement of the party, to 
prove that no bear could come as close to us as this and get away, 
I thought I had better try the Mannlicher. This shot rolled him 
over and I took the storj'- to be ended. After I had turned away to 
put the rifle back in the case he got unsteadily to his feet and dis- 
appeared behind an ice cake. 

The lead had been gradually closing, and Crawford, with a rifle 
and McConnell with a camera, were able to follow and find him 
about two hundred yards away, trying to cross a second lead. They 
fired several times, but when I got over he had crawled out on the 
ice, so that one more shot was necessary. It is always so when a 
group becomes excited — there is a hullabaloo and a fusillade of 
wasteful shooting. One bullet near the heart does a great deal more 
damage than a dozen badly placed, as many of these were, for some 
were in the paws, some in the neck and some in other fleshy parts. 
An exciting bear hunt may be interesting to read about but it is 
a poor hunt. One properly located Mannlicher bullet is all that 
should be necessary. 

On shore polar bears are ordinarily timid animals, afraid of 
men, and afraid of dogs and wolves. But the behavior of this 
visitor was typical of bears far from shore. There they have no 
enemy to fear. Besides their own kind they are familiar on the ice- 
pack with only three living things — the seals, on which they live, 
the white foxes which they unintentionally provide with food but 
which never come near enough to be caught themselves, and the 
gulls which cry loudly and flutter about them at their meals. Zool- 
ogists know, but it is not commonly realized by the laity, that the 
white fox is almost as much of a sea animal as the polar bear, for 
probably 90 per cent, of white foxes spend their winters on the ice. 
They are not able at sea to provide their own living, so several 
will be found following a bear wherever he goes. When the bear 
kills a seal he eats all he wants, usually from a quarter to half of 
the carcass. In many cases he touches none of the meat, but eats 
merely a portion of the blubber and the skin that goes with it. 


After this satiating meal he probably feels as if he will never care 
to eat again and goes away to sleep under a neighboring hummock 
leaving for the foxes what is left. It is not likely that he will come 
back, but if he did, the foxes would hop and the gulls flutter away. 
From long experience he gets the impression that these creatures 
are not the least bit dangerous, but too elusive to be caught. 

Without doubt the bear is able to tell the difference between a 
living seal and the meat of a dead one when he sniffs them in the 
air. There is always seal meat in our baggage and the smell is 
always about our camp. When a bear passes to leeward he must 
perceive the many camp odors, but the only one which interests him 
is that of the seal meat. Knowing no fear, he comes straight into 
camp, walking leisurely because he does not expect the dead seals 
which he smells to escape him ; neither has he in mind any hostility 
or disposition to attack, for, through long experience with foxes 
and gulls, he expects any living thing he meets to make way for 
him. But if on coming within a hundred or two hundred yards 
of camp he happens to see a sleeping dog, and especially if the dog 
were to move slightly, as is common enough, the bear apparently 
thinks, "Well, that is a live seal, after all!" He then instantly 
makes himself unbelievably flat on the ice, and with neck and snout 
touching the snow advances almost toboggan-fashion toward the 
dogs, stopping dead if one of them moves, and advancing again 
when they become quiet. If there is any unevenness in the ice, as 
there nearly always is in the vicinity of our camps — we choose 
such camping places — he will take cover behind a hummock and 
advance in its shelter. 

Our dogs are always tied, for in the dead of night a good dog 
may be killed or incapacitated in their fights with one another in 
less time than it takes a sleepy man to wake up and interfere. But 
we know the danger from approaching polar bears and endeavor to 
scatter the dogs in such a way that while a bear is approaching one 
dog in an exposed situation, another will get the animal's wind. 
Usually, too, we tie the dogs to windward of the camp, so that the 
bear shall have to pass us before he comes to them. When one dog 
sees or smells the bear he commences barking, and in a second 
every other dog is barking. At once the bear loses interest. He 
apparently thinks, "After all, this is not a seal, but a fox or a gull." 
His mind reverts to the seal meat he has been smelling, he gets 
up from his flat position and resumes his leisurely walk toward the 
camp. By that time, even though we may have been asleep, one of 


us will be out with a rifle, and a properly placed bullet ends the 

When the bear comes as this one did in broad daylight, with the 
dogs awake and the men moving about, he apparently takes the 
dogs and us for a variety of gull, noisier perhaps than any he has 
heard, but no more dangerous. In a party used to bears the men 
stand with guns ready, while the one who is to do the killing sits 
quietly and waits until in his natural zigzag approach the bear 
exposes one side or the other so as to give a chance for the shot 
near the heart. 

When we resumed our journey April 5th we left behind not only 
the bear carcass but most of the killed seals, partly because we could 
not haul them and partly because the time for the return of the 
support party was approaching and we thought they might be able 
to pick up the meat on their way ashore — emphasis is on the 
"might," because we were still so near shore that the ice floes had 
considerable difference of motion and were, besides, spinning on 
their axes. The return party did in due course try to follow the 
trail back towards shore, but proved unable to do so for more than 
a few miles and never saw this meat cache again nor the floe upon 
which it had been made. Just as had been the case with Baron 
Wrangel a century earlier in a similar region north of Siberia, they 
came across their old trails occasionally on the way ashore, but 
found them leading east or west or south as commonly as north, 
because of the floes having spun around during the interval. 

We had reached next day what is known as the edge of the 
Continental Shelf. Up to this point the ocean depth had been in- 
creasing a little more than a fathom to the mile as we went farther 
from land, but here in a mile or two it increased to a hundred and 
fifty fathoms. The soundings had been taken by Mr. Johansen who, 
as marine biologist, also made what investigations he could of the 
sea temperatures at various depths, and of the minute animal and 
plant life of the water. We had found seals in 180 fathoms, killed 
them and hauled them safely up on the ice. This encouraged the 
whole party. 

We still had more food with us than could possibly be hauled 
on the good sled intended for the advance journey. The other two 
sleds were so frail and kept breaking so frequently that the delays 
in repairing them more than cancelled any advantage of their addi- 
tional transporting power. I therefore made up my mind to send 
the support party back at this point. By them I sent instructions 


to Dr. Anderson, the second in command of the expedition. These 
instructions are so important for the understanding of future events 
that a summary of them must be given. 

Before leaving Collinson Point I had, to guard against the pos- 
sibility of our not returning to shore before the ice broke up, left 
with Dr. Anderson certain instructions to cover that eventuality. 
I had also discussed with him, with Storkerson, and with others, 
my plan to proceed to Banks or Prince Patrick Island in case the 
drift of the ice made it necessary, or in case we found we could not 
get satisfactory results on the basis of a return by sled to Alaska. 
There was also the possibility of finding new land — remote, it is 
true, especially because of our late start. If land were found, I 
had expressed my intention to spend a year there. Or, I had said, 
we might go to Prince Patrick or Banks Island, partly because of 
the data to be secured on the way and partly to explore those islands 
during the summertime and to kill deer and dry the meat and skins 
for use as provisions and clothing the coming winter. 

This second letter to Dr. Anderson emphasized the increasing 
possibility that we might go to Banks Island instead of returning 
to Alaska and instructed him more particularly than before as to 
certain things. The main point of both previous and present in- 
structions was that in case of the non-return to Alaska of my party 
in the spring of 1914, he was to assume that we had landed at the 
northwest corner of Banks Island or the southwest corner of Prince 
Patrick Island. He would then find himself in command of the 
vessels in Alaska, of which he was to make the following disposi- 

With the Alaska and as much cargo as she could carry and with 
certain members of the expedition, he was to proceed to the main- 
land shore of Dolphin and Union Straits. In that vicinity he was 
to select a winter base for the southern section of the expedition 
to occupy the coming year and possibly a second year following. 
With the Alaska were to go two oil-burning launches, which I had 
purchased especially for use in surveying river deltas and among 
the hundreds of small islands of Coronation Gulf. 

The Mary Sachs, under Captain Bernard, was to take a cargo 
of goods into the same region, landing them there at the winter 
quarters of the Alaska or at some neighboring point preferred by 
Dr. Anderson. The Mary Sachs was then to return to Herschel 
Island and if the season still allowed, which was probable, take a 
second cargo from there to Cape Kellett at the southwest corner of 
Banks Island; or possibly, if the conditions seemed favorable, up 


the west coast of Banks Island to Norway Island, but not farther. 
In other words, the Sachs was to establish, presumably at Cape 
Kellett but possibly farther north, a permanent base of supplies 
to which any party might retreat in case of shipwreck or other mis- 
fortune farther north, or to which they might return when their 
work farther north had been completed. 

But the most important item was that the North Star, under 
command of Wilkins, was to come as early in the season as she 
could to Banks Island and was to proceed northward along the 
coast with the expectation of possibly meeting us at Norway Island. 
In case she failed to find us or records left by us at Norway Island, 
she was to proceed, if she could, across McClure Strait to Prince 
Patrick Island, on the presumption that we would be waiting her 

The North Star was a vessel especially suited to such plans, first 
of all because she had a single propeller. The twin propellers of the 
Sachs rendered her the least suitable of our three ships for ice 
navigation, good as she was in open water, for being located at the 
sides instead of amidships, these propellers stuck out at such angles 
that they were very likely to be broken off by the ice. This was 
the reason I did not expect the Sachs to go north beyond Kellett 
unless she found the ice conditions especially favorable. But the 
little Star, under her former owner, Captain Matt Andreasen, had 
shown herself the most competent craft that had ever come to this 
part of the Arctic for a certain kind of ice navigation. In the 
spring, when the rivers open and the thaw water begins to flow in 
little and big streams off all parts of the coast, the sea ice is melted 
by this comparatively warm land water, and an open lane is formed 
along the beach, while the heavier grounded ice is still continuous 
along the coast a few hundred yards farther to sea, and the pack 
is still heavy in the offing. With her fifty-two feet length and 
draft of four feet two inches loaded, the Star was able to make 
good progress along this lane when a clumsier boat of deeper draft 
could have made none at all. 

My hope was that in this way the Star would be able to wriggle 
up along the Banks Island coast and get as far north as Norway 
Island early. Of course she could not carry much of a cargo (per- 
haps twenty tons, though Captain Andreasen said he had once car- 
ried twenty-seven), but with our plan of exploration this disadvan- 
tage did not weigh much against her superiority as an ice boat. 
She could bring four or five men and a dog team or two and am- 
munition, with kerosene for our primus stoves and a few things of 


that sort which are convenient to have even under a system of living 
on the country. These she would probably be able to carry much 
farther north than either the Alaska or the Sachs; and in any sys- 
tem of polar exploration a base far north is of paramount impor- 
tance, although not quite as important to us as to those explorers 
who believe in freighting with them on sledge journeys their food 
and fuel. 

I had bought the Star from Captain Andreasen only a short 
while before leaving the Alaska coast, and had planned all along 
to put her under the command of Wilkins, of whom I had already 
formed almost as high an opinion as his later service to the expe- 
dition justified. Although the Arctic is a place of uncertainties 
where schedules can seldom be adhered to, I had thus high hopes 
of meeting Wilkins and the Star in August at northern Banks or 
southern Prince Patrick Island. 

Carrying these instructions to our men ashore the support party, 
Crawford, Johansen, and McConnell, left us at 70° 13' N. latitude 
and 140° 30' W. longitude, on the afternoon of April 7th. They 
had with them for a journey landward of fifty miles full rations for 
thirty-one days for the men and about twenty-five days for the 
dogs. We provided so much more than they needed because we had 
no means of carrying the supplies ourselves, and because we were 
unable to give them a rifle for sealing. With Wilkins' and Castel's 
rifles gone and also the ammunition that had been in the bag at- 
tached to their sled, the advance party needed both of the remaining 
two, for not only was the journey across the ice to the northwest cor- 
ner of Banks Island far too long to make on supplies we could haul, 
but there was hunting to be done in Banks or Prince Patrick Island 
to lay up winter food for the dogs and crew of the Star. It is also 
always possible that one rifle may break, and one other offers by no 
means a large margin of safety when your hunting means your sub- 
sistence. With more mature experience, I would now never make a 
long trip with less than one rifle for each man. We have on some 
trips carried an extra rifle carefully packed away in a heavy case to 
be protected against accidents and reserved for an emergency. 

I have learned from McConnell's diary, a copy of which he 
kindly gave me at the end of the expedition, that the party on their 
way ashore had a good deal of trouble with open water, and with 
high pressure-ridges where it was necessary to build a road with 
pickaxes and where in one case they were able to make good only 
a few hundred yards in a whole day of struggle. On one occasion 
being without a rifle they had something of a fright from three polar 


bears which approached their camp but consented to be scared away. 
After nine marches they reached shore on April 16th, where they 
fell in with Constable Parsons of the Royal Northwest Mounted 
Police, on his way to Herschel Island from a visit to the Belvedere. 
He told them that all the people along the coast, whalers and trap- 
pers and Eskimos alike, had given our party up for dead after the 
gale which carried us off from the shore ice. 

Since that time we have traveled over the ice north of Alaska 
so long and so safely that it now seems curious even to these same 
Eskimos and whalers, as I know from conversation with them, that 
they could in 1914 have had such exaggerated notions of the dangers 
of ice travel. I remember especially one conversation in 1914, 
just before we left the Alaska coast, with Captain Mogg, a whaler 
of more than twenty years' experience, which illustrates the then 
common point of view. The captain told me that one day just about 
Christmas he had gone to the top of Herschel Island, which is about 
five hundred feet high, and had looked to the north without seeing 
any sign of open water or of anything except firm and stationary 
sea ice. The next day when the weather had cleared after a brief 
gale he had gone to the top of the island and had seen a belt of ice 
about a mile wide still clinging to the shore and beyond that open 
ocean, the pack having "gone abroad" before the gale. After a 
dramatic recital Captain Mogg turned to me and said, "Supposing, 
with your scientific notions, you had been off on that ice the 
day before when the gale struck — where in hell would you have been 
then?" It was obvious that Captain Mogg supposed I would have 
been at the sea bottom. It did not occur to him that a cake of ice 
may be a very seaworthy craft, and that when you are floating 
away on a large one you may have no more evidence that you are 
moving than do the people who sleep peacefully at night on shore 
while the earth is spinning on its axis. 



THE support party turned towards land at about the most 
northerly point ever reached by ships in this region in sum- 
mer. In winter no human beings of any race had been nearly 
so far from the Alaska coast at this longitude. We were three men 
alone on the edge of the unknown. To that extent the situation had 
been duplicated before. Nansen and Johansen had been only two. 
But they were using a tried method — they had food to carry them 
nearly or quite to land, and would begin to live by hunting only as 
the journey approached its end. But we were facing the unknown 
part of the arctic sea with a method not only untried, but disbelieved 
in by all but ourselves. My companions went about their work, 
quietly, but I know they felt no less than I our dramatic position. 
Were there animals in abundance waiting in the "polar ocean with- 
out life"? Upon the answer depended not onl^ our lives and our 
success, but a new view of the world we live in. 

Since the days before Magellan when men of equal standing could 
argue about whether the world was flat or round there has been no 
more fundamental geographic issue than the one we were about to 
resolve: is the arctic region barren and in its nature hostile to life; 
or is it hostile merely to life of a southern type and to men who live 
like southerners, and friendly to any man or animal that will meet 
the North on its own terms? We were staking our lives on the right- 
ness of the unpopular side of this controversy. But we did not think 
our lives were in serious danger, and so our resolve was not quite so 
heroic as it sounds at first. Though Columbus had both numbers 
and authorities against him, I doubt he ever lost much sleep for fear 
of his ship plunging in the night over the western edge of a flat 

Contrary to custom in polar narrative, we have so far said little 
about a traveling outfit. This difference in narrative corresponds to 
a difference in method. Other arctic explorers have relied for sub- 
sistence exclusively or mainly on what they brought with them 
when we relied mainly upon the resources of the country to be 
traversed. Also there is little point in telling just what we took at 



the start, when some of it was lost early, some had to be thrown 
away, and some had to be sent back. 

When the support party left us we had an outfit that was to 
last a year and a half in case of necessity; for at the beginning of 
a trip we always expect that in addition to the immediate summer 
for which the outfit is designed, we may have to spend the coming 
winter in some uninhabited region, and again need it to take us to 
some inhabited place the second spring. 

The final party who were going North into the unknown to seek 
new information, to find new lands if there should be any, and to try 
out a new theory of polar exploration were Storker Storkerson, Ole 
Andreasen and myself. 

The final outfit consisted of six dogs, the most powerful that 
we could get and four of them the best dogs I have ever used, and 
a load of 1,236 pounds on a 208-pound sled, which meant that each 
dog was hauling 240 pounds. In my diary for April 7th I say 
that we had full rations for men for about thirty days and dog 
feed for about forty days. In a way this food was the least im- 
portant part of our load, for our theory of outfitting is that the 
essentials are rifles, ammunition and other hunting gear, the scien- 
tific instruments, cameras and photographic supplies, diaries, spare 
clothing, bedding and cooking utensils. After these we take on as 
much food and fuel as can be hauled without making the load too 
heavy. Hauling fuel is more important than hauling food, and the 
kind of fuel more important than the kind of food. Better kero- 
sene burnt in a blue-flame stove than seal blubber burnt by any 
method we have so far devised, whereas the choice of the most delect- 
able food over seal or caribou meat is negligible to our comfort. 
A primus stove cooks more rapidly than a seal-oil lamp and is 
more cleanly than an outdoor fire of seal blubber. But we had lost 
half our twelve gallons of fuel with Wilkins, and kerosene was des- 
tined to give out sooner than food. 

As a hunting outfit we had one Gibbs-Mannlicher-Schoenauer 
6.5 millimeter rifle with 170 rounds of ammunition, and one Win- 
chester .30-30 carbine with 160 rounds. 

As scientific equipment we carried two sextants with the neces- 
sary tables for computing latitude and longitude, two thermometers, 
aneroid barometer, several prismatic compasses, a sounding ma- 
chine with several leads and about 10,000 feet of wire. The time 
for determining longitude was carried by an ordinary watch and by 
a Waltham astronomical watch. The dial of this Waltham watch 
was numbered to twenty-four hours instead of twelve, a great con- 


venience and almost necessity because in summer when the sun 
never sets and when at times there is thick, foggy weather for many 
days in succession, it is often a matter of doubt, if you carry an 
ordinary watch, whether it shows twelve o'clock midnight or twelve 
o'clock noon. One may think that only extraordinary carelessness 
would make you lose track of time so far that you are in doubt 
which of the twelve-hour periods you are in, but it happens fre- 
quently. Under special conditions we may travel fifteen or twenty 
hours continuously, at times through the most exhausting kind of 
going. At the end of this you may happen to get a blizzard which 
induces you to rest in camp a while, free to sleep as long as you 
need or desire. Where there is no darkness one's irregularity of 
habits becomes extraordinary. We may not feel any special in- 
convenience from staying awake twenty or thirty hours, and we are 
equally likely to sleep for fifteen or eighteen hours. More than 
once it has happened that we could argue as to whether we were 
breakfasting in the morning or in the evening. But it never has 
happened that we have slept so far beyond the twenty-four hours 
recorded by the Waltham astronomical as to be in doubt of the time 
it records. 

The first day after the support party left us we were able to 
travel only a few hundred yards before being stopped by open water, 
and as we had to stop, anyhow, I killed a seal that had stuck his 
head up through some half-frozen mush. He was within reach 
of my manak, but I could not pull him in because the forming 
young ice offered too much resistance. The temperature at 8 o'clock 
that evening was 11° F. but falling, and at that frost we thought 
the mush might harden enough so that in the morning by the use 
of skis we could walk out and get him. But our warm period 
was not yet over and the temperature rose again. 

Now that I have mentioned skis I might say something about 
their usefulness in polar work. I have heard one explorer say that 
they are better than snowshoes because it is easier to kill dogs with 
them. This advantage never appealed to us, since we never had 
any dogs to be killed and have further found that with a good 
dog kindness works better than a whip. I can not remember the 
time when I did not know how to walk on skis, and as a boy there 
was no sport I enjoyed so much as sliding down hill on them. But 
I have never found them of any particular use in polar work except 
in restricted areas. Amundsen used them around King William 
Island and quite properly, for there the ice is level, as it is at 
Coronation Gulf and at many other points where the sea is shielded 


by one or another of the islands of the Arctic Archipelago. They 
are probably well adapted, too, to the level expanses of the Ant- 
arctic continent. Where the ice is smooth or the land fiat, skis are 
useful, especially before a fair wind when one can glide almost 
without effort and at a higher speed than is attainable on snow- 
shoes. But such places are rare in the areas we have had to explore. 
Among the jaggedly broken ice of the open ocean skis are almost 
as much out of place as in a thick forest. We would not carry them 
at all except that they are useful in constructing the frame of our 
sled boat, a process to be described later. For this purpose we al- 
ways have a pair or two along, and on rare occasions use them to 
walk on. On this trip my companions were both Norwegians and 
habituated to skis, yet none of us thought of using them. I am 
now of the opinion, however, that late in the spring after the snow 
begins thawing in the daytime and freezing with a hard crust at 
night, it might be advisable to use them occasionally where the ice 
is less rough. The hunting snowshoe of one of several Indian models 
is a ver\' useful thing in any except the roughest ice. The type 
used by the Eskimos on the north coast of Alaska — with a length 
of between three and four feet and a greatest width of about ten 
inches — is the most convenient. 

By the beginning of the present ice trip both Storkerson and I 
had spent over five years with the Eskimos of northern Canada and 
Alaska, dressing as they did and making camp after their fashion. 
It is therefore probable that few arctic explorers have been quite 
as familiar as we with the technique of comfort. A classic fea- 
ture of the popular polar narrative is the discomfort of life in 
camp, but this can never truthfully mark any of our stories. We 
had an important advantage over even such masters of arctic tech- 
nique as Peary in the difference of our theory of fuel supply and 
the consequent temperature of our camps. Peary's parties depended 
on alcohol or kerosene in limited quantity, which they hoarded, 
knowing that on the polar ice there are no stores or oil supply sta- 
tions. And they were always on strict fuel rations. The cooking 
apparatus was specially designed to concentrate all the heat against 
the bottom of the cooking pot, allowing as little as possible to es- 
cape into the body of the snowhouse or tent. When the pot came to 
a boil the fire was instantly extinguished. This was certainly nec- 
essary if the fuel was to last the whole journey. But with us there 
are supply stations wherever we go. Our cooking apparatus is not 
designed to conserve heat, for we want heat to spread and when the 
cooking is done we do not extinguish the fire until the house is as 


warm as we care to have it. Then if the camp gets a little too cool 
we light it again. Whenever the kerosene we leave home with 
gives out a seal will supply us with blubber; and that blubber we 
burn freely because we know there is another seal to be had where 
the last one came from. 

One result of this comfortable life is that our diary entries are 
voluminous on days of idleness. We use fountain pens, and sit 
lightly clad while we write of everything seen or thought of since the 
last preceding idle day. April 8th was such a day. The lead that 
had stopped us the day before had indeed closed, but when we 
crossed it we were able to travel for a mile only before we were 
stopped by another lead and had to make camp. After supper had 
been cooked and the dogs fed, I noted in my diary that for the fifty 
miles since leaving shore we had never seen a cake of ice of a 
probable area of over ten square miles, and most had been only a 
few acres in extent. As they were in sluggish motion a great deal 
of open water was visible between, and in this water there com- 
monly had been seals. 

We had seen very little ice more than a year old. We have 
already pointed out that ice which has weathered one or more sum- 
mers is easy to distinguish from that of the current winter by sight 
and by taste. When sea ice forms it is salty, although perhaps not 
quite so salty as the water from which it is made, and probably 
during the winter it loses a certain amount of its salt, although 
even in April or May ice formed the previous October is still too 
salty for ordinary cooking uses. But in June and July when rains 
begin and snow melts and little rivulets trickle here and there over 
the ice, forming in the latter part of summer a network of lakes con- 
nected by channels of sluggishly flowing water, the saltiness dis- 
appears, or at least that degree of it which is perceptible to the 
palate, and the following year this ice is the potential source of the 
purest possible cooking or drinking water. The ponds on top of 
the ice are also fresh. During the melting of summer the pressure- 
ridges and the projecting snags of broken ice change in outline. 
When the ice has been freshly broken it may well be compared with 
the masses of rock in a granite quarry just after the blast, or if it is 
thinner, with the broken-bottle glass on top of an English stone 
wall. But during the summer all the sharp outlines are softened on 
the pressure-ridges, so that at the end of the first summer they are 
no more jagged than a typical mountain range, and at the end of 
two or three years they resemble the rolling hills of a western 
prairie. The old ice is easily recognizable at a distance by its out- 


line and on closer approach by the fact that the hummocks are 
frequently glare. That can never be the case with salty ice, which 
is sticky and therefore always has snow adhering to it. Being 
glare, the old ice gives poor footing for men and dogs, yet we com- 
monly prefer it as being smoother. It is not really smooth, but like 
rolling hills from which the angles of youth have been smoothed 
by weathering. Young ice is frequently heaped up in indescribable 
confusion, the jagged ridges of it sometimes fifty or sixty feet above 
water level and occasionally so rough that an unharnessed dog is 
unable to make his way over it. When we come to such ridges we 
have to make a road with pickaxes and progress is occasionally less 
than a hundred yards per hour. We had had a large number on the 
way from shore, but they were already getting noticeably fewer, 
lower, and less difficult to traverse. 

April 9th we could make only two miles northing, being com- 
pelled to camp by a rising gale. For an hour the wind had been in- 
creasing from the southwest, with the snowflakes falling more 
thickly, when we decided to pick a camp site. We chose it in the 
lee of a ridge about thirty feet high giving a degree of shelter, but 
when we were about to pitch the tent Andreasen (whom we always 
called Ole, and shall in this book hereafter) noticed a crack in the 
ice. This raised the question of whether the ice was more likely 
to break in the vicinity of the ridge than farther away. Finally, 
we decided on an unsheltered, level ice area, pitched the tent and 
built a snow wall to windward to break the force of the gale. The 
event showed we probably owed our lives to Ole's having noticed 
the tiny ice crack and so prevented our camping in the lee of the 

The gale proved to be the worst I have ever seen at sea.* Al- 
though the windbreak was built so high that only the top of the tent 
projected above it, the flapping of the Burberry was so loud and 
the hum of the breaking ice so continuous, that when in the even- 
ing Storkerson went out to stand watch we in the tent were unable 
to hear him though he shouted his loudest. When he came in again 
to know why his shouts had not been answered I decided that 
there was no point in standing guard and we all lay down and tried 
to sleep. 

We knew well that the ice was breaking up around us and we 

*The support party, according to McConnell's diary, were compelled to 
camp by this same gale. "Sleet alternated with snow, and soon the dogs 
were covered with ice," writes McConnell; "as for ourselves, our parkas soon 
became suits of icy mail." 


knew what the process was like. Here and there the six-foot 
ice was separating into pieces. A ridge of these pieces might be 
marching towards us, with a movement which all of us could picture 
clearly, but which is best described for those who have not seen it 
by the analogy of a few pounds of domino sugar dumped on a table 
and then moved by pushing the whole heap slowly with the hand. 
If you were to remember the height of each domino of sugar in 
comparison with a bread crumb, you would realize the size of the 
ice cakes in comparison with our tent and ourselves, and you could 
gather what would take place in the path of that moving ridge. 
It does sometimes happen that a piece of ice as high as fifty feet 
rises during the course of ten minutes until it stands perpendicular; 
a moment later, when pushed just beyond the perpendicular, it 
breaks near the water line and falls over. If such a cake had top- 
pled upon our tent, we would have been crushed like flies between 
two boards. A realization of it kept us awake into the night. But 
more clearly than the danger of lying quietly in the tent we realized 
the greater danger of trying to do anything. To have gone outside 
and groped about in the impenetrable darkness, where the snow 
was flying so thick that one's eyes could be opened only to be filled 
with it, would have been to walk into trouble rather than out. We 
had picked in the evening what looked to us like the safest spot 
and sensibly chose to abide by that decision. 

We wished the poets and magazinists who write about ''The 
eternal silence of the Frozen North" might have been with us in the 
bedlam of that night. It cannot be properly said that we heard 
the noise of the breaking ice. We knew it would have been a roar 
if only the shrieking of the gale and the flapping of the tent could 
have been stilled a moment, and we felt it, by the almost continuous 
shivering of our ice floor and the occasional jar from the toppling 
cakes. But one gets used to danger and one gets tired of staying 
scared, and before one o'clock all of us were asleep, though perhaps 
not soundly. About five in the morning the gale had lessened enough 
for me to be awakened by a dog's howling, which would have been 
inaudible an hour or two earlier. Storkerson, going outside, was 
able to see a distance of ten or fifteen yards. The trouble with the 
dog was that he had been tied in such a way that he was about to 
be dragged by the rope into the water of a crack that was slowly 
opening. Storkerson untied him and came in to tell us that a pres- 
sure-ridge about fifteen feet high had formed twenty-five feet from 
the back of our tent. I found later that this ridge was, as was 
natural, composed of huge cakes of ice, the fall of any one of which 


upon the tent would have brought our careers to an abrupt ending. 
The tracks of a bear in the snow showed that a large male had come 
in the blizzard within fifteen feet of us and within five feet of the 
dogs. We certainly knew nothing of his visit; it is probable that the 
dogs knew nothing of it, either, and it is not certain that the bear 
realized our proximity. 

A striking proof of the degree to which the ice had telescoped 
during the night was in a bear trail which we had crossed about a 
mile before camping and which now was only about three hundred 
yards away. 



ONE effect of the gale of April 9th was that the ice which be- 
fore had been comparatively level was now a chaos of ridges. 
But the snow which had been falling for several days and 
was soft and deep when the gale commenced, was now beaten so 
hard that our feet left little impression. This was an advantage 
nearly compensating for the roughness of the ice. But a blessing 
beyond price was the clearing of the air and the beginning of a 
period of cold weather and northwesterly light airs which was 
destined to last for about two weeks. Instead of nondescript 
weather of ten or twenty above zero, we now had propitious cold 
of fifteen to thirty degrees below. 

Ice motion was a natural tendency for a day or two after the 
gale, but by the 11th the firm frost had bound the floes together. 
On April 11th we made thirteen miles and for several days a little 
better mileage each day ; for the cold weather held and the ice grew 
smoother as we went farther from shore until at a distance of over 
a hundred miles we began to make twenty or twenty-five miles per 
day. On April 13th and 14th we crossed huge floes of glare ice. 
As this was evidently ice of the present year and as no new salty 
ice is ever glare, these floes must have been formed in the fresh 
water off the mouth of the Mackenzie River, and broken loose and 
drifted a hundred miles to the northwest. 

Although the ice was in the main frozen solid, we found open 
water every ten or fifteen miles. The leads were commonly running 
east and west and were of uneven width. Frequently they were as 
much as half a mile wide at the point where we struck them, but by 
following them a mile or two in one direction or the other we usually 
came to a place where a peninsula out from our floe met a similar 
one from the opposite floe and thus gave a chance to cross. We 
took soundings in most of these leads but were never able to get 
bottom with the amount of wire we had, so we are able to say only 
that the depth was in excess of 4,500 feet (1,386 meters). We had 
had more wire than this when we left shore, but we had been break- 
ing and losing it at the various soundings. 



In outfitting our expedition we had sought advice from many 
authorities in oceanography as to the desirable sort of sounding 
wire, and this advice ranged all the way from the people who lay 
ocean cables and favor single strand piano wire, to that of Dr. 
W. S. Bruce of the Scottish Oceanographical Laboratory, who ad- 
vised 9-strand braided copper wire. I had followed the advice of 
Dr. Bruce and provided the expedition with a large amount of 
9-strand wire, and I had also taken the advice of the cable com- 
panies and bought a considerable amount of piano wire. But most 
of the soundings were to have been done by the Karluk and the ex- 
ploratory parties outfitted from her, so she had carried all the 
braided wire and this was now lost. As fortune would have it, Mr. 
Leffingwell at Flaxman Island had been able to give me 911 meters 
of braided wire. At Collinson Point we had got piano wire which 
proved so worthless that whenever we sounded with it we lost the 
lead and a piece of the wire. The bottom of the deep sea is covered 
with a sticky ooze into which the lead sinks, so that a considerable 
strain must be put upon the wire to release it after sounding. We 
had carried six sounding leads at the start, but by April 15th we had 
only two leads left, one of six pounds and another of twelve, and 
had lost several miles of piano wire. We are therefore able to add 
our testimony to the experience of Dr. Bruce that any one who 
expects to sound repeatedly with the same wire will do well to use 
the strongest. We used for five years and for several hundred sound- 
ings the braided wire secured from Mr. Lefiingwell without once los- 
ing a lead or sustaining an accident. 

Whether we were destined to find seals in the deep water off- 
shore with the weight of all polar authority against it and the opin- 
ion of the Alaska whalers and the coast Eskimos equally against it, 
had always been the question in Alaska. Now it was natural that 
we should watch closely for signs of seals. Here it stood us in good 
stead that we had for years been in the habit of doing our own hunt- 
ing. A man inexperienced in woodcraft may walk through a forest 
without seeing any signs of the presence of moose, though these 
signs will be patent to the hunter or guide who knows the woods and 
the ways of animals. So a man who does not realize the presence of 
seals unless he sees their heads bobbing about in the water of an 
open lead, might make a long journey over the polar ice and still 
retain his original conviction that food animals are absent. But 
there may be on the sea ice inconspicuous signs of seals as clear in 
their meaning when once noted as bear tracks in the snow. 

Ice formed this year is easily distinguished from ice that is two 


or more years old. Seals are seldom found under ice more than a 
year old. Of this year's ice much has been crushed into ridges 
where no seal can live, but here and there are level patches, partly 
covered with snow, but with the surface visible in rare spots where 
the wind has blown the snow away. If in a day's journey you keep 
your eyes carefully on every patch you pass, you will, if there are 
seals in the region, see now and then a scar on the ice. The previ- 
ous autumn when this young ice first formed and while it was still 
mushy, a seal has shoved its head up through to breathe. In doing 
this he has made not only a hole six to ten inches in diameter, but 
has come up so suddenly that he has scattered fragments of two 
or three-inch ice for a foot or two around the hole. Months after- 
wards the outlines of the hole can still be faintly seen, but more 
easily discernible are the little pieces of ice in an irregular circle 
around it. 

Food was still in our sled and our main concern was speed. We 
never had much time to stop at a lead to watch for seals, and when 
we did stop we never saw any. But every day or two we saw one 
or more of these scars in the ice, showing that the seals had been 
there the previous September or October, and if seals were there in 
September we felt certain they would still be there in April. And so 
we pushed ahead with increased confidence in a theory the logic of 
which had seemed to me conclusive from the beginning. 

On April 15, 1914, I built the first snowhouse I ever tried to 
build myself, although as far back as 1907 I described in Harper's 
Magazine just how it could and should be done. A midwinter jour- 
ney through the Mackenzie delta (1906-7) had provided opportu- 
nity for me to see and assist for the first time at the building of a 
snowhouse. The assistance happened to be confined to carrying the 
blocks from where they had been cut to where the house was being 
built, but I was free to observe and analyze every process that went 
to the making of the finished house. The principles appeared so 
simple that, in spite of having read in various arctic books that 
their construction is a racial gift with the Eskimos and a mystery in- 
soluble to white men, I never from that moment had any doubt 
that I could build a snowhouse whenever I should want to. On my 
expedition of 1908-12 we often used snowhouses but only in the 
Coronation Gulf district, where they were always built for us by 
the hospitable Copper Eskimos, who never allowed a visitor at 
their own camps to lift a hand to the building of his own house. 

Apart from that one year my companions on my second expe- 
dition had been exclusively Alaskan Eskimos. These people had 


never known how to build ^snowhouses in their own country. When 
they came east from Ahiska into Canada they came as passengers 
with whaling ships, and from the whalers or from their own tradi- 
tions they had a prejudice both against the eastern Eskimos and 
against the snowhouse, which is their characteristic habitation in 
winter. As a result I have never known but one Eskimo from 
Alaska who, while residing in the Mackenzie district, learned to 
build snowhouses. And in spite of the undoubted comfort of these 
dwellings they have now gone thoroughly out of fashion in the 
Mackenzie district, so that it is only the older men who were 
mature before the coming of the whalers in 1889 who are expert at 
building them. The winter of 1917-18 I built a snowhouse at 
Herschel Island at the instance of my friend, Inspector Phillips, 
of the Roj'al Northwest Mounted Police, who, although he had 
been stationed at Herschel Island for several years, had never seen 
one. The curious thing was that the Herschel Island Eskimos 
gathered about to watch with rather more interest than the white 
men of the place. The younger Eskimos came because they had 
not before seen a snowhouse built; the older ones because it struck 
them as extraordinary not only that a white man should know how 
to build a snowhouse at all, but that he should demean himself by 
using so unfashionable a dwelling. 

The reason no snowhouses had been built on our ice journey 
before April 15th was the warm weather of which we have com- 
plained. Then when the cold weather came we were eager to travel 
every moment, and the pitching of a tent is undeniably quicker 
than the building of a snowhouse, especially when the men are inex- 
perienced. But on the evening of the 14th I had a slight touch 
of snow-blindness, and that night a lead obligingly opened just 
ahead of our camp, giving an additional reason for not traveling 
the next day. This provided the long-wanted opportunity for 
putting my snowhouse-building theories into practice, and in three 
hours we built a dwelling nine feet in diameter and six feet high, 
inside measure. It was as well built as any of the hundreds I have 
built since, with this difference, that the three of us could now put 
up a house the same size in about forty-five minutes. 

As a preliminary to the building of a house we find a snowbank 
that is of the right depth and consistency. With our soft deerskin 
boots we walk around on the drift, and if we see faint imprints of 
our feet but nowhere break through, we assume provisionally that 
the drift is a suitable one, but examine it further by probing with 
a rod similar to a very slender cane. When the right bank has 


been found we get out our sixteen-inch butcher knives or twenty- 
inch machetes and cut the snow into domino-shaped blocks about 
four inches thick, fifteen to twenty inches wide and twenty to 
thirty-five inches long. These blocks, according to their size and 
the density of the snow, will weigh from fifty to a hundred pounds, 
and must be strong enough to stand not only their own weight when 
propped up on edge or carried around, but if they are intended 
for the lower tiers of the house, must be capable of supporting the 
weight of three to five hundred pounds of other blocks resting upon 

The house itself is built preferably on a level part of the drift 
where the snow is three or more feet deep. The first block is set 
on edge as a domino might be on a table, but with your knife you 
slightly undercut the inner edge so as to make the block lean in- 
ward at a very slight angle if the house is to be a big one, or at a 
considerable angle if it is to be a small one. If, to use the lan- 
guage of physics, you want to lean the block over enough to bring 
the line of the center of gravity outside the base, this can be 
done by putting up a second block at the same time and propping 
one against the other. But this is never done in actual practice, 
for a house so small as to necessitate it would be too small for 
human habitation. 

The oval or circle that is to be the ground plan may be deter- 
mined by eye as the builder sets up the blocks one after the other; 
but in practice I make an outline with a string with pegs at either 
end, one peg planted where the center of the house is to be and 
the other used to describe the circumference, somewhat as a school- 
boy may use two pencils and a string to make a circle on a piece 
of paper. I find that even the best of snowhouse builders, Eskimo 
or white, if they rely on the eye alone, will now and then err in 
the size of the house, making it uncomfortably small or unneces- 
sarily large for the intended number of occupants. But with a 
string a simple mathematical calculation always tells how many 
feet of radius will accommodate the intended number of lodgers. 

It will be seen by the photographs that when you once have your 
first block standing on edge, it is a simple matter to prop all the 
other blocks up by leaning one against the other. The nature of 
snow is such that when a block has been standing on a snowbank 
or leaning on another block for five or ten minutes in frosty weather, 
it is cemented to the other blocks and to the snow below at all 
points of contact and can be moved only by exerting force enough 
to break it. 



O H 



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n a 

W W 


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When the first tier has been completed the second can be begun 
in any of several ways. The simplest is to select any point in the 
circle formed by your first tier, and from the top edge of one of the 
blocks make a diagonal cut downward to the bottom edge of the 
far corner of the same block, or of the second or third block. In 
the niche thus formed you place the first block of the second tier, its 
end abutting on the last block of the ground tier. After that you 
lean the second block of the second tier against the first block of 
the second tier, and so on, building up spirally. The blocks of 
each tier must be inclined inward at a greater angle than those 
of the tier below and at a less angle than those of the tier above. 
In other words, what you are trying to do is to build an approxi- 
mately perfect dome. 

By the simple experiment of propping two books of the same 
size against each other on a table, it will be found that they cannot 
fall unless they slide past each other where they meet at the cor- 
ners, or slip on the table. But snow is so sticky that these blocks 
do not slip, and we cut the corners in such a way that they meet 
with even faces and do not tend to slide past each other any more 
than do blocks in a masonry dome. Building with snow blocks is 
far simpler than building with masonry, for stone is an intractable 
substance and has to be shaped according to a mathematical calcu- 
lation or moulded in an exact form before it is put in its intended 
position; but snow being a most tractable substance, such fore- 
thought becomes unnecessary. We place the block in its approxi- 
mate position in the wall and then lean it gradually against the 
block that next preceded it, and, by the method of trial and error, 
continually snip off piece after piece until the block settles com- 
fortably into the position where it belongs. A glance at the photo- 
graphs, especially the ones illustrating thj latter steps in the build- 
ing, shows that the blocks cannot possibly fall unless they first 

It becomes evident that with photographs and a description 
and possibly, for surety's sake, a diagram or two in addition, the 
building of snowhouses could be taught by correspondence to boys 
in any place on earth where the winters are cold enough and the 
winds strong enough to form hard snowdrifts that last for several 
days or weeks. It is therefore curious that the building of snow- 
houses has until just lately been considered a sort of mystery. 
Antarctic explorers, like Shackleton, have realized the superior 
comfort of the snowhouse but have used tents, explaining the ap- 
parent inconsistency by saying, "There are no Eskimos in the 


Antarctic whom we could hire, as did Peary, to make snowhouses 
for us." Sir Leopold McClintock was one of the first, if not the 
first, of polar explorers to point out that snowhouses are so com- 
fortable that their use would make arctic exploration a simpler, 
safer and pleasanter occupation; but he went on to say that unfor- 
tunately white men cannot make them, and that he himself did 
the next best thing by erecting vertical walls of snow and roofing 
them over with a tarpaulin. He comments on the inferiority of 
this dwelling to the real snowhouses, but insists that it is greatly 
superior to the regulation tent. While it is odd that McClintock 
should be so far behind the Eskimos with whom he associated, 
in that he could not build the houses which they built with ease, 
it is also notable that so far as white men were concerned, he was 
a generation ahead of his time in realizing their value. Any one 
who tries it will agree with him that snow walls with a tarpaulin 
roof make a much better camp than the silk tents used by most 
explorers down to the present time. 

Following the idea that while snowhouses are excellent camps 
they are a sort of racial property of the Eskimos, Charles Francis 
Hall was comfortable in them as a guest of the Eskimos but never 
learned how to build one. The like was true of Schwatka and 
Gilder and later of Hanbury. Peary used them for years as built 
for him by the Eskimos, but it does not appear to have occurred 
to him to learn to build one. So it was curiously reserved for us 
to be the first explorers to build our own snowhouses for field use.* 
We have found by experience that an ordinarily adaptable man 
can learn snowhouse-building in a day. 

If four men cooperate in the building of a snowhouse, one 
usually cuts the blocks, a second carries them, a third is inside build- 
ing, and the fourth follows the builder around and chinks in all the 
crevices between the blocks with soft snow. In ten minutes the 
soft snow in the crevices has become harder than the blocks them- 
selves, so that the house, although fragile in process, is moderately 
strong within half an hour. 

When the snow dome has been otherwise finished, a tunnel is 
dug through the drift into the house, giving a sort of trap door 
entrance through the floor. Most Eskimos, failing to understand 
certain principles of thermodynamics, use a door in the side of the 

* So far as I know, the first explorer who took steps to have his men learn 
snowhouse building was Amundsen at King William Island. Two of his men 
took lessons one or two days, but the expedition does not seem later to have 
made use of whatever skill they acquired. 


house. But it is obvious that if a door in the wall is open and if 
the interior of the house is being artificially heated, then warm air 
being lighter than cold, there will be a continual current of heated 
air going out through the upper half of the doorway, and a cold 
current from outside entering along the floor. If the door is on a 
level with the floor or a little below it, the warm air from the house 
cannot go out through the door, even with the door open, because 
warm air has no inclination except that of rising. Similarly cold 
air cannot come in through the door in the floor so long as the house 
above is filled with warmer air, for two bodies cannot occupy the 
same space at the same time. It is accordingly never necessary to 
close a door the top of which is on a level with the floor of the 
house or lower, and we leave our doors always open. In heating 
the house, whether by blue-flame kerosene stove, seal-oil lamp, or 
the bodies and breathing of people, poisons accumulate and venti- 
lation becomes necessary. So we have a ventilating hole in the 
roof, depending in diameter on conditions of external temperature, 
abundance of fuel and on whether people are awake or asleep. 
The cold fresh air from outside then wells up from the door below 
into the house as fast as and no faster than is necessary to replace 
the hot air passing out of the ventilator at the top. 

When the tunnel and door have been excavated, the bedding is 
passed into the house, and a layer of deerskins with the hair down 
is spread to cover the entire floor except just where the cooking is 
to be done. Over this layer we spread another layer of skins with 
the hair up. The reason for the double insulation is that the 
interior of the house is going to be warmer presently and people 
are going to sit around on the floor and later are going to sleep 
on it, and if the insulation were not practically perfect, the heat 
from the cooking and from the bodies of the sleepers would pene- 
trate through the bedding to the snow underneath, and by melting 
it would make the bedclothes wet. When the temperature of the 
weather outside, and consequently of the snow inside, is zero Fah- 
renheit or lower, a double layer of deerskins will prevent any thaw- 
ing underneath the bed, the snow there remaining as dry as sand 
in a desert. 

When the floor has been covered and the bedding, cooking gear, 
writing materials and other things brought in, a fire is lighted. 
The end to be gained if fuel is abundant is to heat the house until 
the snow in roof and walls begins to thaw. If the fuel allows it we 
sometimes bring the temperature temporarily as high as eighty 
degrees Fahrenheit, and then keep feeling of roof and walls to 


watch the progress of thawing. This, of course, is most rapid in 
the roof as the hot air accumulates against it, and usually the lowest 
tier of blocks near the floor does not thaw at all. Thawing pro- 
ceeds without dripping, because dry snow is the best sort of blotter 
and soaks the water into itself as fast as it forms. When the 
inner layer of the roof has become properly wet with the thawing 
and the walls damp to a less degree, we either put out the fire or 
make a large hole in the roof, or both, and allow the house to freeze. 
This glazes it on the inside with a film of ice, giving it far greater 
strength, with the further advantage that if you rub against the 
glazed surface scarcely anything will adhere to your clothing, 
while from the dry snow before the glazing takes place you would 
get your shoulder white, with a good deal of snow perhaps falling 
on the bed. 

Now the house is so strong that without taking special care 
any number of men could climb on top of it. Polar bears may 
and occasionally do walk over these houses and I have never known 
of one breaking. Their strength, however, is somewhat the same 
as the strength of an eggshell, and while they are difficult to crush 
with pressure, they are easy to break with a blow. A polar bear 
has no trouble in getting in if he wants to, for one sweep of his 
paw will scratch a great hole. 

If the house was built at fifty below zero, each block in the wall 
was of that temperature and contained what we may unscientifi- 
cally speak of as a great deal of "latent cold." To neutralize this 
it is necessary to keep a temperature of about sixty degrees Fahren- 
heit for a considerable time. Snow is so nearly a non-conductor 
of heat that when the "latent cold" has once been neutralized, the 
heat of our bodies keeps the temperature well above the freezing 
point even with the hole in the roof open for ventilation. But if 
the weather gets a little warmer than when we made camp, our 
body heat may be too great or the cooking may raise the tem- 
perature high, and the roof will begin to melt. This we take not 
so much as a sign that the house is too warm as that the roof is 
too thick, so we send a man out with a knife to shave it thinner, 
perhaps from four down to two inches, giving the cold from outside 
a chance to penetrate and neutralize the heat from within, stopping 
the thawing. It may happen the next day that the weather turns 
colder again, and in that case hoar frost begins to form on the 
roof and drops in the form of snowflakes on the bed. That is a 
sign that the roof is now too thin and a man goes out with a 
shovel and piles on enough soft snow to blanket it. 


Two hours after building is begun the dogs have been unhar- 
nessed, each tied in his place and fed, everything outside has been 
made snug for the night, and every man is comfortably inside the 
snowhousc, eating a warm supper. With a feeling of security that 
in the early part of our sea exploration was based merely on con- 
fidence in our theories but later came to rest on experience as well, 
we customarily sat after supper burning merrily the kerosene or 
seal oil, firm in the faith that to-morrow would provide fuel no less 
than food. This explains any seeming inconsistency between our 
accounts of warmth and well-being and the stories of others who, 
like us, have used snowhouses but have found them cold and com- 
fortless. They were on fuel rations and we were not. It was the 
economizing of fuel rather than the severity of the climate or the 
inadequacy of the housing that kept them cold. In many a well- 
appointed house in our civilized lands people have shivered in the 
last few years because they were on an allowance of fuel. It may 
well upset traditional ideas of the Arctic and of exploration to 
realize that when Europeans and Americans in the winter of 1917-18 
were wrapped in rugs before a coal-less grate or by a chilled radiator, 
our men were sitting in their shirt sleeves, warm and comfortable, 
in snowhouses built on the floating ice of the polar sea. 

I am in the habit of repeating and most of my companions 
agree that hardships are not necessarily involved in the work of 
the arctic explorer. On the sea ice, of course, there is the possi- 
bility that the cake on which you stand may break up. It is 
also true that most of us prefer other food to seal meat, but all 
of us who have spent more than a year "living off the country" 
are quite of the Eskimo opinion that there is no food anywhere 
better than caribou meat; and if you have any experience in the 
life of a hunter you will realize that in the winter when we are 
hunting on some such land as Banks Island and when we sit in 
these warm houses, feasting with keen appetites on unlimited quan- 
tities of boiled caribou ribs, we have all the creature comforts. 
What we lack, if we feel any lack at all, will be the presence of 
friends far away, or the chance to hear good music. At any rate, 
it is true that to-day in the movie-infested city I long for more 
snowhouse evenings after caribou hunts as I never in the North 
longed for clubs or concerts or orange groves. And this is not 
peculiar to myself. The men who have hunted with me are nearly 
all of the same mind. They are either in the North now, on the 
way back there by whaling ship, or eating their hearts out because 
they cannot go. 


It is not possible to give to the wonderful dogs too much credit 
for any success on this journey. The day of April 17th, for in- 
stance, they were still hauling over two hundred pounds each. The 
snow was firm but rough, and the sled was continually going up 
and down over hard drifts. There were also pressure-ridges to 
cross, though none bad enough to necessitate the pickaxe. It is 
true that the dogs alone could not have taken the sled over some 
of the ridges, but it was only there that the men did the least bit 
to help. The rest of the time they were running beside the sled, 
commonly with hands resting on it, and I was running ahead. We 
made that day an -average of nearly four miles an hour, which 
meant a speed of over five miles on the level stretches. 

Although the dogs themselves were excellent, part of this superi- 
ority was due to the harnessing. When dogs are harnessed fan- 
wise as they are in Greenland and as they have been by many 
explorers, it is only, as I have said, the dog in the middle of the 
team that can pull straight ahead; the others pull at considerable 
angles with the course of travel, so that a part of their force is lost. 
This in some measure explains why it is that few explorers have 
been able to haul more than a hundred pounds to the dog, which 
is less than half of what ours hauled. But I believe the main supe- 
riority was in the breed. 

In eleven years of experience in the Arctic I have used dogs of 
all sorts. Some were brought from Greenland by Amundsen on his 
Gjoa voyage of 1904-06 and left by him near the Mackenzie delta, 
where I used them. We have also at different times had a hundred 
or more Eskimo dogs from the district around Victoria Island, 
where this dog is presumably as pure as he is anywhere in the 
world, for there the people and consequently the dogs have been 
least in touch with the outside world. We have also used several 
hundred dogs of mixed Eskimo descent from the Mackenzie district 
and the north coast of Alaska, where the dogs as well as the Es- 
kimos themselves have been subject to outside contact for from 
thirty to a hundred years. We have had a few Siberian dogs and 
about fifty of the type most favored for driving by the miners around 
Nome, Alaska. On the basis of our experience with all these va- 
rieties we have come to a conclusion on the whole very unfavor- 
able to the Eskimo dog. 

For one thing, the Eskimo dog is too small. Those we have 
had ran in weight from fifty to seventy pounds, and to haul such a 
load as our six dogs were carrying would need at least nine of the 
best Eskimo dogs. The disadvantage of having nine dogs as against 


six is plain. There is the trouble of harnessing three more in the 
morning and of unharnessing, tying and feeding them in the evening. 
True, a bigger dog needs a little more food, but six dogs weighing 
120 pounds each will do well on less food than is necessary for 
nine dogs averaging 70 pounds. Incidentally I will point out here 
that much dissatisfaction with big dogs when used among smaller 
dogs rises from the fact that they are given a standard ration, each 
one getting a pound or a pound and a quarter of food. If this 
goes on for days or weeks, eventually the seventy-pound dog will 
be in full strength when the bigger dog has become weak from star- 
vation. Any intelligent white man can see why a big dog needs 
more food than a small one and can appreciate how he is going 
to get full value for the extra food. But every Eskimo with whom 
I have discussed the matter says that just as small men eat as 
much as big men, so small dogs should have as much food as big 
dogs, and Eskimo opinion is almost universally against the big dog, 
since he will not keep fat on a ration that suffices a small one. An- 
other great advantage of the big dog is that when after several 
months on sea ice we eventually land on some island, we have to 
cache our sleds and continue with pack dogs. Here I have found 
that size is of special importance. Not only will the bigger dog 
carry a heavier load, but he carries it higher above the ground. 
A small dog will drag his pack through water when a bigger dog 
carries it high and dry. 

Our big dogs have not been of any one breed. Some have been 
half Eskimo and half St. Bernard; others have been half mastiff, 
and some appear to have a considerable admixture of wolf. Just 
as with men, the excellence of dogs is largely a matter of tempera- 
ment. Here, next to his size, lies our grievance against the Eskimo 
dog. When he is fat and well cared for he works with a great deal 
of spirit, a sort of boyish exuberance. But as the boy has not the 
stamina of the man and wants to rest when he gets tired, so the 
Eskimo dog stops pulling when he feels like it. The white man's 
dog, in many cases at least, has character, or what corresponds to 
it. He seems to have a sense of duty, and especially if he is well 
treated will continue working hard though his stomach be empty 
and his legs tired. When the Eskimo dog is tired you will have 
to resort to the whip. This to me is always disagreeable. It is 
also my experience that you can no more get the best work out of 
a dog team by whipping them than a slave owner could get the 
best service out of enslaved men by inhumane treatment. I have 
seldom seen an Eskimo dog that will pull well the second day with- 


out food, but I have seen half-breed St. Bernards who would pull, 
perhaps not with the same strength, for that would be impossible, 
but with the same willingness day after day while their strength 
lasted. In our last five years' work we never lost a dog from 
hunger, and some of our dogs were never without food long enough 
to affect their willingness to work. The Eskimo dogs that had to 
meet the trial proved mostly quitters and needed a whip the 
second foodless day. 

The Eskimo dog has one advantage in the soundness of his 
feet, and another in his good fur. Certain kinds of white men's 
dogs have even better fur, but I know none that have feet as sound, 
or at least as little affected by adverse polar conditions. It is in 
this soundness of the feet that half Eskimo blood gives the chief 
advantage above the pure bred St. Bernard, whose fur also needs 

One of the most spectacular ice crushes of our experience hap- 
pened in our path on April 18th. A floe to the north was moving 
east with reference to ours at the rate of about twenty feet per 
minute. There was such force behind the two floes that although 
the ice was over six feet thick, their relative speed seemed undimin- 
ished even by their grinding against each other with a force that 
piled up a huge ridge. The ice buckled and bent for several hun- 
dred yards, but the ridge was on one side of us, and we were con- 
veniently able to retreat. The toppling ice cakes sounded at half a 
mile like a cannonade heard over a stormy surf on a rockbound 
coast. The surf-like noise was the actual grinding of the edges 
where the ice was being powdered rather than broken. There was, 
too, a high-pitched screeching, like the noise of a siren, when a 
tongue of six-foot ice from one floe was forced over the surface 
of the other. The pressure ceased in about two hours, when we 
crossed the newly-formed ridge and proceeded on our way. 

All this time we had been traveling in a direction a little west 
of north. But frequent observations for longitude showed that 
our course was a little east of north, which had to be accounted 
for by the eastward motion of the whole surface of the sea. By the 
20th we were entering a region of less and less game. We saw 
only about one polar bear track every twenty miles, and these 
tracks were mostly a month or two old. The scars on the ice show- 
ing the presence of seals the previous autumn became fewer, and 
we never saw any seals in the leads, although we occasionally 


stopped to watch for them an hour at a time. This was discon- 
certing and gave us a good deal of concern. With the decrease in 
game signs there came back to our memories with increasing weight 
the statements of the Eskimos on shore that we would find no seals 
at a great distance from land, and the arguments by which our 
whaler friends had bolstered up these views originally borrowed 
from the Eskimos. There came to mind with increasing force the 
dicta of geographers and explorers summarized in encyclopaedias and 
reiterated in every polar book, ''the polar ocean without life." I 
had answered their arguments readily enough on shore, but was our 
verbal logic to be disproved by the superior logic of events? My 
diary shows that our faith was at times shaken, though never badly 
enough for us to talk seriously of turning back. 

My companions were as eager as I to make a success of the 
journey, and what worried us more than scarcity of game signs 
was the implacable advance of the sun in the heavens. It was get- 
ting perceptibly higher each day and there was no longer any dark- 
ness at night. The temperature still kept mercifully well below 
zero, but we knew it was only a question of days until the wind 
would change to the east and the first thaw of spring be upon us. 
Accordingly we said little of the danger of running out of food 
and much of the necessity of hurrying on, but most frequent were 
the remarks on our misfortune that we had not been able to start 
the journey a month earlier. It is doubtless true that there is no 
use crjnng over spilt milk, but it is equally true that there is noth- 
ing more human than to do so. 

The scarcity of game signs would have troubled us less had we 
had that understanding of the polar sea which we acquired during 
the next five years. We now know what we then but believed 
upon reasoning with which the authorities disagreed, that the 
presence or absence of seals has nothing to do with latitude as 
such, but mainly with the mobility of the ice. In any region where 
we have violent ice movement and consequently much open water, 
we have a large number of seals. Food they can find everywhere 
in the ocean but in certain places they lack the easy opportunity 
to come up and breathe. During the summer they congregate in 
regions of open water, deserting those where the ice lies approxi- 
mately unbroken. Then in the autumn when young ice forms they 
make for themselves breathing holes which they use all winter. 
If this young ice remains stationary the seal remains stationary 
with it. If it floats in any direction he travels along, for his life 
depends upon his never going far from his breathing hole so long 


as the ice around it remains unbroken. If it does break and if 
leads are formed he may do a certain amount of winter traveling, 
but this traveling ceases when the first hard frost forms new ice 
over the leads, which when open are the routes of travel. 

From the point of view of seal life there are in the polar ocean 
certain desert areas. They are caused by the sluggishness or ab- 
sence of currents, just as deserts on land are caused by lack of 
rainfall and porousness of the soil. And just as land deserts are 
restricted in area, so are the ocean deserts. The experienced over- 
land traveler crossing a new continent would know when he was 
entering a desert. It would then be a matter of judgment whether 
he was to turn back and give up his journey or whether he should 
attempt skirting the desert or making a dash across it. So it is 
when the ice traveler who depends on game for subsistence comes 
to one of these sea deserts. The signs are in the thickness and 
evident age of the ice, in the fewness of the leads and of other 
signs of motion, and in the absence of traces of seals on such patches 
of young ice as may be visible. Just as there are on land arid and 
semi-arid areas, so there are at sea regions of scarcity of seals and 
regions of their nearly complete absence. But just as on land a 
semi-arid belt with scant vegetation may be but the introduction 
to a real desert, so the area of scarce animal life into which we 
were entering might merge later into another of total barrenness. 

With summer imminent we all felt that speed was the main 
consideration, both for success and safety. Our loads were getting 
lighter as the supply of food grew smaller. But instead of restrict- 
ing our rations and tightening our belts we used to eat three full 
meals a day, and we fed the dogs almost to surfeit, with the idea 
that the more quickly the loads were lightened the greater our 
speed would be. We should really have thrown away one or two 
hundred pounds of food at the start, but we never had quite the 
strength of mind to do that. For one thing, the chocolate and 
malted milk were as yet more palatable to my companions than 
the less familiar seal meat. We pampered ourselves in disregard of 
good judgment and lightened the loads no faster than much feeding 
by men and dogs could do it. 

We were making a new departure in polar exploration, not only 
in intending to live by hunting when the food was gone but also 
in gormandizing while yet we had food. We were traveling over ice 
that floated over an unknown ocean, away from all known lands 
and without any intention of turning back soon. I think I have 
read nearly all north polar literature and I never read of any party 


that under such circumstances would not have tightened their belts 
and saved every scrap of food. I said so exultantly to my com- 
panions and Storkerson helped me exult, for he had lived by hunting 
for years and had acquired the hunter's temperament. But Ole had 
more misgivings than he owned up to. 

By April 23rd in latitude 75° 15' N. we had entered an ice area 
of a new sort. Up to this time every visible lead had given evi- 
dence of much lateral motion; that is, the floe on one side had 
evidently been moving east or west with reference to the floe on 
the other side. But here we came to leads which had been opening 
and closing at intervals all winter without any lateral motion. 
There would be a belt of three or four-foot ice formed a little after 
Christmas; then might come a belt of fifteen or twenty-inch ice 
formed a month or so ago, and in the center of the lead five or 
eight-inch ice not more than a week old. A lead of three such 
belts evidently had opened only three times during the winter, but 
there were others which showed they had opened half a dozen 
times or more. But whether in four-foot ice or eighteen-inch ice, 
the break when the lead had opened had never been a straight line. 
Little projections and peninsulas on one side corresponded to inden- 
tations and bays on the other side, and when we found that, we 
knew the ice movement had been a simple opening where the sides 
of the crack had withdrawn straight away from each other without 
the lateral motion common inshore. In other words, this ice was 
either not drifting at all, or the areas on both sides of the leads 
were drifting in the same direction and at the same speed. 

For the present we had light northwest breezes and our sextant 
observations showed we were drifting each day a very little to 
the east. But as we knew that Banks Island was to the east and 
only a few hundred miles away, we believed this slight drift due to 
nothing but the crushing and buckling of the ice against the Banks 
Island coast.* 

Up to April 25th we had been traveling daytimes and sleeping 

*We now believe that, for a reason unknown, there is an eddy in the 
Beaufort Sea. We know from observation that at certain seasons there is 
a westward movement of the ice along the north coast of Alaska. It carried 
the Karluk a thousand miles in four months, from Camden Bay, Alaska, to 
Wrangel Island. This westward current seems but the continuation of a 
southward current we have observed on every occasion west of Banks Island 
and Prince Patrick Island. We suppose there is a corresponding eastward 
current offshore north of Alaska. Three hundred miles or more north of 
Alaska the current is east, we think, bending south at Prince Patrick Island 
and west when it comes near the mainland. A glance at the map will make 
this clear. 


at night, but on this date we changed to night travel. The season 
was too late for snowhouses and the light at night was sufficient 
for traveling. Although my diary contains almost every day some 
expression of thankfulness that the cold weather and westerly winds 
were continuing, the temperature at noon had become such that 
snow was melting on any dark surface, though it might be below 
zero in the shade. We could now take solid comfort in our day- 
time camps, for the tents which kept the wind off let the bright 
sunshine through and heated the interior — even, once or twice, to 
an undesirable warmth. And we no longer had to take pains to 
keep our clothing dry, for by camping in the morning we could 
hang damp garments in the sun and get them dried before evening. 



THE distance covered April 25th was twenty- four miles, a good 
day with a bad ending, for towards camping timt the wind 
made the dreaded shift to the east, with fog and a light fall of 
snow. This meant probably drifting west, so that if we desired to 
travel east we should meet leads of open water running north and 
south parallel to the distant coasts of Banks and Prince Patrick 
Islands, and making a landing on either of them more difficult. 

Now that the east wind was upon us the temperature rose, and 
the leads formed by the ice motion refused to freeze over. When 
the temperature is twenty or forty degrees below zero, as in Feb- 
ruary or March, the opening of a lead is not a serious matter. It 
may stop you one day, but the next it has been bridged and you 
can cross it if it happens to lie athwart your course. Occasionally 
luck is such that it lies almost in the direction you are going. In 
that case the ice traveler can have no better fortune than to meet 
with a lead. If he finds it already frozen over, it is as if he had 
come out of the woods upon a paved road, and if it is still open 
he knows that a little wait and a night's encampment will convert 
it into a boulevard for fast and easy traveling next day. But at 
the end of April, even though the lead may be running in your 
direction and though it may be a week old and the ice six or ten 
inches thick, still, it is so soft and treacherous from the weakness 
of the frost that it does not form a safe road and a bridge of older 
ice must be found. 

A day with the east wind as well as our theoretical knowledge 
of ice conditions decided us at this point to alter our course. We 
were in the vicinity of north latitude 73° and west longitude 141°. 
With a week or two more of cold weather (or, as we used to say 
"Had we started two weeks earlier") we could have kept on north 
for two degrees of latitude and then turned east for a landing on 
the southwest corner of Prince Patrick Island. But clearly the 
season was too late for that. So we decided to take roughly a great 
circle course for Cape Alfred, on the northwest corner of Banks 



Island. At the time of turning east we had on hand 147 pounds 
of man food and 74 pounds of dog food, which meant provisions 
for men for about fifteen days and for dogs for about ten days. 

Under date of April 26th I wrote under the caption "Plans" the 
longest diary entry of the whole trip. This was because we had 
come in a sense to a parting of the ways. We were two hundred 
miles from Alaska, we had provisions for two weeks only, and the 
signs of game were getting fewer every day. Without having ex- 
actly lost faith in the presence of seals in every part of the Arctic, 
my men were becoming a little dubious about it. We had been 
drifting before light northwesterly airs, but now we were encamped 
on a solid floe waiting to see the effect of the east wind. If it 
drifted us west with great rapidity I should have turned reluctantly 
towards Alaska, for a westward drift would mean a great deal 
of open water between us and Banks Island. On the other hand, 
should we not drift materially to the west we had in this a sign 
that the ice was fairly continuous from us to Banks Island where 
we might hope for a landing. The north coast of Alaska is known 
to be subject in spring to violent ice movement and the current 
is considered to be prevailingly westward. I thought then and still 
think that any attempt to land in May or June on the north coast 
of Alaska with a sledge party coming from the Beaufort Sea has 
the imminent hazard of being swept by the current west beyond 
Alaska into the ocean north of Bering Straits. 

When I am lost in a storm, or when I am in doubt of any 
kind, I frequently find that my feelings, or so-called "instincts," 
are in conflict with deliberate reason, and I have invariably found 
that the "instincts" are unreliable. I may have the strongest feel- 
ing, which almost amounts to a conviction, that my camp lies in 
a certain direction, for example, when a careful review of circum- 
stances shows that it really ought to lie in another. I confess that 
I now had similarly, in common with the men, the feeling that 
our safety lay in returning over the known route to Alaska, but 
all available facts indicated that such an attempt would be the 
most hazardous course. To the south lay known dangers but to 
the east we were in complete ignorance of conditions, and by ele- 
mentary reasoning the chances were at least even that the condi- 
tions towards Banks Island of which we knew nothing would be as 
good as the conditions to the south, which we knew to be bad. 

My companions were more strongly impressed with the dangers 
of the unknown. They pointed out that we knew that the sealing 
to the south was good, while it might easily be bad to the east. 


They said that were we to land on Alaska we should find a settled 
coast, but that in Banks Island we had an uninhabited country 
where game might be scarce; moreover, our ships were to the south, 
and were we to return to them we could sail north to Banks Island 
during the coming summer. Now as to sailing to Banks Island in 
ships, my objection was that we should be compelled by the ice to 
skirt the mainland coast part of the way, or at the best make a 
diagonal course from Herschel Island to Cape Kellett. In doing 
this we should be sailing through waters that have been sailed by 
whalers since 1889, while our ice journey along the great circle 
course to Cape Alfred would take us through territory unsailable 
and unknown. Exploration of unknown territory was of the high- 
est importance, and was the main duty assigned us by the Govern- 

But all considerations were outweighed by the dangers of return 
to Alaska. I believe the chances are at least three in four that any 
party attempting this late in the month of May from a distance 
to seaward as great as ours would be swept to the west beyond Point 
Barrow. If they were on a solid ice floe they might survive the 
summer in the ocean east of Wrangel Island, but that also is an 
explored area and the summer would be wasted. If the floe were 
to get into the open in the vicinity of Point Hope, wave action 
might break it into fragments, with the probability if not certainty 
of a tragic ending. This view has been strengthened, so far as 
the year 1914 was concerned, by the fact that all whalers and Es- 
kimos on the north coast of Alaska have told me that that season 
proved an especially open one and that the inshore ice during the 
spring was in continual rapid westward motion. This indeed was 
one of the reasons why our death was so universally assumed among 
them. They did not conceive of the possibility of our having gone 
.to Banks Island, but felt sure we would attempt a landing on the 
Alaska coast. Conditions there being exceedingly bad, it was be- 
lieved that we had either been lost in some hazardous traverse 
over ice made rotten by the spring thaws, or been drifted into the 
sea west of Barrow.* 

*This opinion was given added weight by Captain Pedersen, who upon 
his return to San Francisco gave out a newspaper interview in which, after 
complimentary references to our ability to live by hunting, he said that our 
only chance of survival was that we might in the following autumn or spring 
be able to make a landing on Wrangel Island, the New Siberian Islands, 
or some other part of northeastern Siberia. This opinion of an ice master 
who knows more than any one else about sea conditions north of Alaska as 
encountered by whaling ships, became the chief reason why the eyes of those 
friends who still had hope of our being alive were turned thousands of 


It was a bit hard for me to persuade the men to continue 
towards Banks Island. Storkerson was used to living on meat, and 
that part of our future did not worry him, but this was not the case 
with Ole, who had the dread of a meat diet common to those who 
have not tried it. But when their minds were made up to take the 
risk they became wholly enthusiastic for the plan and energetic in 
carrying it out. 

This is a proper place for a tribute to those qualities which made 
my companions ideal comrades under difficult conditions, but as 
the qualities themselves appear constantly in this narrative I shall 
not attempt a tribute more direct, for it would be certain to fall 
short of my feelings and desires. 

For the first few days after turning towards Cape Alfred we 
found good level ice, and the leads all proved to have crossing 
places so that we were able to make from fifteen to twenty-five 
miles per day. The night between May 2nd and May 3rd we had 
the midnight sun for the first time. No more than a third of it 
went that night below the ice horizon. 

The first ten days of May were a period of anxiety. The sun 
was rising mercilessly higher and higher and we struggled towards 
Banks Island with the fear of summer upon us. Kerosene gave 
out May 5th, but we saw no seals in any of the leads and dared not 
wait and watch for them, for every hour was precious. When we 
wanted something to cook with, necessity invented it. As part of 
our bedding we carried two grizzly bear skins, and we had a pair of 
scissors. The long hair of the skins proved effective, though scarcely 
fragrant, and half a pelt was enough to cook the meals for a day. 
After a long period of gorging ourselves to lighten our loads, we 
now found the sled nearly empty and went on half rations for the 
only time on the whole expedition. This abstemiousness resulted 
from our unwillingness to stop and hunt, for we were now sure that 
the warm weather was going to make it difficult to reach Banks 
Island, and were even beginning to fear it might make a landing 
before next fall impossible. This, in turn, would result in our miss- 
ing the Star at the Norway Island rendezvous. The dogs were on 

miles farther west than the point at which my written word had said we 
would make our landing. It is interesting to me, though scarcely flattering, 
that I have found among hundreds of editorials and thousands of news 
stories from the daily papers, not one opinion to the effect that we should 
be found where I had said the North Star was to look for us. 


half rations, too, for the same dread of summer weather which pre- 
vented our stopping to hunt seals for ourselves prevented our hunt- 
ing seals for them. 

I find from reading my diary that this period was more anxious 
than I now realize. Our faith was really firm but, like some of the 
believers of old, we had an occasional hour of doubt. The theory 
was mine, so I felt more free than either of my companions to 
criticize it, and sometimes in the evening after a hard day's march 
I wrote down that it was possible after all that Eskimos and whalers 
and polar explorers were right and that food might prove scarce 
on the Arctic ice. We were passing open lead after open lead 
without the sight of a seal ; though I reminded myself that in some 
of the best sealing waters of northern Alaska I had spent days and 
often weeks watching beside open water without seeing a seal, and 
then one morning I would come down to the water to find a dozen 
swimming about within gunshot. I hoped and expected that it 
would prove so again whenever we should be forced at last to stop 
for hunting. 

Besides the advancing summer we had a second argument for 
traveling fast towards Banks Island. This was that Eskimos, 
whalers and explorers alike believed seals to be more common in 
the vicinity of land than in the deep waters far offshore. If this 
were true, the nearer we got to Banks Island the better the chances 
would be of getting food when provisions ran out. 

Perhaps as a result of being on short rations, I find several 
diary notes on the comparative excellence of various kinds of food. 
We had with us pemmican, bacon, butter, peameal, rice, chocolate, 
and malted milk. We found ourselves in agreement that four 
pounds per day of peameal and butter or peameal and bacon for 
the three of us was a more satisfactory diet than six pounds of 
pemmican and biscuits. For one thing, the standard explorers' 
breakfast of pemmican, biscuit and tea predisposes to thirst. There 
is no difficulty in quenching thirst by eating snow once you have 
rid yourself of the curious superstition that snow-eating is danger- 
ous, but even at that it is preferable not to become thirsty. 

Unless it be religion, there is no field of human thought where 
sentiment and prejudice take the place of sound knowledge and 
logical thinking so completely as in dietetics. It is therefore not 
surprising that actual experiments with diet, especially those insti- 
tuted by stern necessity, should yield results contrary to conven- 
tional expectations. I have never met any one inclined to believe 
that he would find suitable and in every way satisfactory as a diet 


for a long period a thin stew or soup made from rice, butter, choco- 
late and malted milk boiled together. But a dozen men have now- 
tried this diet on our ice trips and most of us prefer it to anything 
else we have tried. Some of my men, partly because they were 
sailors with acquired food tastes, have preferred peameal in place 
of rice. In point of theory peameal would undoubtedly be better 
than rice if the chocolate were absent, but so long as there is choco- 
late to supply the protein I prefer the rice; if for no other reason, 
because it is easy to cook. 

Many travelers have refrained from carrying rice in the belief 
that it was not easy to cook. True, the cook-books tell you some 
such thing as that you should boil rice for twenty minutes. This 
would surely be a waste of fuel for those who travel on fuel rations, 
although for ourselves we need not care. But we have found that 
if we put the rice into cold water and when the pot comes to a 
boil set it aside for a few minutes, the rice is thoroughly cooked 
before it cools enough for eating, and not more than one minute 
of actual boiling is needed. We used no more fuel in boiling a pot 
of rice than Peary used in making a pot of tea. On some trips 
we have carried things as difficult to cook properly as beans. 
Time for cooking them cannot be taken except on stormbound 
days, but on such occasions boiling them is a pastime. 

I am now of the opinion that the fewness of the seal signs at 
distances of two or three hundred miles from shore was due mainly 
to the hurry we were in. The level places where they might have 
been found happened only occasionally to be on our actual route, 
and as we never felt we could stop and look around, nothing could 
be noticed except what was actually in our way. How much is it 
explicable, then, that others may have failed entirely to notice seal 
signs because they have been possessed with the idea that there 
was no use looking for game signs when game was absent, or else 
that seals if present could not be secured? For well-known explor- 
ers, so far as I know, have not been experienced seal-hunters as 
Storkerson and I were, and seem to have been quite unfamiliar 
with the technique of seal hunting, even theoretically. 

On the evening of May 7th our faith in the presence of seals 
had confirmation. We had pitched camp on the shore of a lead 
about a mile wide, covered with young ice not strong enough to 
bear a man. We had camped a little earlier than usual, and while 
the men were cooking supper I sat for about an hour on top of a 
high ice hummock, studying the lead with binoculars for several 
miles in both directions as though I had been on a hilltop near the 


bank of a large river. The glasses showed roughnesses on the 
young ice, but from their distance I could not be sure that they 
had actually been made by seals coming up to breathe. I don't 
know whether it was a sign of the weakness or the strength of my 
faith that when after an hour's watching I saw the head of a seal 
come up through the ice about a mile away, I gave an involuntary 
shout that brought my companions out of the tent. 

A seal a mile away in mush ice is as safe from the hunter as 
if he were on the other side of the earth. Furthermore, we still 
had food for two or three days at half rations and we were really 
enjoying the experience of sailing close to the wind, although I 
do not think the same can be said of the dogs, lacking our point of 
view. All three of us might have taken our station beside the lead, 
to wait the possible reappearance of the seal close enough for kill- 
ing. I think Ole felt something like doing it, for he was always 
a great one for "playing safe" and this was his first experience 
of "living off the land." But Storkerson and I had acquired the 
typical Indian or Eskimo attitude. Instead of using every effort 
to get this first visible seal, we merely satisfied ourselves that he 
actually was a seal and that we were now in seal country, and 
then went back to the tent to feast our minds on anticipated seals 
and to indulge ourselves at one meal with half our remaining and 
for the last few days hoarded food. With about a day's food 
actually on hand, we thanked our stars that the time of measuring 
it by other standards than our appetites was over, and assured 
each other that we would never again be so skeptical of the bounties 
of the Arctic as to begin limiting our eating while we had a week's 
store ahead. 

Those who have never undergone hunger expect death from it to 
result in a short time. Going without food for a few days consti- 
tutes in the imagination of some a great hardship — a curious belief 
to persist and be so nearly universal when the few people who 
have tried it for a considerable number of days tell us that little 
suffering is involved, unless it be mental. The prisoner who waits 
in a comfortable cell and has several good meals brought him each 
day may undergo agonies if he has a sufficient imagination and 
knows that the electric chair is only a few days off. So it may 
have been on occasion with polar explorers, that when their food 
was gradually giving out they suffered mental anguish because of 
the death which in their mind's eye they saw coming upon them. 
Had they been of optimistic temperament, expecting deliverance 
in one form or another, their suffering as such would scarcely have 


been worth the name, though they might have starved to the point 
of extreme weakness. Physical suffering may well have accompa- 
nied the mental anguish in such cases as that of the Greely Expe- 
dition at Cape Sabine, for with them hunger was kept at a tanta- 
lized wakefulness for half a year by food enough to keep up appe- 
tite though it could not sustain strength. They knew each day 
they would not get enough and doubted — three out of four of them 
rightly — whether summer and the relief ship would find them alive. 
Simple starvation, that comes to death in a few weeks, any one 
should choose readily in preference to, for instance, cancer, which 
will carry off one in nine of our friends who have passed middle 
life. But no moral trial can have been harder, no death more cruel, 
than that of Greely's men. 

In the light of the four succeeding years I still approve of the 
rejoicing of May 7th and the light-heartedness with which we then 
looked towards the future. Relying merely on memory, I should 
now be unable to realize that four days later a mental reaction had 
set in and we were again in the depths of gloom. Summer with 
its adverse traveling conditions was making itself more and more 
felt. What we now feared was no immediate disaster but failure 
to make a landing on Banks Island so as to meet the Star at the 
appointed rendezvous. My diary entry for May 11th says some- 
thing of that kind: 

"The lead that stopped us yesterday closed during the night 
by the young ice fast to our floe coming in touch with the opposite 
'shore.' Storkerson, who had this watch, did not consider the 
young ice a safe bridge for crossing and neither did Ole, who had 
the watch from two o'clock to four-thirty. When he called me for 
my watch I at once investigated the young ice and found it rotten 
and treacherous but six inches thick, and so decided to take chances. 
We crossed safely at 6:10. Traveled about E. 10° N. 12 miles to 
12:54 o'clock (A. M. May 11th) where we stopped to melt some 
snow for drinking. The ice crossed to-day was 75 per cent, of it 
one or more years old. There was much soft snow everywhere and 
the body of the sled frequently dragged in it — this is another of the 
many times we have missed the toboggan-bottomed skd which 
Wilkins took ashore. The going to-day was fairly level. Crossed 
three leads of four-inch young ice, rotten because of the warm 
weather — this is dangerous work, but we have been on short rations 
for a week — the dogs are living on our skin clothes — so it is up to 
us to take a few chances. I shall never again willingly (and I 


can hardly be said to have done it willingly this time) be on the 
ice so late in the season. Had we been six days earlier we should 
have had frosty weather to Banks Island and should be there now. 
As it is, the issue seems doubtful, and Storkerson and Ole may 
prove right after all in thinking our enterprise dangerous. 

"After a rest and making some drinking water, we started again 
at 3:15 A. M. and camped at 7:15, as it was getting too warm for 
the dogs to pull well and the snow was melting on our clothing and 
making us wet. Distance traveled, about 18 miles east 110° N. 

"Yesterday we awoke to find the long siege of easterly wind over 
for the time. By 6 A. M. it was blowing from the northwest ten 
miles an hour, increasing by 8 A. M. to about northwest 15 miles. 
During the day the wind shifted to about west 10° south. In the 
evening thickly clouded in the southwest and some snow fell be- 
fore midnight. Sun barely visible most of the day and the light 
very trying on the eyes. About 3 A. M. we saw from northeast 
to southeast what Storkerson and Ole think was a mirage of land. 
It looked through my glasses like clouds undulating around oval- 
topped mountains. Crossed two more leads over the same sort of 
rotten and sloppy four-inch ice. In one case the ice bent so badly 
under the sled that for a minute or two we expected it to break 
through, which might have proved fatal to all of us, although to 
give a certain margin of safety I always carry my rifle over my 
shoulder and about fifty rounds of ammunition. The west wind is 
doing brave work for us, closing the leads partly though it is not 
strong enough yet to have closed any of them completely. There 
is lateral motion discernible at all the leads. The floe west of each 
lead appears to be moving south about a foot in five minutes with 
reference to the floe next east of it. The floes are also approaching 
each other and crumbling a little on the edges. I suppose the pres- 
sure is so mild because there is a great deal of open water between 
us and Banks Island with nothing solid to obstruct the eastward 
motion of the ice." 

I have quoted this entry in full, except for the meteorological 
observations, to show what sort of records I was in the habit of 
keeping. Many of the entries are a good deal more detailed, giv- 
ing information of the kind of ice, or mention of signs of game, 
"pink snow" and other botanical and zoological phenomena. Full 
reproduction of such notes would be tedious in a book intended 
for general reading, although it is really these that constitute the 
larger part of the scientific information gained. This detailed in- 


formation with the conclusions to be drawn from it is made part 
of a series of scientific reports on the work of the expedition pub- 
lished by the Canadian Government.* 

By May 13th we had fed to the dogs several pairs of worn-out 
skin boots, the two grizzly bear skins off which we had used the hair 
for fuel, and some other bedding. We ourselves were on a ration 
of three-quarters of a pound of food per day, at which rate there 
remained enough for two or three days only. It seemed to me 
that this was about as close to the wind as we ought to sail, so 
after traveling eleven miles that day we stopped beside open water 
to watch for seals. During the first two hours we saw several and 
killed two. This was encouraging so far as it went, although our 
hopes had a severe blow through the prompt sinking of both as 
soon as they had been shot. Here was another of my theories 
that might have gone wrong. It is familiar knowledge that in the 
vicinity of land seals killed in winter will in most cases float, while 
if killed in the spring they sink. Common belief among the Es- 
kimos and whalers was that they sink because in the spring the 
seals are not as fat as in winter. My view was that they sank 
probably because in the spring the rivers bring a large amount 
of fresh water to the ocean, thus reducing the salinity of the water 
near land. Everyone knows that eggs and potatoes will float in 
brine, and that in many of the salt lakes it is impossible for a 
bather to sink, while swimming in salt water is easier than in fresh. 
I had reasoned that, although seals when shot in the spring might 
sink near shore where the water was comparatively fresh, they 
would float if killed at distances remote from land where the water, 
at least up to the beginning of the summer thaws on the ice, would 
have the same degree of salinity in May as in February. 

The sinking of the first two seals killed was a bit disconcerting, 
although we explained it by recalling that a certain small percen- 
tage of seals will sink at any season. There is no denying that 
after this experience we had a troubled day. At none of several 
leads that we passed did we dare to risk stopping, for fear any seals 
killed might sink, leaving nothing to pay us for time lost in the 

The dogs had become noticeably thinner. Had they been Es- 

* For information regarding the scientific reports of the expedition, address 
Deputy Minister of Naval Service, Ottawa. Three octavo volumes are now 
ready. The entire series of reports will probably fill between twenty and 
thirty octavo volumes. It will doubtless be several years till the last volume 
is ready. 


kimo dogs all of them would have quit pulling or could have been 
driven only with the whip. But only one of these dogs was a quit- 
ter; the other five still pulled their best. The quitter was a little 
fatter than the others, for he had begun to save his strength as soon 
as he became hungry. No amount of whipping would make him 
pull an ounce. In circumstances such as these the conventional 
attitude towards a dog is that he ought to be killed, but we knew 
that Bones, as we called him, because he was usually so fat that 
his ribs and even his backbone were difficult to feel, was a good 
dog when well fed and would be useful again when we killed a 
seal for food. I admit a little resentment towards him, especially 
when I saw how well the others pulled who were leaner; still, I 
could never see why feeling should take the place of judgment, 
nor why I should kill a dog because he lacked character. Bones 
did, as a matter of fact, live to serve us many years. But we were 
careful never to take him again on a trip where emergencies of 
short rations were likely to arise. 

A depressed evening followed a depressed day and my diary 
has here about the gloomiest entry of the volume. Under the 
heading of "Traveling Seasons," I now read: "It is difficult and 
dangerous to be traveling out on the sea ice in this latitude of the 
Beaufort Sea after May first. If we should get strong easterly 
winds now, for instance, our chances of reaching Banks Island 
would be small, as the few seals here seem to sink and we are 
nearly out of food. It is a hard thing now to think back on the 
silly jealousies that made Storkerson's work of preparing for this 
ice trip stand still for two weeks till I got home — I expected to 
find everything ready at Martin Point so we could leave for the 
ice while the midwinter frosts held instead of when spring was 
upon us as it had to be, after we had done the work of prepara- 
tion which Storkerson could easily have done earlier if he had had 
the proper assistance." It is usually so when things go badly. One 
thinks back to the perversities of human nature which can, if one 
keeps that point of view, be seen as the source of all one's evil for- 



MAY 15th it had come to a shown-down. The leads were get- 
ting more numerous and we had great trouble in finding 
crossings. Evidences that the ice was drifting to the west 
were multiplying and it was certain that we could not get ashore in 
Banks Island until a westerly wind began to drive the ice east 
toward the land. When we came now to a lead we stopped and 
made up our minds we would not move again until we had a seal. 
During the first three or four hours two seals came up within two 
hundred yards of me and I killed both. And they sank. 

Then followed an hour or two of waiting, at the end of which 
one came up about two hundred and fifty yards from the hummock 
where I was lying, although only a few yards from the edge of 
the lead. The sun was behind me and the light just right. Here 
the flat trajectory of a rifle that has a velocity of over 3,100 feet, 
as mine had, has the great advantage that one does not have to 
worry about estimating distances. Seals often show their shoulders 
out of the water as far as the region of the heart, but when there is 
danger of their sinking a body wound is undesirable. My bullet 
went through the brain, and the dead seal floated so high that I 
could see instantly he was safe. Storkerson was watching and his 
repeated shouts of "It floats!" would have delighted the hearts of 
the manufacturers of a certain kind of soap. 

That evening the diary was as hopeful as it had been appre- 
hensive the day before. "It is lucky we wrote woe and foreboding 
in our diaries yesterday. There is nothing of the sort to-day to 
write about. We are having the first full meal for over a week. 
No more equal divisions of small portions of food into rations." 

As if for further encouragement we saw this day the first bear 
track in two weeks. A female with two cubs had been traveling 
south along one of the leads. For two or three days we had been 
seeing about one fox track per day, but for a week or two before 
that not more than one every three or four days. Our struggle 
to reach the land-fast ice of Banks Island was no less strenuous. 



The first relaxation was a day of rest deliberately taken to feed 
up the dogs and to celebrate with feasts of fresh boiled seal meat 
our vindicated theory. But the day deliberately taken was fol- 
lowed by two days of idleness enforced. 

On the feast day the sun was bright and warm, and instead of 
using our Burberry tent double as was our custom, we used only 
the outer cover so as to allow the sun to penetrate and warm up 
the interior. The Burberry in cold weather was perhaps not perfect 
but certainly the best tent that we know anything about. It was 
conical in shape but otherwise resembled an umbrella, in that five 
bamboo sticks corresponding to umbrella ribs were fastened at 
equal intervals to the tent cloth and joined at the top with hinges. 
These bamboo ribs were inside the outer cover and from them was 
suspended by strings an inner tent, also of Burberry cloth, giving 
an air space of an inch and a half or two inches between the 
cloths. This double tent when the temperature outdoors was at 
zero would be at least twenty degrees warmer inside than if we 
had used a single cover. As the difference in weight is only about 
four pounds, carrying a double tent is well worth while, especially 
as it has incidental advantages. Hoar frost will form on the inside 
of a single tent if the weather is near zero, and this not only makes 
the tent heavy but falls in the form of flakes upon the bedding at 
night and tends to make it wet. With two covers, hoar frost will 
not form on the inside one unless the temperature out of doors 
is considerably below zero. If a little frost does form between 
the tents this does little harm, for by beating the outside with a 
stick ninety per cent, can be shaken out when the tent is pulled 
down. Two further advantages are that it can be pitched by 
two or three men in a fraction of a minute, almost as quickly as an 
umbrella can be opened, and that once pitched the bamboo ribs 
keep it from flapping as badly as other tents do, just as a ribbed 
umbrella is kept from flapping. It will also stand any arctic gale 
if properly pitched. The only time ours ever blew down was in 
the gale that separated us from Wilkins and Castel, and that was 
because we had pitched it on a little patch of glare ice so that 
it slid bodily before the wind. 

The day we rested we had used the single tent instead of the 
double, and the bright sunshine penetrated the one cloth so easily 
that during the day we became snowblind. This was something 
no one of us had dreamed could happen. We had all had touches 
at various times of snowblindness acquired out of doors, but the 
thought never occurred to us that our eyes might be affected in 


a tent. The attack was not severe, but it is true with snowblind- 
ness if it is true with anything that an ounce of prevention is worth 
a pound of cure. As soon as we realized what had happened we put 
up again the inner cover of the tent, spread some canvas over the 
outside to make it darker, and then put on our amber-colored 
glasses and sat or slept inside until our eyes were normal again. 

Through great care of my eyes I have never in ten winters spent 
north of the arctic circle become completely snowblind, though one 
of my eyes has been frequently affected. When one eye is better 
than the other, as is the case with most people, the poorer eye is 
the one affected. The glare of the snow appears brighter to the 
eye of keener vision, and that eye is instinctively closed or shielded. 
When you have once begun to shield one eye, it becomes increas- 
ingly difficult to keep it open, for the reason that an eye which 
has been, in darkness is blinded by a light which does not blind an 
eye that has been continually exposed to it. The whole strain of 
seeing thus falls upon the weaker eye and it accordingly is at- 
tacked first. Those who become snowblind in both eyes simul- 
taneously have either used their will power to keep both eyes open 
or else have eyes of nearly equal quality. 

From this it might be inferred that snowblindness is most 
likely to occur on days of clear sky and bright sun. This is not 
the case. The days most dangerous are those when the clouds 
are thick enough to hide the sun but not heavy enough to produce 
what we call heavily overcast or gloomy weather. Then light is 
so evenly diffused that no shadows can be seen anywhere. The sea 
ice is not level; if there are no actual snags of broken ice sticking 
up, there are at least snowdrifts. When the sun is shining in a 
clear sky all these unevennesses are easily seen, because shadows 
lie in the low places, but on a day of diffused light everything looks 
level, as was observed in respect to travel under cloudy skies. 
You may collide against a snow-covered ice cake as high as your 
waistline and, far more easily, you may trip over snowdrifts a foot 
or so in height, because without the assistance of shadows every- 
thing that is pure white seems to be perfectly level. Knowing the 
danger, your eyes are continually strained for its detection. Here 
amber-colored glasses are of use, for unevennesses imperceptible 
to the bare eye can sometimes be seen by the aid of these "ray 
filters," as they are called in photography. This is one of the 
advantages of the amber glass over all other forms of protection 
against snowblindness. Glass of "chlorophyll green" is excellent 
when the sun is shining, and seems to be easier on the eye than dark 


or so-called "smoke glasses," which are the poorest of all. Almost 
any color will do when the sun is out, but in cloudy weather both 
the chlorophyll green and the smoked glasses cut out too much 
light and interfere so with clearness of vision that they are a distinct 
handicap as compared with the amber glass. 

When through the use of poor glasses or none at all your eyes 
are stricken, the symptoms do not develop at the time of exposure. 
It may be after a long day's march that when you enter the tent 
or snowhouse in the evening your eyes feel as if there were small 
grains of sand in them. Such things as tobacco smoke or slight 
fumes from a poorly-trimmed lamp will make them water exces- 
sively. Gradually you begin to feel more sand in them and they 
become uncomfortable and sore, but it will be towards morning be- 
fore shooting pains begin. These pains resemble those of earache 
or toothache and are said by persons who have had severe cases 
to be the most intense they ever experienced. 

One feature of snowblindness is that each attack predisposes to 
another. People who have never been in snow countries are likely 
to remain immune and not suffer until the eyes have been exces- 
sively exposed, but people such as the Eskimos who are subject 
to the predisposing conditions every year are very readily affected. 
Some of them have a sort of fatalistic idea that snowblindess is 
inevitable and for that reason do not take enough precautions, al- 
though they nearly always take some precautions. I have known 
the severest cases of snowblindness chiefly among Eskimos. Men 
whom I have reason to consider as stoical as the ordinary lie 
moaning in bed with a skin or blanket over their heads, sleepless 
for as much as twenty-four hours. The period of considerable 
pain seldom extends over more than three days if one is in a dark- 
ened room or wears black or amber glasses. After complete recov- 
ery a second attack is not likely to come in less than a week, no 
matter how the eyes are exposed, but careless persons will have 
attacks every week or ten days.* 

Keeping the eye on some dark object is a valuable preventive. 
On some trips we have had only one pair of amber glasses which 

*I have read a novel where the plot hinges on two things: (1) that a 
snowblind person is temporarily stone blind; and (2) that when you have 
recovered from snowblindness you can still pretend to be snowblind. The 
first premise is ridiculous and the second untenable. A snowblind person is 
not blind in any such sense as is required by the plot of this novel. During 
severe snowblindness the tears flow as rapidly as in violent weeping. This 
condition is difficult to simulate when you are getting better. Further, in the 
movie made from the story no attempt is made by the snowblind actress to 
simulate tears while she is supposed to be pretending to be snowblind. 


have been used by the man who goes ahead and picks trail, for he 
alone has to use his eyes continually upon the white surface. The 
men who walk at the sleds to prevent them from upsetting are 
able to keep their eyes on its dark cover or upon the dogs. 

Another preventive is the Eskimo type of wooden protectors. 
This may be of a variety of designs, but the essential feature is 
always the same. The light is admitted to the eye through a nar- 
row slit. The disadvantage is that you have only a limited field 
of vision — you cannot without stooping forward see what is imme- 
diately at your feet. For picking trail you must keep your eyes 
well up, so as to see that portion of the road which is several yards 
in advance, and when you do this you are liable to stumble, not 
having within your field of vision the unevennesses closer at hand. 
These Eskimo goggles have the advantage over regular goggles or 
spectacles that glass, when it is kept near the eye, will hoarfrost 
from eye moisture and from the moisture of the face, especially 
if one perspires. This frosting is not a serious annoyance on a 
windy day, especially if one keeps the face sidewise to the wind, 
but on a calm, frosty day the glasses keep frosting continually 
and if one travels fast enough or works hard enough to perspire 
they cannot be worn at all. 

It has always been my plan to remain in camp when any one 
was snowblind, both because I realized the intense suffering of 
traveling under such conditions and because recovery is always 
quicker under proper care. But as we lost most of our amber 
glasses on the Karluk and never afterwards had enough to go 
around, we lost in five years several weeks of good traveling time 
through snowblindness. 

When we resumed travel on May 18th we saw seals in every 
lead we passed. It almost seemed as if they had been keeping out 
of sight to worry us, for now they were as numerous as I have 
ever seen them in any waters. 

A minor misfortune to reckon with was Ole's rather too cautious 
temperament. He was as optimistic as any one when there was 
real need, but now when seals were all about us and when I thought 
that with so many in one lead there were pretty sure to be some in 
the next, he would remind us how we had traveled for days with- 
out seeing seals and how we might get into another such district 
at any time. Whenever a seal appeared particularly close or in a 
position easy to approach, Ole used to say, "I think we'd better 
get that one and make sure of him." We lost many an hour in 
killing and picking up a seal, and presently found ourselves 


hauling a huge load almost as heavy as our load had been when the 
support party left us. Ole kept pointing out what a comfortable 
thing it was to know we had plenty, and volunteered to pull on the 
sled to help the team along. Surely if he who works has a right 
to eat, Ole had this right, for he was never lazy and seldom tired. 
Still, looking back now, we are all agreed that had it not been for 
Ole's frequent "We'd better get that one and make sure of him," 
we should have been able to make better progress. It is possible, 
doubtless, to have an excess of faith, but generally speaking he is 
the best ice traveler under our system who is the greatest optimist. 

Until the kerosene gave out cooking had been done in the tent, 
for our primus stove never gave any trouble. Afterwards for a 
few days we had cooked outside, burning grizzly bear or caribou hair 
in an improvised tin stove. When we began to kill seals we used 
for some days an Eskimo-style seal-oil lamp, improvised from a 
frying pan. But I was the only member of the party who was 
used to the management of this cooking apparatus, and the others 
had difficulty in keeping the wicks trimmed, with the result that 
a lot of smoke escaped into the tent and lampblack got all over 
the cooking pots, almost insulating them and making it difficult to 
bring the food to a boil. The indoors cooking being a nuisance, 
especially now that heat was not necessary in camp, Storkerson 
undertook to rig an outdoors cooking arrangement which proved 
satisfactory and was used on all our later trips. Intending to make 
a "blubber stove" eventually, we had been carrying our six gallons 
of kerosene in a galvanized iron tank, the sides and bottom of 
which were clinched as well as soldered so that it could not come 
to pieces upon application of heat. To have them suitable for 
blubber stoves we make these iron tanks cylindrical with a diam- 
eter a little larger than the largest of our aluminum cooking pots 
and a height of about fifteen inches. When the contents have 
been used the top is removed and a draft hole is cut near the bot- 
tom; then half-way up the stove we run two or three heavy wires 
across for the cooking pot to stand on. 

In burning seal oil or blubber, as in burning tallow, you must 
have a wick. Once I considered that asbestos might serve, since 
it could be used over and over again, but it would probably not be 
suitable, for the fibers would become so clogged with the incom- 
bustible residue of oil that its usefulness as a wick would be de- 
stroyed. Anyway, there is a simpler method. After our meals 
we save the clean-picked bones. When next the fire is to be built 
we use a little piece of rag for kindling, not necessarily more than 


an inch square, soaked in oil and put on the bottom of the stove. 
On top of it we make a little heap of the bones and on top of the 
heap we lay several strips of blubber, resembling so many strips 
of fat bacon. A match is touched to the rag and it burns like the 
wick of a candle, with the flame playing up between the bones and 
striking the blubber, which promptly begins to try out so that the 
oil drips down between the bones, forming a film on their outside. 
Upon sufficient heating this film flares up, and thereafter your 
fire burns with a furious heat so long as a strip of blubber is placed 
upon it. You now stand your cooking pot, filled with meat and 
water, upon the cross wires within the stove six or eight inches 
above the bottom. The flame first strikes the bottom of the pot 
and then spreads and comes up all around it, since the diameter of 
the stove is an inch or two larger than that of the pot. Application 
of heat to the bottom and sides of the pot at one time brings it 
to a boil as quickly as would the largest wood fire in a forest. 

The only disadvantage of this method of cooking is that the 
smoke of burning seal oil is thick and black and exceedingly sticky. 
It is, in fact, the best quality of lampblack, and clings to every- 
thing. We are always careful not to have the smoke strike the 
tent, but now and then a dog, where it is tied, happens to be in 
the path of the smoke, with the result that any white spots there 
may be on his coat soon become as dark as the rest of him. One 
of our almost white dogs was nearly as dark as the blackest by the 
time we got ashore in Banks Island. 

Although I had commonly done the cooking in the tent, whether 
with primus stove or seal oil lamp, either Storkerson or Ole was the 
cook after the blubber stove had been devised. Storkerson when 
once his fire was started used to stand aside and keep out of the 
smoke, but Ole was more solicitous and hovered about, so there is 
no exaggeration in saying that, although he is naturally a light 
Norwegian type of blond, he was in color within two weeks 
something between a mulatto and a full-blooded negro. 

From this point on we all enjoyed our journey as we had not 
done before. I never could see anything very attractive and 
certainly nothing particularly romantic in the portable-boarding- 
house method of arctic travel. If you have no hope of any food 
beyond that in your sled, your conscience worries you every time 
you eat a square meal. In fact, if you are of the historic, heroic 
type you never allow yourself a square meal, and make stern mem- 
oranda in your diary about the member of your party who takes a 
nibble between hours or who eats more than his share. Some ex- 


plorers have gone so far as to shoot members of their party who have 
infringed on the rations, and this with the full approval of govern- 
ments at home and of lay readers of their narratives. I know a 
case where a lifelong friendship turned into enmity in a night 
because somebody got up in the dark and ate a quarter of a pound 
of chocolate. We never felt any resentment towards each other 
because of the quantities we used to eat, for it was always our 
understanding that when the chocolate and rice and other things 
were gone we should begin to live on seals, and it was merely a 
question of a few days sooner or later, anyway, when that time 
would come. It had come now, and he who had been free to eat 
chocolate when he listed was doubly welcome to boiled seal flipper 
or frozen liver or any other delicacy the sea afforded. 

Really we had for those ten days of voluntary rations been 
backsliders from our own doctrine, of which we have since been more 
faithful followers: ''Do not let worry over to-morrow's breakfast 
interfere with your appetite at dinner. The friendly Arctic will pro- 

Lest memory seem to have spread a rosy haze over events that 
are five years past, I set down my diary entry of May 19, 1914. 
It shows the relaxation that came upon us when we were definitely 
through with the traditional method of arctic exploration, used as 
a sort of introduction to our trip and abandoned for the method of 
faith and reliance on nature which we have made our own. 

"Old times have come again and we are traveling in what I 
consider comfort. I don't like the pemmican method of explora- 
tion, though I concede as readily as any one its merits in its place. 
Where, as inland in the Antarctic, there is no game, it is the only 
method. But with it you are continually worrying whether the ra- 
tions will last to your destination, and there is nothing more to be 
hoped for than what you have with you at the start. This is the 
unsupplemented pemmican method as used by most European ex- 
plorers. But with a reasonable load of pemmican at the start 
(cereals and malted milk are better) , and with guns and skill, you 
can be sure in most latitudes of getting farther than your provisions 
reach — how much farther is always a matter of hope and anticipa- 
tion. It is thus a game as well as work. Science still has all her 
power over you, and so does the desire for approbation of the 
crowd or of the elect, and beyond that is the incentive of pure 
sport — no sordid desire to best a rival but merely eagerness to show 
what you and your method can do. And then there is the blessing 
of not being 'on rations.' For nearly two weeks we were on rations, 


the first experience of the kind I have had when there was some- 
thing on the sled to eat. In the past I have kept men and dogs 
on full rations as long as there was one day's grub ahead, and I 
wish I had done it this time. I believe we should have been here 
and perhaps beyond this place before the spell of easterly wind 
which made the leads that are giving us so much trouble now, had 
we kept our dogs at full strength by keeping them on full rations, 
feeding them in five days what we did feed them in ten, for they 
would probably have gone from five to ten more miles per day. 
Now the dogs are so poor it will take a week of slow travel and 
good feeding to get them back to half their normal spirits. It 
would take about two weeks of approximate rest to get them in real 
form again. They will soon improve beyond what they have been, 
however. Even yesterday they pulled a bit better. 

"As for us, we are taking solid comfort, with no worries for the 
morrow. If it takes us a month to get ashore, we shall feed well 
the whole time as we have done to-day — a feast on boiled seal 
liver, tripe, flippers and blubber. All of us agreed we enjoyed it 
more than any breakfast we have had this winter. We are staying 
in camp to-day again to give the dogs a chance to rest and feed up 
a little. The weather also is not agreeable. There is the sort of 
haze that might give us snowblindness and which makes it very 
difficult to pick a trail. With our dogs weakened as they are now, 
it would be foolish to flounder ahead through rough going when 
there might be a few yards to one side or the other of us smooth 
ice which we could see if the sun were out. So we are resting to-day, 
hoping for sunshine and good luck to-morrow." 

May 20th did prove clear as we had hoped, but we had trouble 
with open water. In the afternoon a lead opened which was about a 
quarter of a mile wide at the narrowest place and ran at right an- 
gles to our course, so that we were sure to lose a good deal of ground 
by following it for a crossing. Furthermore, it seemed to be widen- 
ing and the crossing place might not have been discoverable. 

This was a good time to try our sledboat. Perhaps it seems sur- 
prising that we had not tried it before, for on many occasions there 
had been as much as a day's delay by open water. One reason 
why we suffered these delays was that on days of good luck we, 
and especially the dogs, worked so hard that coming upon open 
water was an excuse for resting, even more welcome than valid. 
Rest meant not our rest alone, but recuperation for the dogs, so that 
a day later when the lead had either frozen or closed they were able 
to pull faster and farther. Another reason was that the leads were 


Launching the Sleduoat. 
Crossing a Lead. 


seldom actually open water. Usually they had been formed a few 
hours or even a day before and were covered by young ice which, 
although not strong enough to support a sled, was thick enough so 
that it would have had to be broken before a boat could be forced 
through. Forcing a canvas boat through young ice always chafes 
it along the water line, and although our raft cover was good qual- 
ity No. 2 canvas, we felt that a dozen crossings through young ice 
would probably wear a hole in it. But now the weather was so 
warm that even if leads were several hours old, the sun had pre- 
vented the formation of ice and they were as crossable as an ordi- 
nary river in summertime. 

Before we came to this particular lead we had already made up 
our minds that we would use the sledboat at the next one. As a 
matter of interest I made note of how long it took us to use the 
boat for the first time. We promptly unloaded the sled, spread 
the cover on the ground and placed the sled upon the middle of it. 
We took two sticks about six feet long, carried for the purpose, and 
lashed one crosswise of the sled near the front end and the other 
near the back end. Between the ends of these sticks we lashed one 
of our skis on each side. This made a frame which gave the boat 
a beam of six feet instead of only about twenty-five inches, which 
was the width of our fourteen-foot long sled. This frame con- 
structed, the tarpaulin was lashed up on the sides of the sled, and 
the sled had become a boat which would carry about a thousand 
pounds, enabling us to take our load across in two trips, carry- 
ing each time three of the dogs. It took exactly two hours from the 
time we stopped at the lead, a quarter of a mile wide, until we had 
the sled loaded and were on our way again on the other side. 

The advantage of this system of crossing a lead is manifest to 
any one, but especially to those who have read, for instance, of 
Nansen's boats for crossing open water. These were of fragile can- 
vas, and as he carried them on the sleds with the canvas stretched 
tightly over their frames, they were easily punctured when the 
sleds happened to upset or collide with broken ice. Nansen 
accordingly found that besides the disadvantage of the great care 
they required, they were so badly damaged and their covers so full 
of holes when open water was reached that it took several days of 
repairs to make them seaworthy. 

When we were through using our tarpaulin, which was about eigh- 
teen feet long and ten feet wide, we gave it a beating to remove any 
clinging ice. Sometimes at low temperatures a quarter of an inch 
or more of ice had formed on the canvas while we were crossing, 


but as all the interstices between the fibers are filled with lard the 
tarpaulin cannot possibly become water-soaked. This also gives a 
surface to which ice cannot adhere tenaciously, but can be removed 
by rolling the tarpaulin about, walking on it or beating it with a 
stick. The tarpaulin with its water-proofing of lard weighed about 
forty pounds, and I don't believe there was any time when this 
weight was increased as much as five pounds by the ice that still 
adhered to it when we rolled it into a bundle and put it in the sled. 
The bundle resembled a bolt of flannel as you see it in a dry goods 
store and was loaded in the sled's bottom, conveniently and with no 
danger of injury during travel. 

Of course it is quite true that the sledboat is not as seaworthy 
as Nansen's kayaks. Still, Storkerson and Ole, who were both good 
sailors, once made me the serious proposition that we attempt to 
cross in it from Nelson Head to Cape Parry, a distance of sixty 
miles. I don't think this would have been a sensible thing to do, 
although it might have been accomplished. The great difficulty was 
that from the craft's shape it was not easy to paddle. 

A young seal was our food on May 20th. The younger the seal 
the more delectable the meat, and partly because the meat was 
good and partly because everything was going so well that we were 
in high spirits, we overdid the feast and on May 21st we did not 
travel. It may be a disgrace of a sort to confess to such gluttony, 
but at least it is no reflection on our method of provisioning to say 
that this was not the only occasion on that journey nor the only 
one of our journeys when one man or another was indisposed through 
overeating. Incidentally it shows how well we liked our diet. It 
does take some time to get used to a meat diet, and Ole was not as 
yet completely broken in. Storkerson and I that day were the pa- 
tients, but it wasn't many days before Ole was in equal plight. 

During this night we were awakened by the dogs barking. There 
might have been a bear in the vicinity, but none was visible. The 
dogs, too, were not watching the ice but were looking out towards 
an open lead. After we had gone back into the tent they began to 
bark again. This time their barking was explained, for we heard 
the noise which had surprised and worried them, and which now 
surprised and interested us though it was by no means a source of 
worry. It was the blowing of whales. We ran out and saw a 
school of beluga whales passing, northward-bound along the lead. 
During the next two or three weeks we saw thousands of them. 
They were usually traveling north or east according to the way 
the leads were running, but on rare occasions they were traveling 


in other directions. Sometimes the leads were open, but as the frost 
was still heavy at night the whales occasionally found themselves in 
leads covered with young ice. Then it was interesting to see the 
six or eight-inch ice bulge and break as they struck it with the 
hump of their backs. A moment after the noise of breaking ice 
would come the hiss of the spouting whale and a column of spray. 

Although some of the leads were narrow enough to compel the 
whales to pass within a few yards of us, we did not try to kill 
them because they sink instantly and it is no use unless you have 
a harpoon. On this our first sea journey we should doubtless have 
carried a harpoon had we expected to encounter whales. Now we 
have complete faith in the seal, and I do not think it likely I shall 
ever take along any apparatus for killing or securing animals other 
than bears and seals. IJndoubtedly there are fish in the water, and 
for scientific reasons it would be of interest to carry some sort of 
gear for getting them, but I would never bother about fishing for 
food when seals are to be had. You must have the seals for fuel, 
anyway, and you might as well get from them your food also. 
The seal is indeed the best all-around animal of the North. Their 
skins furnish us with boots, with boats, and with containers for oil. 
The blubber is food for men and dogs, it supplies light in winter and 
heat for house and cooking, and the intestines provide waterproof 
clothing and translucent material for windows. 

The temporarily favorable westerly winds came to an end May 
22nd and another siege of easterly winds began. But for two days 
we had good luck. Undoubtedly the ice was all moving west, but 
the traveling floes pressed upon each other so closely that we always 
found a comer by which to cross to the next one east. 



IT was without any premonition of what was about to happen that 
on May 24th, after we had gone two miles and a half, we stopped 
at a lead only about a quarter of a mile wide. To cross 
was impossible because of a strong easterly wind that covered even 
this narrow water with whitecaps, but such leads usually close and 
open as the floes crowd and jostle in their drift before the wind. 
No such thing was destined now to happen. Within the next few 
hours the lead had widened to five miles and by next day we had 
no idea how wide it was, for the ice to the east was no longer vis- 
ible and the waves were rolling in and beating against our floe as 
if there were nothing between us and Banks Island but an open 
ocean. Later the lead did narrow to about five miles again, but 
day after day the young ice refused to get hard enough to bear 
up the sleds, and nevertheless was so thick that it would have chafed 
a hole in the canvas of our sledboat long before we could have 
made the other side. 

We were now a sort of Robinson Crusoe party on a moving 
island of ice. I explored it the second day and found it to be four 
or five miles square, but on all sides separated from adjacent floes 
by uncrossable leads of ice and mush. Our island was substantial — 
from the height of the hummocks above sea level I judged that many 
parts of it were over fifty feet thick — so we had as safe a camp site 
as is possible on sea ice, but there were two things to concern us. 
One was that if the easterly wind continued we should fail to meet 
the Star at our rendezvous at the northwest corner of Banks Is- 
land; the other was the problem of food and fuel. If we were 
forced to spend the summer on the ice, we should have to spend 
the winter, too. Could we during the good hunting light store up 
enough meat and blubber to last during the winter darkness? And 
if enough was secured, we might not be able to keep the stores safe 
through the winter if in some night of darkness and blizzard our 
ice island should split in the middle of our camp, and each part start 
in a different direction if it did not tip on edge, spilling our depots 



into the water. This was a spice of prospective danger which kept 
us from feeling the time monotonous. 

So soon as we felt certain our marooning would be protracted, 
we commenced killing seals. There were a great many about, but 
the mush ice in the leads made it difficult to secure them and after 
several days of effort we had only three or four safe on the ice be- 
side us. Then suddenly the food question was answered by the 
walking into camp of the first bear we had seen since leaving the 
neighborhood of Alaska. 

It was about noon, and Ole and I were asleep while Storkerson 
was standing watch. He was beginning to cook, preparatory to call- 
ing me for my watch, when the dogs started to bark at a diffident 
young bear that was hovering about and sniffing the camp from one 
or two hundred yards to leeward. By the time I had my eyes opened 
and my rifle in hand he had begun a circumspect approach. We 
waited till he was within twenty-five yards and then I shot him 
about three inches from the heart. His stomach contained nothing, 
so he could not have been faring very well the last day or so, but 
before that his hunt must have been successful for he was as fat as 
is desirable for food. 

Questions frequently are put to me as to whether caribou meat 
or musk-ox meat or bear meat or seal meat is good eating, and 
then I struggle against impatience, for underlying the query is a 
fundamental misunderstanding of human tastes and prejudice in 
food. A rule with no more exceptions than ordinary rules is that 
people like the sort of food to which they are accustomed. An 
American will tell you that he can eat white bread every day but 
that he gets tired of rice if he eats it more than once or twice a 
month, while a Chinaman may think that rice is an excellent food 
for every day but that wheat bread soon palls. An Englishman 
will tell you that beef is the best meat in the world, while in Ice- 
land or in Thibet you will learn that beef is all right now and then, 
but mutton is the only meat of which you never tire. If a man 
is brought up on the west coast of Norway or on Prince Edward 
Island, he thinks that herring and potatoes make the best of all 
staple diets, while an Iowa farmer likes potatoes well enough but 
would balk at the herring. 

Polar bear is a rare item in the diet of most Eskimo groups that 
I have known, and accordingly nearly all of them prefer some other 
form of meat. But the Eskimos of Prince Albert Sound who on 
their winter hunts in Banks Island live for several months each 
year nearly exclusively on polar-bear meat are very fond of it. 


As for the members of my traveling parties, we have never become 
really used to bear meat, although I have myself killed several 
dozen bears and been present at the killing of many dozen others. 
Bear has one fundamental defect that has nothing to do with the 
taste or toughness but lies in the stringy nature of the meat of any 
but the youngest. The fibers have a way of getting between the 
teeth and sticking there, making the gums sore, so that after a week 
or two of bear meat, chewing becomes painful. This applies to the 
cooked meat, not to the raw. Cooking increases the toughness and 
brings out the stringiness. I have never eaten any raw meat that 
was noticeably tough or stringy. Chewing half-frozen meat is like 
chewing hard ice-cream, while eating unfrozen raw meat cut in small 
pieces is like eating raw oysters. 

A second bear came into camp about ten hours after the first. 
His entry was a good deal more dramatic. As usual, our six dogs 
were tied near the tent, strung out at intervals of about six feet along 
the tie line that was fastened at both ends to chunks of ice. All 
of us were about a quarter of a mile away, Storkerson and Ole in 
the sled boat, paddling around about fifty yards from the solid ice, 
and I with my glasses standing on a hummock directing them where 
to find a dead seal that was partly hidden by some moving mush ice. 
My back was towards the camp but Storkerson, who was in the 
stern and faced it, noticed a bear about a hundred yards from the 
dogs, advancing towards them at a steady walk. I started for camp 
on a run, and just then the bear caught sight of the dogs and 
began to stalk them. They were all lying down but with their 
heads up looking in our direction, for the wind had brought them 
the smell of the killed seals. I foolishly shouted to them and this 
only fastened their attention more strongly on me. They were 
still oblivious of the bear, which had slunk to one side to be hidden 
by an ice hummock, and with legs bent and almost sliding on his 
belly was slowly moving towards them. The shielding hummock 
was about twenty yards from the dogs, and I knew that when he 
got that close he would make a dash from cover, yet without any 
suspicion that his attack was aimed at a dog, not at a seal. When 
a bear pounces on a seal he gets him between his claws first but 
bites him almost simultaneously. This action would be so in- 
stinctive that by the time he realized by smell or otherwise that he 
was not dealing with a seal the dog would be dead or maimed. 

The bear got to the hummock, and half stood up as he rounded 
it preparatory to making his dash. I was then about a hundred and 
twenty-five yards away and was badly out of breath, after a run 


through soft snow. Although I threw myself down and rested my 
elbow on the ice, I was so winded it was mainly by luck my bullet 
struck two inches back of the heart. It must have been chiefly 
the shock to his spine that made the animal crumple almost mag- 
ically, his four legs doubling under him and his head resting on the 
ice. I could see that he was alive, for his eyes followed my move- 
ments. He was about ten yards from the water, and it is the nature 
of bears when wounded to try to get into water. My first thought 
was to prevent this and I foolishly took a position between him and 
the open lead. 

It seems to me now that the bear used almost human judgment 
in what he did. Evidently he must have been recovering from the 
shock to his spine, though he was bleeding rapidly and would have 
died from loss of blood in five or ten minutes. But what happened 
was all comprised in less than two minutes. Just as I might have 
done in his place with only his resources, he kept his eyes fixed on 
me and made not the slightest motion for about a minute. In fall- 
ing he must have sunk slightly backward, for his hind feet were 
forward under him in just the feline position from which a cat or 
lion may leap. Suddenly and without any preparation he I'aunched 
himself directly towards me. I had my rifle pointed and it must 
have been almost automatically that I pulled the trigger. Had not 
the bullet pierced the brain I am afraid it would have gone badly 
with me, for as it was he covered about three and a half of the five 
yards between us, and collapsed so near that blood spattered my 

This incident increased a good deal my respect for the intelli- 
gence of polar bears, which has been growing with every encounter. 
Their unwary approach to a party of men and dogs must not be 
set down against them as lack of intelligence. They simply have 
not the data upon which to reason, for they never before have en- 
countered any dangerous animal upon the ice. We estimated the 
age of this bear at about four years, although I have no accurate 
knowledge upon which to calculate the age of bears. He was not 
fat but weighed seven or eight hundred pounds, the meat being 
about the equivalent of that of four seals. It seemed likely that 
bears would continue to come and evidently it was an economy of 
ammunition to kill them for meat, but their lack of fat made 
it necessary to continue seal hunting for the sake of the blubber. 

Forced wintering on the ice would mean that blubber would be 
more necessary than meat, for we would have to depend upon it 
for light and fuel as well as food. Seal blubber at any temperature, 


even at thirty or forty below zero, will lessen in weight day by day, 
the oil trickling out perceptibly. It is therefore necessary to pre- 
serve blubber in bags. This we do by skinning the seal through 
the mouth, or "casing" his skin, to use the language of the furrier. 
This means that the skinning is commenced at the lips. The hide is 
turned back and, as the skinning proceeds, pulled backwards over 
the head and then back over the neck and body as one might turn 
a sock inside out. When the skinning is done in this fashion, there 
are no openings in the bag except the natural ones. The flippers 
have none, for the bones are dismembered at what correspond to 
the wrist and ankle joints, leaving the flipper unskinned. The nat- 
ural openings are closed by tying them up like the mouth of a bag. 
This makes the pok which we use for a seal-oil container and which 
will hold the fat of about four seals. The same sort of bag may 
also be inflated by blowing and then forms a float with a buoyancy 
of two or three hundred pounds. Occasionally instead of using our 
canvas to convert the sled into a boat we fasten three or four of 
these inflated poks to the sides of the sled, making a sort of life 
raft. This is an Eskimo method, satisfactory in warm weather but 
not in winter, because the water which splashes over the sled turns 
into an ice coating very diSicult to remove. 

While our seal hunting for blubber continued, the bears kept 
coming into camp. The third one arrived May 31st and in a pe- 
culiar way. It was three or four o'clock in the morning, the other 
men were asleep and I with my six-power glasses was standing on 
a hummock near the camp watching the ice of the lead, counting 
seals as they came up at distances beyond gunshot and also watching 
for whales, the northward passage of which was intermittent. The 
lead now was several miles wide and covered with young ice not 
strong enough to walk upon, except near the middle where some of 
it had telescoped, making it double thickness. As I could see 
later by careful study of this ice with my glasses, the bear must 
have been proceeding north along the middle of the lead. Possibly 
he had seen the camp or been attracted towards it by some noise. 
I do not remember having made any sound, but he may have heard 
the dogs — they had been tied up so long and were in such high 
spirits that they were developing an inclination to fight which, 
because of their chains, could only be translated into snarling and 

The visitor's manner of coming was peculiar. The young ice was 
not strong enough to bear his weight but was too tough to allow 
comfortable swimming on the surface. He must have been coming 


up ftom one of his dives when I first saw him, for he was in a hole 
with his forelegs resting upon the ice on either side of him and with 
his shoulders out of water. He seemed to be craning his neck to 
look as far as possible, but apparently the ice would bear no more 
than the forward third of his body. After a rest of a minute or so 
and a good look around, he proceeded with a sort of overhand stroke, 
swimming along the surface and breaking the ice. In five or eight 
yards he became tired of this, made a dive, and in a few seconds 
came up through the ice about twenty yards nearer. Here he 
rested as before, lifting himself and craning his neck as high as the 
strength of the ice allowed, then swam forward a few yards and 
dove again. This manner of locomotion was so interesting that I 
called Storkerson and Ole. 

The bear made a landing about fifty yards from the camp and 
just at that moment got the scent of it. He stood and sniffed and 
then came towards us at a leisurely walk. The dogs had seen 
him and were furiously barking and tugging at their chains. All 
this outcry and commotion seemed to be of but mild interest, for 
the bear gave them only a casual glance now and then as he walked 
about five or ten yards from them straight for the stored seal meat. 
I killed him with one shot when he was in a convenient place for 
skinning. He was a fat bear, the largest we had secured so far, a 
good deal over a thousand pounds. 

The fourth bear came while we were skinning number three. He 
was a yearling and very timid. We had plenty of meat and I de- 
cided I would not shoot unless he came straight into camp. After 
studying us for five or ten minutes and sniffing the fresh smell 
of the bear we were skinning, he evidently concluded that a closer 
acquaintance would be undesirable and started off at a slow run 
which must have been intended to be a dignified retreat, but which 
showed that he was really scared. 

The fifth bear came on June 3rd, a visit more exciting than any 
of the others. I was away on a walk about our island, examining 
all sides to see if there were any chance to get off. Our dogs are 
tied commonly by making with picks a sort of toggle in the ice 
through which we pass the end of the tie line. Although ice is 
readily broken with a sharp blow, one of these toggles is unbe- 
lievably strong if subjected only to a steady strain. In the whaling 
at Point Barrow, for instance, half a dozen ice toggles, each no 
more than five inches in diameter, will stand the strain of hauling 
a sixty- or seventy-foot whale out of a lead on to the ice. But in 
this case thawing had weakened them, and when the dogs made a 


concerted rush towards the bear, putting their weights simultane- 
ously against the toggles, they broke. Tied together as the dogs 
were, the bear would have had them at a great disadvantage had 
he stopped to wait for them, but as soon as he saw them coming he 
fled, making for the water as a bear always will when he thinks 
himself in danger. About five yards from shore the young ice 
broke under him. He did not dive, but started trying to struggle 
up on the ice, breaking some more of it. The dogs rushed up but 
had the sense not to go in the water. 

Storkerson and Ole, out of the tent by this time, saw the great 
danger to the dogs, each one of which was of priceless value to us. 
They accordingly began to shoot, although instructions were that 
no bear was to be killed in the water, as the meat would have been 
difficult to retrieve. Only the head of the bear was showing much 
of the time, and partly because of this and partly because of ex- 
citement, it took a fusillade to kill him that used up more ammuni- 
tion than we could afford. It was justifiable, however, to do any- 
thing that increased the safety of our dogs. 

When this shooting began I was about half a mile from camp. 
As one shot after another rang out I grew more and more worried. 
My companions knew as well as I did that our lives and our suc- 
cess might depend upon the careful husbanding of ammunition. 
Yet there was Ole standing up and wastefully shooting from the 
shoulder like a cowboy firing at Indians in a movie. My momen- 
tary anger at this extravagance changed quickly to relief when I 
got home and saw what a narrow escape the dogs had had. 

Since leaving the shallow waters in the vicinity of the coast of 
Alaska we had been taking a sounding once every forty or fifty 
miles and invariably getting one resultr— 1,386 meters with no bot- 
tom. This was the full length of our line — about four-fifths of a 
mile — and it was a continual source of grief to me that the acci- 
dental breaking of the wire in earlier soundings had left us unable 
to reach bottom. It had been a theory with many geographers 
that the ocean north of Alaska was shallow, its bottom an extension 
of the continental shelf with a consequent average depth of under 
400 meters and a concomitant probability of numerous islands stud- 
ding this shallow sea. But instead of the "continental shelf" we 
had below us "oceanic depths," and at least one ground for expect- 
ing to find new lands in this unknown sea was gone. 

At the lead which stopped us we had not taken a sounding im- 
mediately, for we had not traveled far from our last sounding, 
but on the second day we sounded and got bottom for the first time 

Sbaunq Waters. 

Fair Wind and LEivBa, Ice. 









at 736 meters. Earlier in the trip it had been our expectation that 
if our line ever got bottom it would mean the approach to and dis- 
covery of an unknown land. But recently we had been traveling 
towards Banks Island, and this sounding merely confirmed the evi- 
dence of our sextant that we were only forty or fifty miles from 
the shore of a land that was known, although uninhabited and lit- 
tle explored. As the wind was steady and strong from the east and 
our ice drifting westward, it is probable that had we sounded upon 
our arrival the day before we should have had bottom at a much 
shallower depth. 

Daily sextant observations showed that our drift to westward 
away from Banks Island was continuous day after day although not 
uniform, and the same was indicated by soundings. May 27th we 
had 962 meters and on the 28th 1,142. On the 29th we were again 
in water too deep for reaching bottom with our line. 

Spring was now full upon us. Thaw water was trickling down 
the sunny side of the ice hummocks and bird life began to increase. 
Ivory gulls appeared on the 10th of May and by the 25th had be- 
come both numerous and friendly. They used to flutter about our 
camps and walk around within a dozen feet of us with little con- 
cern. I suppose the real reason for their friendliness was the meat, 
but still they frequently visited without even taking a nibble, 
though they were quite welcome to do so, for shortage of food was not 
going to be one of our serious problems. Barrow-gulls arrived May 
24th and so did the common tern. Whales kept traveling by in dozens 
or hundreds, and the dogs had become so used to their blowing that 
they no longer barked or gave a sign of attention. Small marine 
life was abundant in the water. The gulls evidently lived sump- 
tuously on it, and the seals swam about on the surface feeding 
lazily. In their stomachs we found both shrimps and small "worms" 
half an inch long. These shrimps and worms were so abundant in 
the surface layers of the water that had we been in any such 
straits as the Greely party when they attempted to live on shrimps, 
we could have done so with little trouble. 

By June we had become almost reconciled to our encampment 
on the ice. We had begun to think that we should have to spend 
our entire summer there and, of course, where you spend the summer 
it is advisable to spend the winter, for your gathered store of food 
and fuel will take you safely through the months of darkness if 
you camp by it. If you begin traveling in the autumn you have 
to leave most of j^our supplies behind and may have difficulty in 
securing more later for the lack of hunting light, I do not think 


any one takes an unreasonable degree of risk who travels in the 
Arctic with only game for food, whether it be on land or ice, during 
the periods of ample light. But when the daylight begins to fail 
towards fall, the traveler is under a severe handicap. Realizing this, 
we had begun to talk about how we would spend the winter on this 
solid floe that in two weeks had begun to have for us something 
of the friendliness and security of home, and to speculate about 
which way we might drift and how far from land we should be by 
the time daylight came back in the spring and we could resume 

But on June 5th a chance to leave came at last. The lead be- 
fore had been narrow enough for crossing had there been open 
water, but the young ice had always been of that unfortunate sort 
which obstructed the boat without being strong enough to support 
the sled. But this morning adhering to our ice island were only 
about fifty yards of young ice and beyond that a quarter of a mile 
of open water, and then some strong-looking young ice adhering 
to the other shore. I had the night watch, as usual, and awoke the 
men at about one in the morning, telling them that I had decided 
to try a crossing. It took about half an hour to break a road 
through the fifty yards of young ice to the water and half an hour 
after that our first load had been ferried across. A head wind 
meantime had been increasing and the lead was rapidly widening. 
By throwing away most or all of our meat and blubber we could 
have ferried across in two loads with smooth water, but as white 
caps soon began to run we did not dare to load the sledboat heavily. 
It seemed to me possible also that the ice on which we were landing 
was itself only a little island and that we might not be able to 
travel on it far. This induced us to ferry a fourth load, consisting 
entirely of meat and blubber. Although we took with us a thousand 
pounds, we abandoned more than a ton of food on our island. 

The last crossing was made with some diflEiculty, for the lead 
was now nearly a mile wide, as I thought, and a mile and a half as 
Storkerson and Ole estimated it. The wind had risen to almost a 
gale and the waves struck the front end of our blunt boat with such 
force that for ten or fifteen minutes I was doubtful if we were mak- 
ing any headway. The dogs, always bad sailors in a rough sea and 
always getting out on the leeward edge of the boat, had been taken 
across in the earlier trips. Had the wind been even a little stronger, 
our separation would have been pleasant neither for them, tied on 
the leeward side, nor for us, marooned on the windward side of ice 
floes drifting rapidly apart. We got over after a hard paddle, and 


it fortunately proved that, although our landing beyond the lead 
had been made on what had been a small floe, this was now 
connected by some passable young ice to the next ice island beyond, 
and we were able to proceed by treacherous bridges of young ice 
from floe to floe eastward for ten miles. 

Undoubtedly the ice under us was still moving west, but as we 
had been carried west only ninety miles during eleven days of en- 
campment, we were encouraged in feeling that now we were traveling 
east at least as fast as we were drifting west, and that should there 
be a change of wind the drift would probably set in the other direc- 
tion, carrying us towards Banks Island at a speed to add substan- 
tially to our own traveling. 



NOW we had a good deal of cloudy weather and found the "wa- 
ter sky" exceedingly useful. When uniformly clouded over 
the sky reflects everything beneath it in the manner of a mir- 
ror. If there is below a white patch of ice, then the sky over it looks 
white, while a black strip of water is represented by a black line in 
the sky. It is hard on the eyes to travel in cloudy weather and hard 
on the dogs for picking trail, yet the water sky absent in clear 
weather more than makes up for these disadvantages. Leads were 
all about us but the corners of various cakes were touching, and by 
keeping our eyes on the cloud map above we were able to travel 
sometimes a day at a time without even seeing water. Fortunately 
for us, the leads ran in such a direction and the cakes met in such 
a way that the course which enabled us to avoid the leads was north- 
east, which was also the course we most desired to travel. 

But when the sun came out, astronomical observations showed 
that while we were traveling northeast at an average estimated 
rate of about ten miles per day, we were being carried south so 
rapidly that our actual course was southeast. With Norway Is- 
land the appointed rendezvous, it had been for some time my inten- 
tion, if we could, to make the landing at Cape Alfred, the most 
northwesterly corner of Banks Island, so that our ice exploration 
might be as comprehensive as possible. We would then travel south 
along the coast to Norway Island, where we would build a beacon on 
the most conspicuous hill for the information of the Star, and go 
on, since Norway Island is shown on the chart as only six or eight 
miles in diameter, and hunting would probably not be good enough 
to justify a stay. Sealing and consequently bear hunting might 
be good but we would prefer the mainland to the east on accoimt of 
caribou, as we wanted their skins for bedding and clothing the com- 
ing winter. 

During the following three weeks in the slow struggle towards 
shore we were voluntarily delayed by the frequent soundings. For 
some days the water was too deep for our length of wire but on 



June 11th we again reached bottom, this time at 668 meters. From 
that point we sounded every few miles, took very careful account 
of marches between soundings, and located ourselves by astro- 
nomical observations on every clear day. 

During this week the struggle was a bit discouraging. Some 
days travel was impossible because of bad weather and excessive ice 
motion, and on those days we lost ground, for the ice was always 
drifting south and sometimes west as well. When we did travel we 
had trouble not only with open water but with the softness of the 
snow. Drifts which would have been hard under foot, scarcely 
recording impressions of the feet of men and dogs in a temperature 
below freezing, were now heaps of snow resembling granulated 
sugar, through which it was no easier to walk than through a bin 
of wheat. The sled sank into this snow so that we had to drag it 
like a snow plow, and the dogs floundered for lack of solid footing. 
Sometimes the men had to force the sled forward ten or twenty 
yards at a time with no help from the dogs, and often this was not 
possible until after we had tramped back and forward several times 
making a sort of road for it. 

On previous expeditions I had had to deal with snow of this 
sort and been led by it to devise an improvement to the ordinary 
Alaska sled. Alaska sleds as built in Nome and elsewhere are 
twelve or fourteen feet long and twenty-one to twenty-eight inches 
wide. As their pictures show, there are stanchions upward from 
the runners so that the load is borne on a platform from six to 
nine inches high. This platform is supported by cross benches 
underneath between the stanchions, and as the sled sinks these cross 
benches catch the snow and push it forward. When this happens 
it is not possible to move the sled without an expenditure of force 
many times greater than would be necessary if the cross benches did 
not touch the snow. For travel through soft snow no sled is really 
suitable except the Indian toboggan, but it is not practical in rough 
ice nor upon hard roads. There occurred to me a plan for combin- 
ing the advantages of both types of sled by nailing boards under- 
neath the cross benches of the Nome type so that when the runners 
sank deep enough to bring the body-part into contact with the 
snow, the under-surface should have the character of a toboggan 
and ride smoothly over the snow exactly as a toboggan does. 

Like most innovations, this one had met with no favor among 
the experienced men of my expedition. In Nome I had had several 
sleds made with toboggan bottoms, but in the southern section of 
the expedition and also on the Karluk these bottoms had in my 


absence been removed, on the theory that they were an additional 
and useless weight. In outfitting for my ice journey I had had the 
toboggan bottom replaced on one sled, but this happened to be the 
one Wilkins had with him when he got accidentally separated from 
us. The one we now had was of the ordinary, unimproved Nome 
type. Not unnaturally my diary entries of those days included more 
or less wailing over the fact that it did not have a toboggan bottom. 
My companions were so thorough^ persuaded by our experiences 
that this was the last ice trip of the expedition where any one 
wanted to use a sled without a toboggan bottom. 

By the 15th of June the depth of water had decreased to 350 
meters and land birds began to appear, snow buntings and jaeger 
gulls and a few days later king eiders and old squaw ducks. 

On June 22nd the soundings had come down to about 50 meters. 
From a low hummock at this sounding place I looked across about 
half a mile of level ice to a very high pressure-ridge, and between 
the crags saw beyond something dark and uniform in outline which 
I felt sure was land free from snow. 

Storkerson and Ole were standing beside the dog team, and I 
called to them to come to the top of the hummock. But they had 
learned skepticism through frequently taking for land either hum- 
mocks of dirty ice or distant banks of thick, billowy fog. Ole ad- 
mitted that he saw "something black that might be land," but 
Storkerson, perhaps to guard himself from disappointment, main- 
tained that nothing could be seen which we had not frequently seen 
before and found to mean nothing. To settle it we hurried the half 
mile to the high ridge between whose crags the dark outline had 
been revealed, but one of our sudden arctic fogs had intervened 
to the eastward and from the ice pirmacle everything in that direc- 
tion now looked white. 

Just beyond this ridge was a lead of open water which we crossed 
by an ice cake lying transversely across. We were tired and made 
camp, but before going to sleep I took a sounding showing 39 
meters and land birds began to appear, snow buntings and jaeger 

Next morning, June 23rd, I was up early and able to write in 
my diary: "The land is no longer problematic. It is in plain sight 
in the form of three hills, the more northerly two of which are 
probably connected, as the southernmost may be also. The north 
end bears North 17° West and the south hill North 5° East. The 
distance to the land is not less than ten miles and may be a good 
deal more." 

To those who have given little thought to the peculiarities of the 


magnetic compass, it may seem strange that land lying to the east 
should by compass be seventeen degrees west of north. This is 
because the magnetic needle does not point to the North Pole, which 
is north of us wherever we are unless we are standing on the Pole 
itself, but approximates towards the magnetic pole, which is at some 
not yet exactly located spot in the vicinity of the peninsula of 
Boothia Felix in northeastern Canada. The saying that the needle 
points to the magnetic pole is in few places on the earth an exact 
truth. Its direction from Banks Island, when we speak "true" 
and not "by compass," is southeasterly. 

For several days before we came in actual sight of what proved 
to be Norway Island, our rendezvous, we had seen in the sky to 
the eastward a peculiar pink glow. We thought it might be a re- 
flection of dead grass covering the hills of Banks Island, but it 
had another cause. When we commenced traveling over the land- 
fast ice, some twenty miles offshore, we noticed in the snowbanks 
that peculiar tinge of pink — it may sometimes almost verge on red 
— due to the microscopic plant known as "pink snow." It was 
this that was reflected pink in the sky. The layman finds it curi- 
ous that these plants appear to flourish best on the north side of 
snowdrifts, where the sun is least warm at any time and where 
freezing may take place while another slope of the same drift is 
thawing. In some mountain ranges these plants are said to be so 
numerous in the snow that it has a pinkish tinge even when held 
in the hand, but where we have traveled the pink can be seen only 
at a distance of several yards and best at a distance of thirty or 
forty yards, for on close approach the snow looks only white or a 
little dingy. 

We were somewhat surprised to find the ice aground here in 
thirty-nine meters, or about 120 feet. The actual freezing of sea 
water does not produce ice in these or probably any latitudes of 
more than six or seven feet in thickness, but the telescoping of it 
under pressure may, as we have described elsewhere, increase this 
thickness indefinitely. Few districts are more frequently under 
violent stress than the west coast of Banks Island, where some of 
the pressure-ridges project more than sixty feet above the water, 
their base resting solidly on the bottom 120 feet below. It is a 
peculiarity of the strong westerly winds on the north coast of 
Alaska and the west coast of Banks Island that they bring with 
them a high "storm tide," raising the level of the water six or 
eight feet above ordinary high tide. The coastal ridges of ice are 
thus heaped up, especially in the zone lying between five and twenty 


miles from the Banks Island coast. When the thaw winds come in 
the spring and summer, the warmest are from the east and south- 
east. The stronger the east winds the lower the ''tide," so that the 
ridges which have been heaped up with a high tide are solidly- 
aground and immovable to any effort of the east wind. For this 
reason a typical summer condition on the west coast of Banks 
Island is that the moving pack to seaward is driven far out of 
sight to the west, and a lane of open water along the land is pro- 
duced by the warm rivers from the interior, while there remains a 
belt extending from half a mile to fifteen miles offshore where the 
ice still lies unbroken and immovable. Occasionally a west wind 
brings a high tide and then drops suddenly enough to allow an east 
wind to start before the tide has fallen. Then the entire mass of 
shore ice may go abroad in two or three hours. 

Our first sight of land had been from a distance of nearly twenty 
miles. The going from this point was exceedingly bad. We waded 
sometimes through water nearly up to our waists, while the dogs 
had to swim and the sled floated behind like a log of wood towed 
across a river. A far worse condition was when the miniature lakes 
on top of the ice were filled not with water only but with slush 
snow. Though your feet went straight to the bottom, real wading 
was not possible and either walking or swimming was quite impos- 
sible to the dogs. In places like this you had to force your way 
back and forth through the slush several times, making a sort of 
ditch or canal preliminary to taking hold of the leading dog and 
dragging the team after you while the other two men pushed the 
sled from behind. The hardest kind of work gave us only six 
miles per day. 

Our first sleep on the land floe had a comfort and security 
about it that we had not known for over ninety days. No drift 
could now take away from us in the night whatever distance we had 
won during the day. No crack would open under us, no cake would 
tip on edge to spill us into the water. Later years brought us 
thorough familiarity and confidence in the ocean ice, but the relief 
and at-home-ness of the land ice then were beyond description. 
Besides the uncertainty of reaching Norway Island in order to meet 
the Star in the fall, we had also the unacknowledged doubt of 
whether we could reach land at all. No matter how sound the 
reasons for your confidence in a theory, it seems to be part of a 
somewhat irrational human nature that you never feel quite sure 
of being able to do anything unless you know that some one has 
done it before. The universal skepticism on the Alaska coast 


among whites and Eskimos alike of the possibility of making the 
five- or six-hundrcd-mile journey over frozen ocean to northwest 
Banks Island had somehow soaked into our bones. So far we had 
never slept without feeling, although there was no evidence to our 
senses, that our beds were drifting. Sometimes it was a drift favor- 
able to us and sometimes against, but there was always the gam- 
bler's tenseness about these erratic camping places that were always 
carrying us either toward or away from our goal. The passive se- 
curity of the land-fast ice was a feather bed and down pillow which 
brought the first real relaxed sleep for three months. 



W] landed on June 25th at 8: 10 in the evening, ninety-six days 
out from the Alaska coast. Measured by a string laid on 
the surface of a globe the journey is a little over five hun- 
dred miles, but a checking up of astronomical observations show? 
that, counting the adverse drift, we had traveled about seven hun- 
dred miles. But whether the trip be called five hundred miles or 
seven hundred, neither figure measures its difficulty. If the same 
journey were to be undertaken by a party equipped like ours each 
year for ten years and were to be started a month or six weeks earlier 
than we started, I believe it could be done, in at least nine seasons 
out of the ten and perhaps in every one of the ten seasons, on the 
average in about half the time that it took us. For our difficulties 
were not the mileage but the warmth of the weather, with conse- 
quent mobility of the ice and treacherous ice bridges that after 
each gale formed all too slowly between the floes. If we were to 
make the journey again we should also start with a lighter load 
from Alaska, having now no longer a mere theory, but a theory veri- 
fied by trial, to give us complete confidence in the food and fuel 
supplied by the arctic high seas. 

On the last day we had camped on the sea ice a mile and three- 
quarters from shore. We might have been impatient to reach the 
land that lay green and close to us in the sun, but from the point of 
view of the arctic traveler the fundamental difference is not between 
sea and land, but between the moving ice on one hand and the land- 
fast ice and land on the other. When we had left the moving pack 
for the grounded shore floe, we had already counted ourselves ashore. 
Still there was an interest all its own in stepping on the real 
land. There was plant life, with a kind of academic interest to 
the eyes, and there was the more practical importance of the animals 
and birds. Whatever else these animals and birds might be, they 
were potential food for us or food for the animals on which we feed. 
For, according to the law of this grewsome world, the worm implies 
the song-bird that feeds upon it, and the song-bird implies the owl 



that robs the little bird's nest and eats its young; the lemming im- 
plies the fox, and the footprint of a caribou or an old antler lying 
bleaching upon the hillside tells not only of the magnificent stag 
and gamboling fawn, but of the packs of wolves that follow the 
stag for days across the rolling hills and eventually eat him alive 
when he falls from exhaustion. (Only in the books of the nature 
faker is the wolf fleet enough to overtake the caribou after a short 
rush, and his fangs long and keen enough to cut the jugular vein. 
If animals have a sense of humor it is a pity they cannot read our 
popular nature stories or come to see an occasional "Great North 
Woods" or "God's Country" movie.) 

From the first sight of land our concern had been to get ashore, 
so that we had left unkilled several seals along the way. Accord- 
ingly, we landed with no food for the dogs and only about half a 
meal for ourselves. While we were still a mile from shore with the 
southward slope of Norway Island conveniently spread out ahead, 
my glasses revealed one wolf, one fox, eight hares, some king eiders. 
Pacific eiders, old squaw ducks, and three dark geese, one of which 
on closer approach proved to be a Hutchins. After landing we saw 
some willow ptarmigan, plovers, Lapland longspurs, snow buntings, 
and two or three kinds of sandpipers. We found also the. exgorgita- 
tions of owls and saw a few bees and blue-bottle flies. There were 
no mosquitoes, our later intimate acquaintances on the mainland. 

Caribou tracks were on the beach, and while our side of the 
island certainly contained no caribou as reviewed from seaward, 
there might be some on the other slope. So I left the men to make 
our first camp on shore and to gather pieces of driftwood for the 
first campfire, and went to the top of the island to get a view of 
the far side. The island proved to be only about half as large as 
the Admiralty chart has it, only half as far from the next land 
east, and with the long axis at about right angles to what it should 
be by the chart. I ascended the most westerly of the hills, so that 
turning to the east I had to look first over three miles of the island 
and beyond that over three miles of ice to examine what I then 
thought was the mainland of Banks Island. And it should have 
been the mainland by the chart, but it proved to be an island about 
twice the size of Norway Island and much more fertile. That is- 
land we later named after Captain Peter Bernard of the Sachs. 

In hunting on the grassy plains of the Arctic, a good pair of 
glasses and a knowledge of their use are about as important as the 
quality of your rifle and the pair of legs that carry you. I have 
found it as difiicult to teach a new man the proper use of field 


glasses as to teach the use of the rifle or the understanding of any 
of the principles of hunting in the open country. The green man 
stands erect with his heels together, lifts the glasses jauntily to his 
eyes and spins slowly around on one heel, taking from half a min.- 
ute to a minute to make a complete survey of the horizon. Then 
he announces that there is no game in sight. The experienced 
hunter will take some pains to find the best place to sit down, will 
bring out from somewhere a piece of flannel that is clean no mat- 
ter how dirty he himself and every other item of his outfit may be, 
and wipe every exposed lens till he is sure there isn't a speck or 
smudge anywhere. If the landscape is well within the power of his 
glasses he will probably rest his elbows on his knees, but if the dis- 
tance is great or the wind blowing, he will lie down flat with elbows 
on the ground, or will build up out of stones or any available ma- 
terial a rest for the glasses that cannot be shaken by the wind. 
If the wind is blowing hard he may even place a fifteen- or twenty- 
pound stone on top to keep them steady. There is never any pivot- 
ing or swinging motion as he brings them to bear upon successive 
fields of view. If the angle of vision is six degrees, as it may be 
with six-power glasses, or three degrees with twelve-power, he ex- 
amines thoroughly the field disclosed by their first position and 
then moves them a less number of degrees than they cover, so that 
the second field of view shall slightly overlap the first. In calm 
weather and with an ordinary landscape it takes about fifteen 
minutes for one good look around from a hilltop, and under special 
conditions it may take a good deal more. If, for instance, some- 
where near the limit of the power of the glasses is seen a patch that 
may be a caribou but which may also be a stone or a wolf, it may 
take an hour of study to make sure. 

Six little white specks on a hillside were apparent now on what 
I thought was the mainland, a mile or two from the beach. The 
sky was clear and there was that quivering, wavy motion in the 
atmosphere which is due to the sun shining on areas of different na- 
ture, causing air currents to rise that differ in temperature and 
humidity. Through such an atmosphere all things have blurred out- 
lines even if their shapes are not otherwise distorted, and the shape 
may easily appear fantastic. Small stones, round or flat, may look 
like tall pillars and even appear to move. If stones or the like 
appear to move they will all seem to be moving in the same direc- 
tion. This may be the case with caribou, although they seldom 
retain their relative positions as immovable bodies seen through 
a mirage would do. My six specks looked round and had blurred 


outlines, so there was no telling whether they were stones or caribou 
until one's mind was made up by study. They might have been 
white geese, for in looking across a range of hills and then over 
some invisible ice beyond to a second land, there is no easy way 
of estimating distance. It took about half an hour of watching 
before one of the bodies moved with reference to the other five. 
These were then not stones, since one of them had moved, and not 
geese, because six geese at this time of day would not have retained 
their positions relative to each other unchanged for half an hour. 
By a process of elimination, they were caribou, which had all been 
lying down, until just now when one got up and moved a few steps. 

The men in the camp below had supper cooked and could be 
seen waiting for me; but as there were no caribou on the island 
and we had only half a meal of food, and as a wolf might come 
along and chase away my band of caribou or fog arise to shut them 
from view, I decided to go after them at once. Following the 
sky line of the island to make sure that the men saw which way I 
was going, I started eastward at a brisk walk. I knew they would 
infer that there was no use waiting supper, I also expected they 
would infer that they were free to eat all the meat there was. To 
have saved a third of it might have been courteous and even kind, 
but they ate it all on the assumption that I would secure my own 
supper before I came back, which was a vote of confidence I valued 
far beyond kindness or courtesy. 

When I started towards the caribou I thought I was going after 
my supper, but it turned out to be breakfast. For when after three 
hours of walking I came within half a mile of them, I found them 
grazing near the middle of a huge saucer-shaped bowl of grass-land 
where it was impossible to approach from any side without being 
seen. In an uninhabited island caribou might popularly be expected 
not to be afraid of a man. As I understand their psychology, neither 
would they if they could know he was a man. But how are they to 
know it when with their poor eyesight they can see an object and 
still not be able to tell whether it is a wolf or a caribou? When 
anything comes unexpectedly into sight they make their decision 
on the side of discretion, assume what they see is a wolf and 
promptly flee, although as often as not what they flee from is an- 
other caribou or some other, to them, entirely harmless animal such 
as a fox or polar bear. 

In view of the topography and of the nature of caribou, there 
was nothing for me to do except to wait. Of course I might have 
adopted the hunting tactics of the Slavey and Dog-rib Indians of 


the mainland, who rush up to a band of caribou at top speed, hop- 
ing to get within shooting range before they begin to run, and hoping 
also that because of their peculiar antics the caribou will be con- 
vinced at once that they are not wolves, and will circle to get a 
better look or to get to leeward to prove it by the sense of smell. 
I have often seen this method used by Indians and never with 
great success. They may get one or two out of a band or they 
may get none, and their stories of occasionally killing whole bands 
I have never verified, nor has any one on whom I thoroughly rely. 
But by more common-sense methods, one can usually get every 
animal of a band of six or eight. In a country where game is 
scarce, as it is in nearly every region where I have hunted, it is 
necessary to kill a majority of the animals seen, and I long ago 
discarded the haphazard methods of the Indian, which too often 
leave you hungry and empty-handed after several hours to begin the 
hunt all over again. 

The caribou grazed in the center of their bowl from half-past 
eleven that night until about three in the morning. They then lay 
down for an hour, and about four o'clock commenced grazing 
slowly in a direction directly away from me. What I had to do 
was to move a little farther off, till at something over half a mile 
I was sure they could not see me. Then I circled to be directly in 
front of them and lay for about an hour motionless till they were 
within two or three hundred yards, when I shot all six in eight shots. 

The work of skinning and dismembering took some time and it 
was an eight-mile walk home, so that by the time I arrived at camp 
the men had had a good night's sleep and were up and ready to cook 
breakfast. Only they had nothing to cook. They knew it was one 
of my most firmly adhered-to rules that on any long trip where am- 
munition has to be husbanded, no animal smaller than a wolf shall 
be killed. They had been discussing how good the geese on the 
hillside would taste, and wondering whether I might not be willing 
to make an exception in this case and allow the landing to be cele- 
brated with a goose or two. They had even come to a decision, 
and one of our proudest traditions might easily have been shat- 
tered by the expenditure of a bullet for five pounds of meat when 
it should have brought one hundred. But the tradition was saved 
by my arrival with six caribou tongues for a preliminary break- 
fast, and the announcement that by moving seven miles we could 
camp in the vicinity of the deer-kill with driftwood enough to cook 
two or three successive meals of boiled caribou heads. 

When we got ashore Storkerson and I had a real feast of boiled 


heads. But not poor Ole, who sat eating steaks of caribou ten- 
derloin and wishing he had salt or onions to make it less insipid. It 
must be said for Ole, however, that he learned more quickly than 
most tenderfcet, for we had not been in Banks Island more than a 
week when he quit frying steaks for himself and began to join 
us in the eating of boiled heads and briskets and ribs. 

The tastes of the northern hunters who live on meat alone are 
nearly uniform whether they be Indians, Eskimos, or white men 
resident with either people, though they differ strikingly from the 
tastes in meat acquired in connection with modern European cook- 
ing. These northerners eat their meat by taste, as our ancestors 
must have done when originated the saying, "The nearer the bone 
the sweeter the meat." Nowadays we do not judge meat with our 
palates according to its flavor but with our teeth according to its 
"tenderness." To aid our teeth in the judgment of meat we call 
on our eyes to differentiate between dark and light meats. One 
of the main difficulties in trying to introduce a new meat into the 
dietary of a "civilized" people is the problem of matching it in color 
with some meat already in favor. 

I have known white hunters who carried salt with them to 
stick for a surprisingly long time to European ideas of cooking. 
But if one has no salt the organs of taste recover rapidly from 
even scores of years of abuse with seasonings and sauces. When 
the sense of taste has regained a moderate delicacy, white men fall 
naturally into agreement with the Eskimos and northern Indians 
in classifying the parts of caribou about in the following descend- 
ing order of excellence: 

The head is best, and except the marrow the most delicious fat 
is back of the eyes. These flavors are the strongest and most pleas- 
ing of the whole caribou. Then comes the tongue. Next are brisket, 
ribs and vertebras, but in all of these we usually remove for dog 
feed some of the outer meat, reserving for ourselves the "sweet 
meat near the bone." Next come hearts, kidneys, and the meat 
near the bone on the neck. Shoulders are next. These are more 
often eaten by the Indians than the Eskimos, as are also the hearts, 
apparently because the Indians use roasting now and then as a 
method of cooking, and these parts seem better roasted. 

Here it may be remarked that frying is a method of cooking 
unknown to the natives of northern North America and they take 
very badly to it, except the frying of bacon, ham and imported 
meats generally. I have known both Indians and Eskimos pro- 
ficient enough in white men's cooking to have jobs as cooks in 


trading posts or on ships, but even they go back to exclusive boiling 
and roasting of native meats and fish if they start housekeeping for 

It is seldom among the Alaska and Mackenzie River Eskimos 
that caribou hams are eaten when there is enough of other meat. 
The hams, some of the entrails, the lungs and liver, the outside meat 
from the neck and brisket, and the tenderloin are the food of the 
dogs. There are partial exceptions to this rule, for several rea- 
sons. When fuel is scarce, as it occasionally is in Coronation 
Gulf, boned hams are cooked, as they require less fuel per pound, 
being cut in small pieces for boiling. The summer of 1916, for 
instance, we were compelled to eat ham meat for lack of fuel. 
Also when you are drying meat it is often convenient to dry hams, 
which are more easily sliced thin; as dry meat, they will be eaten 
later. Still, the Slaveys and other Indians usually prefer drying 
boned rib meat, and these are the favorite food of the Hudson's Bay 
Company's men and other northern fur traders, who buy them from 
the Indians. 

Such are, roughly, the tastes and preferences in lean or mod- 
erately fat meat that are common among the native northern meat- 
eaters and that are acquired by whites soon after they quit using 
salt and other seasoning.* 

The tastes of meat-eaters as to the various fats of caribou and 
similar animals are perhaps more interesting than other sections of 
the same subject, for the reason that people of European culture 
have during the last three centuries allowed sugar to usurp almost 
wholly the field of gustatory delights where fats were once supreme, 
while yet the phrase "to live on the fat of the land" had a keen 
appeal to the senses. 

I judge from the experience of myself and others that no one 
while living on the typical modern diet, largely made up of pro- 
tein, sugar and starch, is capable of delighting in the fine shades 
of flavor between different kinds of fat. But this power comes very 
soon irrespective of climate to whoever lives on unseasoned animal 
foods exclusively. Then, whatever the race or bringing-up, there 
seems little variety in tastes as to fats. I imagine this would be so 
were the animals eaten cattle or sheep or fowl. I know with caribou 
that negroes. South Sea Islanders, Indians, Eskimos and Europeans 

* For a more detailed discussion of Eskimo tastes in food, see the section 
on "Food" in "Anthropological Papers of the Stefansson-Anderson Expedi- 
tion," New York, 1914. 


of varied nationality generally agree that in point of palatability 
the fats of the caribou should be ranged as follows: 

The least agreeable is the back fat. When tried out and made 
into tallow, it is harder than that from any other part of the animal. 
Next are the intestinal fat and the fat found in the interstices of the 
meat, as on the ribs, etc. The fat near the bone on the brisket is 
considered somewhat better than the last two varieties. Next would 
come the kidney fat. Best of all are the fat behind the eyes and 
the little lump of fat on the hind leg near the patella. 

If these fats are tried out the ones considered preferable in 
taste generally make the softest tallow. Kidney fat, for instance, 
is softer than intestinal fat, and intestinal fat is softer than back 
fat. However, the fat from behind the eyes and from the leg are 
no softer than the kidney fat, although considered of a better flavor. 
This discussion refers to fats eaten after being brought to almost or 
quite the boiling temperature of water; in other words, underdipne 
boiled fat. 

Marrows are usually eaten raw by the northern Indians and 
almost always by the Eskimos and by experienced white hunters, 
although the femur and humerus are sometimes either roasted or 
boiled. In palatability the marrows are simple to classify, for the 
preferred ones are nearest the hoof, the ones farther away the least 
agreeable. While delicious, the marrow of the small bones near the 
hoof is seldom eaten because it is bothersome to get at and there 
is so little of it. In the long bones the marrow is not only pref- 
erable nearer the hoof when you take it bone by bone, but there 
is a distinct difference between the upper and lower end of each 
bone, the marrow of the lower end being better. 

More exactly than in the case of the fats, the various marrows 
agree in hardness and palatability; that is, the softer the marrow 
the more palatable. This means also that the softest marrows are 
nearest the hoof and get harder and drier as you go up. We are 
speaking of their consistency at ordinary house or summer tempera- 
tures, say 70° F. At this temperature the marrow of the small bones 
near the caribou hoof is a clear liquid, of about the appearance 
of melted lard that is almost cold enough to congeal. We use it 
sometimes for gun oil if we run out of the commercial kinds. Not 
only are the marrows harder away from the hoof but the same 
applies to the fat after it is tried out. Tried-out fat from the 
phalanges is a thick liquid; tried-out fat of the humerus or femur 
is a tallow about as hard as if made from kidney fat. 

Apart from those already discussed, there remains but one im- 


portant kind of caribou fat and that is the tallow secured by first 
crushing and later boiling the bones. A difference in flavor and 
hardness may exist between tallows made from different bones but 
in this regard we have no experience, for when bones are pounded 
to be boiled for fat they are taken indiscriminately, vertebrae and 
briskets, head bones, long bones, back bones, etc. 

This discussion relates to the season when the caribou are fat. 
At certain seasons no fat is discernible, even behind the eyes or close 
to the bone of the brisket. The marrow in all the bones alike is 
then liquid and has the appearance of blood, and I do not know 
that there is a difference in consistency or flavor. Such marrow 
when boiled congeals into a slightly tough substance, resembling 
the white of hard-boiled egg both in texture and flavor, or rather 
lack of flavor. 

Experiment has shown us that fats and marrows of mountain 
sheep, musk ox and moose are to be classified both in flavor and 
consistency about as those of caribou, with two principal exceptions: 
In the moose it is considered that "moose nose" is about the most 
agreeable. In the musk ox the fat of the neck is rated higher than 
that of the back, while on the caribou there is not much fat on the 
neck and what there is is considered to have no specially fine flavor. 

Apart from any intrinsic interest these notes may have as ap- 
plied to the caribou directly and from their analogy to other mam- 
mals used for food, I offer them thinking that students of human 
anatomy may not in their investigation of the marrow of man have 
noticed these differences. It seems to me it would be interesting to 
note whether human marrow gets harder the farther away from the 
toes and finger-tips. The question of comparative flavor of human 
marrows will probably have to remain speculative. 



THE day after moving to the deer-kill we discovered we were on 
an island about eight miles in its longest diameter and three or 
four hundred feet high, with the mainland about a mile away 
from the eastern end and about three miles to the south of our camp. 
There was only one more caribou on the island. This we killed and 
with its meat and what remained of the other six we crossed over and 
made an encampmeiat on a sandspit near a good harbor. Here 
was considerable driftwood not only for fire but for building an 
elevated platform, upon which we stored such belongings as might 
be injured by foxes and other animals. Incidentally, we hoped 
that this conspicuous landmark might be seen by the Star when she 
came along and might guide her to where we were. At Norway 
Island we had erected the day after landing a conspicuous beacon 
on the highest hill. It contained a brief record of our journey from 
Alaska, and said that we expected to spend the summer hunting on 
the mainland to the east, accumulating meat for food and skina 
for clothing for the coming winter, and that we would be on con- 
tinual watch for the Star. 

June 28th and the days following Storkerson made a map of 
Bernard Island and killed on the coast one ugrug, or bearded seal, 
and some small ordinary seals, while I examined the mainland, 
especially to the east. We found Bernard Island to be in the mouth 
of a river larger than one would expect on Banks Island, in spring 
more than half a mile wide, while even ten or fifteen miles inland 
and as late as August when the water is far below spring level, 
one who does not want to swim has to look carefully for a ford. 
By September, however, there are numerous places where the stream 
is no more than knee deep, generally where it is wider and more 
rapid, so that the width of a ford fifteen or twenty miles inland will 
be thirty or fifty yards. 

In the comparative leisure of these first days ashore I made 
long retrospective diary entries dealing with the circumstances under 
which we left Alaska and with the journey to Norway Island. 
Again I find reflections on how much more we could have accom- 



plished had we been able to start a few weeks earlier from Martin 
Point, again the regret of our lost equipment in the separation from 
Wilkins and Castel. I find an entry about Storkerson and An- 
dreasen in which, as I felt at the time, I gave them less than their 
due: "They are as well suited for this work as it is easy to im- 
agine. Neither of them worries or whines and both are optimistic 
about the prospects. This last is important. Traveling with an 
empty sled and living off the country is no work for a pessimist." 
The longer the time that intervenes the more my feeling of grati- 
tude to these men and my appreciation of them has grown. Those 
who have gone through a difficult experience anywhere will know 
that nothing more could be said, after all, than this: that if I had 
a similar trip to make over again I could not imagine any com- 
panions I should prefer to Storkerson and Ole. 

The diary record of our dogs is that "they have done probably 
better work than any team in Arctic exploration. Two hundred and 
forty-four pounds to the dog is, I believe, a heavier load than dogs 
have heretofore hauled, and ours came near making thirty miles a 
day with that load in fair going. We have never had to do more 
than help them over the worst places." An Arctic traveler's feel- 
ing of gratitude to the dogs can be scarcely less keen than to men. 
Still, there was one of them, the same "Bones," who did little hard 
work after warm weather began. Nothing could induce Bones to 
pull steadily when the sun was shining warm on his sleek, fat back. 
When we landed, all our dogs were as fat as it is good for a dog to 
be, but Bones was fatter than that. Possibly this was his trouble. 

What one thinks "at the time" has its significance, so here is a 
diary estimate of the journey: 

"Our success, although less than half of what it would have 
been with a start three weeks earlier (so it looks now), has been 
greater than we had any reason to hope on March 22nd when we 
left Martin Point. We have carried a line of soundings of over 
4,500 feet through four degrees of latitude and nineteen degrees of 
longitude, most of it unexplored and all of it unsounded ocean. We 
have determined the 'continental shelf off Alaska and off Banks 
Island, and have learned something of the currents -of the Beau- 
fort Sea. Most of what we have learned is contrary to what men 
'knew' before. This summer we may be able to do some further 
useful work in geography, geology and archaeology in Banks Island. 
Next winter (if the Star and Sachs are able to follow my instruc- 
tions) we can with our greater experience and better base hope for 
a more successful year. Counting on them, I now plan two trips; 


one northwest from Cape Alfred, then north and then east to the 
north end of Prince Patrick Island; the other northwest from the 
north end of Prince Patrick Island, then north and east to Isachsen 
Land and back to Prince Patrick or Melville Island (in whichever 
place the Star is wintering). The most promising and interesting 
ice trip that I can see, however, would be to go north from, say- 
Cape Halkett in Alaska in February to 77° or 78° N. latitude and 
then east to Prince Patrick Island. That is a trip I hope some 
time to make." * 

And here is the record we placed in the beacon on Bernard 

"June 30, P. M., 1914. 
"Storker Storkerson, Ole Andreasen and myself landed on the island 
next offshore from this one June 25th — men, dogs and gear all in good 
condition. Shall proceed to-morrow SE to the mainland. According to 
circumstances we may go up the river, in the mouth of which this island 
lies, to explore it; or we may go south along the coast towards Kellett. 
If no traces of us have been found farther south, any vessel of the 
Canadian Arctic Expedition finding this should proceed south along the 
mainland ten or fifteen miles in search of a beacon with further informa- 
tion. If none is found, the vessel should erect a beacon or two with infor- 
mation and then go back to this island or some place near it and prepare 
to winter. Wood should be energetically gathered from the beach within 
20 miles each way and caribou should be hunted early to provide fat 
meat. There appears to be a good harbor on the SE side of the island 
(just beyond the prominent hill on the S comer). There seems also 
a harbor on the east of the island offshore from this one and there may 
be others on the mainland. If no suitable harbor is found, the vessel 
should look for one to the north rather than the south. The Karluk, 
should she come, might try to reach Prince Patrick Island if her com- 
mander thinks it advisable; the North Star and Mary Sachs should not 
go beyond Banks Island (except after picking us up). If no traces of 
us are found, small caches with things not likely to be destroyed by bears 
might be made for our use in two or three places. We have over 200 
rounds of ammunition and both rifles are in good order, so there need 
be no fear for us on the score of starvation. 

"V, Stefansson." 

For the first week or two in Banks Island we saw each day- 
some new kind of bird. On June 30th appeared the first phalarope 
and the first rock ptarmigan, although there had been already per- 

* A trip commencing with such a program was actually made in 1918. On 
account of my illness, the command was taken by Storkerson who has written 
an account of the enterprise which I have summarized in the Appendix of 
this book. 


haps a hundred willow ptarmigan. From the fact that no females 
appeared, it is probable that ptarmigan were already nesting. No 
ravens or hawks were noticed the first part of the summer, al- 
though we now know that both ravens and golden eagles are na- 
tive to the vicinity at this time of year. 

We have now come to a point where we must mention an animal 
that touches this story frequently later on, the "musk ox." And 
I don't think we had better call him "musk ox" in the rest of the 
book. The name is in a sense libelous of him, as it is in a sense 
deceptive to the reader. 

I have made no researches to discover who first perpetrated the 
blunder of calling him "musk ox." It may have been some early 
English navigator who was a better sailor than zoologist and mis- 
identified him with the musk deer of Asia. Or possibly he was more 
of a trader than he was a scientist and wanted to lead people to 
believe that he had discovered a new commercial source of the 
costly musk perfume of our ancestors — a trick with many parallels 
in early exploration, of which none is more interesting than Eric 
the Red's frank admission that he named Greenland so in order 
to induce his fellow Norsemen to colonize it. 

But once under the view of keen-eyed scientists the "musk ox" 
(and now we are through with the word, for we can exchange it for 
a better) got the fairly truthful descriptive name of ovibos, or sheep- 
cow. This is what he is to the casual view — a cow (or bull) with a 
coat of wool. For a description of his peculiarities and his excep- 
tional merits from the point of view of usefulness to us humans, we 
shall wait for the account of that period of our adventures when 
he was our intimate and (so far as we would let him) friendly 

For the present I shall merely convey a hint of some of many 
reasons for refusing to imply by a misnomer that this animal has 
attributes that are really foreign to him. Sverdrup * says: "Having 
shot many of these animals and drunk the milk of the cows, with- 
out ever detecting the flavour of musk from which they are sup- 
posed to derive their name, I have decided to call them in this book 
polar oxen." We shall in general follow Sverdrup, and the great 
British explorers of the middle century who usually referred to these 
animals as "cattle."** It requires inhibition to refrain from using 

♦ "New Land," by Otto Sverdrup, London, 1904. See footnote to p. 35 of 
Vol. I. 

** See the various journals of the Franklin Search as printed in the British 
Parliamentary Blue Books. 


"ovibos" as a "popular" name, and perhaps I shall do so occasion- 
ally — not so much to give variety as to see how the reader likes it. 
But for the weighty authority of the Parliamentary Blue Books 
and of Sverdrup, who give us the precedent for calling them "cattle," 
"polar cattle," and "polar oxen," I should have favored "ovibos" 
as a name for daily speech no less than for scientific use. 

We soon came to the conclusion that while polar oxen were now 
either rare or extinct in our immediate vicinity, there had been tre- 
mendous numbers up to thirty or forty years ago. This was to be 
inferred from the number of bleaching skeletons. Later I lived in 
Melville Island, a present habitat, where they are supposed to be as 
numerous to the square mile as in any ordinary arctic territory; 
and yet it is clear from the number of bones that there must have 
been at least ten times as many to the mile in Banks Island as 
there are now in Melville Island. This is natural and follows from 
the greater fertility of Banks Island. It is not in the main a matter 
of latitude but of topography. Melville Island is prevailingly moun- 
tainous, with large stretches where there is scarcely a blade of 
grass; the valleys and low places may be fertile enough, yet there 
are low, fiat plains almost as rocky and barren as the mountains. 
In Banks Island there are mountains in the north end and in the 
south, but the rugged topography even in these places affords more 
areas suited to vegetation than does Melville Island. About three- 
quarters of Banks Island, embracing the entire middle, is best 
described to the person who has not traveled in the Arctic as typical 
prairie land. In the days before North Dakota was settled by 
farmers, I have seen there areas which could not by a casual glance 
be distinguished from the central portions of Banks Island. If you 
are a botanist and look closely at the nearby ground you will no- 
tice strange plants that do not grow in North Dakota, but you 
will notice also many familiar plants, such as bluegrass, timothy, 
golden-rod, dandelion, poppy, watercress and edible mushrooms. 
But if you glance off to a distance you will see the same sort of green 
hills rolling away towards the horizon whether you are in Banks 
Island or in certain parts of Nebraska, North Dakota or southern 
Alberta. If there is a difference it is likely to be in the greater num- 
ber of small lakes in Banks Island, although even these are not 
very numerous, because the island has what the geologist calls 
"mature drainage," so that little creeks carry off the water that 
might otherwise be left in the form of ponds and lakes. 

This was an ideal country for polar oxen, which are grass-eaters, 
with mouths not adapted to the picking up of the lichens that hug 


the rocky ground where they typically grow. In the opening of 
many paunches I have never found any appreciable amount of 
lichens, and am of the opinion that whatever lichens one does find 
have been accidentally picked up with the grass. This shows how 
much at variance with the facts must be the common belief that 
they prefer a mountainous and rocky country. In Melville Island 
and elsewhere I have found the living animals and the bones of the 
dead most abundant in the grassiest country, which, other things 
being equal, is also the most nearly level and the lowest. In moun- 
tainous districts animals will be found in the deep valleys grazing 
in sunny spots, not for any desired warmth, but merely because that 
is where the grass grows most luxuriously. If the bones of the dead 
are occasionally found on rocky hilltops, it is because the bands 
have retreated there in an attempt to defend themselves against 
the attacking Eskimos. 

The absence of cattle from the fertile hills and valleys of Banks 
Island where they were recently so numerous has a historical ex- 
planation. The scattered bones are a confirmation of McClure's 
statement that when he wintered in Prince of Wales Straits and in 
the Bay of Mercy in the years 1850-53 "cattle" were numerous 
everywhere. In 1906 at Herschel Island I was told by whalers that, 
a few years before, a landing had been made in southwest Banks 
Island from the Penelope, which was then owned and commanded 
by Eskimos, and the Narwhal, commanded by Captain George 
Leavitt, and that recent traces of polar cattle as well as of Eskimos 
hunting them had been seen near Cape Kellett. 

Then in May, 1911, when I visited the Prince Albert Sound 
Eskimos,* I found that most of that group spent a part of the win- 
ter in southeast Banks Island and that some of them occasionally 
spent the summer in the interior. From them I learned that cattle 
were occasionally found, and they told me specifically about a 
small band which during the spring of 1911, probably March, came 
down from the hills to the coast at the southeast corner of Banks 
Island, where they were killed. These same Eskimos told me that 
at a time which I estimated as less than half a dozen years after 
McClure abandoned his ship the Investigator in the Bay of Mercy, 
some Eskimos had found her. She was to them, naturally, a veri- 
table treasure house, especially for her iron. The news spread 
through Eskimo communities as far south as Coronation Gulf and 
east towards King William Island, and the Bay of Mercy for 
twenty or thirty years became a place of pilgrimage for perhaps a 

♦ See pp. 281 ff., "My Life With the Eskimo." 


thousand Eskimos. They made long trips there to get material for 
knives, arrow points, and the like, certain families making the 
journey one year and other families another year. 

Banks Island, which is less than 20,000 miles in area, has prob- 
ably always been, as it is now, a country only moderately supplied 
with caribou. However that may be, cattle are much easier for 
Eskimo hunters to kill and the people who made the journeys to the 
Bay of Mercy undoubtedly lived during the summer largely on their 
meat. A few, after a hasty visit to Mercy Bay, may have gone to 
the southwest quarter of the island where geese can be killed by the 
thousand with clubs during the moulting season. Ovibos is one of 
the most conspicuous animals on earth and easily found. He has 
not the cunning for concealment nor the ability, and indeed not 
the temperament for flight. The Eskimo method of hunting is to 
sick a few dogs at the herd, which then forms in a defensive circle, 
the large animals on the outside and the calves and weaker ones 
in the center. This defense does well against the dogs, as it would 
against a similar attack of wolves, but is of no avail against the 
Eskimos, who lash their hunting knives to their walking sticks, 
converting them into lances, and go up and stab the entire herd. 
Or they may use their bows and copper-pointed arrows with 
equal effect. 

When I got the story in the spring of 1911 about the discovery 
by the Eskimos of McCIure's ship and their pilgrimages for a score 
of years to the island, I might have inferred the complete or ap- 
proximate extinction of ovibos. I had not done so, however, and 
for some time after landing in Banks Island we were expecting daily 
to come in contact with them. We now know that the giving out 
of the iron in Mercy Bay must have been about coincident with 
their extinction. Their survival was longest in the south end of the 
island because that was most remote from the iron and therefore 
least visited. That the Eskimos had spent a part of each winter 
from February to April on the southeast coast does not affect the 
case materially, for at that season these Eskimos never hunt inland, 
or at least did not do so up to 1917, though they will doubtless 
change their habits as soon as the majority of them receive rijfles 
from the incoming traders. It was not these winter visits, therefore, 
but the summer ones that led to the extermination of the polar ox. 



ON July 2nd my diary records a word against the ravens and 
gulls. We predatory animals do not get along together any 
too well and are inclined to be jealous of one another. On 
this occasion I had killed a caribou that had a little fat, and while 
I was gone after pack dogs to fetch the meat, some gulls and ravens 
had found the carcass. They did not have time to eat much, but 
they did have time to eat every speck of fat. We had given up seal 
hunting because the pursuit of the seal on the summer ice is a very 
sloppy undertaking. Caribou fat was therefore precious to us and 
was as yet of limited quantity because the season was too early. 
Hence my annoyance at the gulls. 

Next day I killed two bulls that had half an inch of back 
fat, and from that time on we no longer stinted ourselves on fat, 
although it was well towards the end of July before we began to 
give much of it to the dogs. This was not entirely because we were 
short of it but partly because we were anxious to save it for the 
winter. It was conceivable that ice conditions might prevent the 
Star's coming, in which case we should need fat badly, both for 
food and for winter candlelight. The first part of the winter 
we would then spend in Bank's Island and begin traveling when 
the light should be abundant in the spring. We talked of going 
to Victoria Island and thence to the mainland and over to Great 
Bear Lake, a country thoroughly familiar to me from my second 
expedition. But secretly I was hoping that when spring came we 
should, even in the absence of ships, find ourselves in such spirits 
and so equipped that we could make a second ice journey, prefer- 
ably northwest from Banks Island. 

To spend a summer in Banks Island as we did that one was a 
delight. Storkerson and I knew well the tricks and methods of 
living in an arctic land and Ole proved an apt pupil. The caribou 
grew fatter and their skins more sleek and better for clothing. 
We killed altogether about forty fat bulls and dried over half a 
ton of back fat, the equivalent of that much bacon. We lived on 



the most palatable parts, the heads and back bones, and the dogs 
lived mainly on the internal organs, while we sliced thin, spread 
out on stones and dried in the sun for future use the hams, shoulders 
and other fleshy parts. Being sailors, Storkerson and Ole were both 
good at sewing, and they talked much about the fine clothes they 
were going to make from the skins for themselves and me if the 
ships should fail to bring Eskimo families with their incomparable 
seamstresses from the mainland. 

Like many others, I had gathered from reading polar books 
that fuel is hard to get in arctic lands, at least where driftwood is 
absent. But during my previous expedition I had learned that on 
the mainland of northern Canada, at least, there is excellent fuel 
to be found nearly everywhere, and so it proved on Banks Island. 
It has always been a marvel to me how the northern Indians who 
hunt out on the so-called "barren grounds" and the Eskimos of 
northern Alaska are able to grow up from childhood to maturity 
and old age without learning, either by accident or by the instruc- 
tion of some wiser people, how to use certain common plants 
for fuel. 

Readers of Frank Russell, Warburton Pike, Caspar Whitney, and 
others know how the northern Indians load up their sleds with dry 
spruce wood for furtive dashes into the dreaded "barren grounds." 
They use a little for cooking each day, and when in a week or so the 
supply is gone they expect to be on their way back and almost 
within reach of the spruce forests again. And if through any cir- 
cumstance the journey is a little long, there are tales of hardship 
which seems to be felt no less keenly by the Indian than by the 
white narrator. It was so with the Eskimos of northern Alaska. 
When they went inland in days antedating blue-flame kerosene 
stoves, they used to take with them driftwood from the coast, or 
seal or whale oil to burn in their stone stoves or lamps. If they 
ran out of these they used to dig in the snow for willows, being thus 
a stage in advance of the northern Indian in resourcefulness in the 
open country. But if no willows were to be found and the seal 
oil ran out, they hurried back to the coast without a fire. This in 
spite of the fact that most or all coast tribes in Alaska knew that 
there were other Eskimo tribes in the interior — the inland Otur- 
kagmiut and their neighbors — who had the art of finding fuel other 
than willows in the open country wherever they went. The Macken- 
zie River Eskimos to the eastward are completely ignorant of how 
to find fuel in the open country even in summer, except willows. 
But the Eskimos of Coronation Gulf and east all the way to Hud- 


son's Bay find no difficulty in securing it in winter or summer, al- 
though their country is not nearly so well supplied with fuel plants 
as is the southerly "barren ground" into which the Dog-ribs and 
Yellowknives make their furtive dashes, or the northern portion 
of Alaska where the Point Barrow Eskimos experience fuel scarcity. 

The summer of 1910 I was living with three western Eskimo 
companions among the Eskimos of Coronation Gulf. When after 
a day's march across the prairie we camped in the evening, my 
three Eskimos used to scatter and go sometimes a mile in search 
of small willows which they would gather with great difficulty into 
bags and bring home on their backs. Before this willow gathering 
was done our local Eskimo traveling companions would have their 
own supper cooked and ready to eat, for they used for fuel a sort 
of "heather," Cassiope tetragona, which grew in many places and 
always in those we selected for camp sites. I pointed out the 
great advantage of using these plants for fuel, but conservatism is 
a trait that is always stronger the more ignorant the people, and my 
Eskimos were unwilling to listen. Their people had always traveled 
in this kind of country and they had always used willows. It 
was an application in a field other than religion of the sentiment of 
the well-known hymn: " 'Twas good enough for father, 'twas good 
enough for mother." They seemed to feel there was something 
essentially wrong or degraded about using a "grass" when wood 
was available. This same conservatism had prevented their ances- 
tors as long as they lived in Alaska from learning the art of "grass" 
burning from the Oturkagmiut. There they were in their own coun- 
try and public sentiment was overwhelmingly on their side, but 
here they were in the minority with everybody laughing at them. 
They stood pat for a month, but finally gave in; and before fall 
we were able to cook a meal as quickly as any of the local people. 

This is a digression, the point being that the plant Cassiope 
tetragona grows abundantly in most parts of Banks Island, and that 
usually we were able to pick a camp site where around our camp fire, 
in an area no larger than the floor space of a bedroom, would be 
fuel enough to cook a meal. In sunshiny weather with a moderate 
breeze blowing I would cook with heather even were dry willow 
at hand, and in my experience dry willow is rare, at least of that 
type which is most prevalent in the northern part of the North 
American mainland. There is, however, in Banks Island and the 
northerly islands and in rare places on the mainland another "wil- 
low" which has roots many times as large as that part of the plant 
which is above ground. The roots are found dead and sticking out 


on the tops of high hills, so that occasionally in summer and fre- 
quently when there was snow on the ground we used them in pref- 
erence to heather, and especially in calm weather or after a heavy 
rain. But no matter how soaked with water, Cassiope can easily be 
burned if you know the method and if there is a strong breeze fan- 
ning the fire and kindling enough to start the blaze. 

Mosquitoes, the one serious drawback of the North — far more 
serious in the minds of all who know than winter darkness, ex- 
treme cold or violent winds — were not very serious in Banks Island. 
For one thing the drainage is fairly good; for another, the winds 
blow often enough from the ocean to keep the temperature lower 
than mosquitoes like. Perhaps the richest hunting country known 
to me is the region between Great Bear Lake and Coronation Gulf, 
but it has the disadvantage of a plague of mosquitoes and flies. And 
so on the whole these months of tenting and wandering in Banks 
Island are the most delightful of my summer recollections from the 
North, though they did not come quite up to autumn and early 
winter just north of the arctic circle on Horton River or on the 

I feel like mentioning here that I cannot understand the psy- 
chology of northern travelers who employ Eskimos and Indians to 
do their hunting for them. I would as soon think of engaging a 
valet to play my golf or of going to the theatre by proxy. Not that 
I enjoy the killing of animals as such, but I should dislike extremely 
the feeling of dependence in work or play, of knowing that it hinged 
on the skill and good will of any one, no matter how competent, 
whether I should have something to eat to-morrow or whether my 
plans were to fail for lack of food. I do not see how any one could 
get much enjoyment out of living in a camp supported by hired 
hunters. Neither have I at the time nor in retrospect any hesi- 
tancy of mind when I compare the pleasures and ease of the city or 
the summer resort with the northern caribou hunt, whether it be 
in the soft air and sunshine of summer or in December's keenest 
wind and snow. The one sort of pleasure is passive, receptive, 
enervating — you are jaded by it and the keen edge of your enjoy- 
ment turns dull. But the open life of him who lives by the 
hunt keeps indefinitely the thrill of endeavor and achievement, a 
thing never to be bought or secured by having others carry out 
for you the most elaborate or ingenious of programs. And all of 
this becomes even more worth while when the food and clothing of 
your companions depend upon the hunt, and most when your very 
lives hang on success. 


The first half of July we hunted from our camp on the mainland 
opposite Bernard Island, but in the latter half Storkerson and I 
made a trip into the interior, mainly for exploration but partly for 
hunting, leaving Ole to guard the depot on the coast. As fat is 
precious above all things in the Arctic and caribou fat good to eat 
beyond most food of any kind, we chose to kill old bulls, for they 
were now the fattest. It is the nature of caribou that different 
ages and sexes are fat at different times of the year. A compara- 
tive statement of their fatness is about as follows: 

In late November after the rutting season the old bulls are so 
thin that there is no trace of fat even behind their eyes, and the mar- 
row in their bones is like blood. At this time both the cows and the 
young bulls are about at their fattest, although the proportion to the 
total body weight is never as high as in fat old bulls. By Christmas 
the young bulls have lost most or all of their fat, while the cows have 
less but are still not thin. About this time or in January the old bulls 
shed their antlers and from that time take on fat, although none 
is discernible at first. By February or March, when the budding 
antlers of old bulls are six or eight inches long, the marrow im- 
proves and traces of fat appear behind the eyes, about the kidneys 
and on the brisket. The young bulls are still lean and the cows 
carrying their young have become considerably thinner, although 
they have a little back fat and considerable intestinal fat, especially 
caribou in the islands north of Canada where they are fatter than in 
most places on the mainland. By May or June the cows have lost all 
fat while the oldest bulls have gained enough so that their meat be- 
comes palatable. The young bulls show no perceptible change. In 
July, when the cows are just beginning to fatten the old bulls have a 
slab of fat on their backs covering the entire body forward to the 
neck, and reaching on the haunches a thickness of perhaps half an 
inch or an inch. By late August or early September this fat has be- 
come three inches thick in extreme cases, and will weigh before dry- 
ing thirty or forty pounds if the animal is large. At this time the 
intestinal fat is an additional ten or fifteen pounds besides the great 
amount on brisket, ribs, pelvis and elsewhere; so that you have 
from sixty to eighty pounds of fat on an animal the dressed weight 
of which, when head and hoofs have been removed, is probably be- 
tween 250 and 300 pounds. The cows also are moderately fat, and 
gain a little for the next month or two, as do the young bulls. 

From this statement the fatness of caribou is seen to depend 
not, as is commonly supposed, upon food and climate primarily but 
rather on the age and sex of the animal. Neither can it be the fact 


as set forth by certain writers that in midsummer, which would be 
July or August, caribou are poor simply because of their persecu- 
tion by insect pests, chiefly mosquitoes and botflies. The bulls at 
this season are approaching their fattest, even though the cows, 
upon which exclusively some authorities apparently base their 
reasoning, happen to be very poor. Since all caribou are greatly 
annoyed by mosquitoes and flies, it is reasonable to assume that they 
would be fatter if these pests were absent, but fat they are in spite 
of them if age and sex are right. 

Another point of evidence that the thinness of caribou in sum- 
mer is not primarily dependent on mosquitoes is that the cycle of 
fatness and leanness is about the same in the most mosquito- 
infested parts of the mainland as in the more northerly islands of 
the Canadian Archipelago where mosquitoes are so rare that in one 
island, Lougheed Island, we saw only one mosquito all summer. 
But in these northerly islands the caribou fatten a few days earlier 
and become a little fatter in proportion to the total body weight. 
That a caribou may be as fat in Lougheed Island on the first of 
August as it would be at Great Bear Lake the middle of August 
is probaWy due to the absence of mosquitoes in Lougheed Island; 
for the feed, although good, does not appear to be any better in 
the more northerly lands. 

The hunting and exploring trip into the interior of Banks 
Island was an interesting and delightful one for Storkerson and me. 
Here was a beautiful country of valleys everywhere gold and 
white with flowers or green with grass or mingled greens and brown 
with grass and lichens, except some of the hill tops which were 
rocky and barren. These hills differed in coloring, especially as 
seen from a distance, not so much because of the colors of the rock 
as because different vegetation prevails in different kinds of soil 
and different lichens on different rocks. There were sparkling 
brooks that united into rivers of crystal clearness, flowing over 
gravel bottoms. When we came to a stream we usually followed 
along, whether for a few hundred yards or several miles, until we 
came to a place where the river either split into branches or widened 
out. Here we took the packs off our dogs, for their short legs 
unfitted them for keeping a pack dry while fording, and with our 
good Eskimo boots keeping our feet dry we would wade across, 
the dogs swimming behind us. Heather was most abundant, and so 


were bull caribou, so that the meat we lived on and the fuel for 
cooking it were of the best. 

When we are on a hunt proper we pitch our camps on the 
tops of the highest and most commanding hills, for caribou are such 
mobile animals that one is likely to Gee almost as many while 
favorably encamped as while traveling from place to place. But 
this time we were not hunting primarily, so we used to camp in 
sheltered, sunny places beside brooks that had their banks thickly 
covered with heather, giving both water and fuel right at hand. 

I have just mentioned that the animals we were killing for fat 
were the oldest bull caribou we could find. People who do not 
know caribou and who think of them by analogy with cattle, 
imagine that the meat of a bull would not be especially palatable. 
All experienced hunters, however, Indian, Eskimo or white, know 
that the bulls are better eating than the cows or the calves, and 
the more palatable the older they are. To me the main considera- 
tion about meat is its flavor. The recommendation that meat is 
tender is the praise of a toothless generation and one addicted to 
such artificial cooking that we seldom get in our foods their native 
flavors, but rather flavors conferred on them by sauces and condi- 
ments. I prefer the terminology of our meat-eating ancestors 
whose various idioms, which we still keep though we hardly under- 
stand them, show that they knew meat flavors and appreciated 
them as hunters do. Having good teeth it is of little concern to 
me whether a piece of meat is tough or tender; what is important 
is the taste. 

Besides, a caribou can never be tough. No one familiar with 
their typical life history can believe that the meat will get tough 
through age, the factor which causes toughness among domestic 
chickens and cattle. These last under the artificial protection of 
domesticity may grow to any age, and polar bears and ovibos may 
live on by reason of their strength and habits. But caribou never 
live long after they are full grown. Northern wolves in books prey 
on fawns and yearlings, and doubtless it happens occasionally that 
a wolf kills a calf, but this is likely to be within twenty-four hours 
of the calf's birth. A calf is certainly not many days old when he 
is able to run faster than his mother and faster than any other 
member of the herd unless possibly the yearlings. The young cows 
can run faster than the old cows and the young bulls faster than the 
old bulls, so that when a herd is fleeing from wolves it is always 
the oldest bulls that bring up the rear. Observers who enjoy reading 
chivalry into the actions of animals doubtless find instances where 


their deductions are correct. I am not in a position to say whether 
an old bull would by choice bring up the rear so as to expose 
himself to being first victim of the wolves. But I do say that he 
has no option, especially at the beginning of the breeding season 
when he is additionally handicapped by the weight of his huge 
antlers and his fat. When you see a caribou that has been singled 
out for pursuit by wolves, it is in the first probability an old bull 
and in the second an old cow. Skeletons of wolf-killed animals 
are nearly always found to be the skeletons of these two. In any 
caribou country the fewness of the old bulls is surprising unless 
these points are understood. Even the "old" few are never old 
enough to be tough. 

Since that trip which gave me my first familiarity with the 
interior of Banks Island, I have crossed it in almost every direction, 
winter and summer, so that were all those routes plotted on the 
map it would be as if the island were covered with a spider web. 
We have thus made conclusive our inference on this journey, that 
cattle, although once numerous in Banks Island, are now either 
extinct or at the most represented by a few dozen animals near 
the north or south end, the parts we have least carefully examined. 



ON our midsummer hunt into the interior Storkerson and I were 
absent about twenty days from the coast and from Ole, who 
was there alone with three of the dogs, guarding our dried 
meat and skins. Most people would think he would have found this 
rather a lonesome job, and so should I had I not known him well. 

My jQrst meeting with Ole was in 1912 in the spring when I 
was making a journey west along the north coast of Canada near 
the Mackenzie River. I found him in a trapping camp alone, 
where he told me he had been alone all winter. I remember ask- 
ing him then whether he did not find it lonesome. He replied that 
there was no reason why he should. There was always something 
happening; sometimes the weather would be so bad that he could 
not go outdoors, and being housebound constituted a sort of ad- 
venture; another day the weather was exceptionally good and then 
he could go out and visit his traps, sometimes finding them full 
and other times empty. There must be something wrong, he 
thought, with any one who hankered for more variety than that. 
But even to this was added a monthly visit from his brother who 
came with a fast dog team from the winter base of the Star twenty 
or thirty miles away, and who usually stayed two or three hours, 
returning home at night. "And then," Ole said, "there is scarcely 
a month some Eskimo does not come, and sometimes they stay 

There was no affectation about this with Ole. He was always 
glad to see visitors, but never lonesome between the visits. I can- 
not say that I ever quite understood this frame of mind, although 
I objectively realized it to be a fact that Ole would not mind in 
the least having Storkerson and me stay away a month if it suited 

The third week of our stay inland we had already been farther 
east and had returned to a point about twenty miles from the 
coast where we had killed and spread out to dry a good deal of fat 
caribou meat. After some discussion, we had come to the conclu- 
sion that polar bears were very rare if not absent on Banks Island, 
at least at this season, and that it might be safe to leave our food 



supplies at the coast unprotected, bringing Ole inland to help with 
the hunt. I was also interested in the condition of the ice on the 
coast, for the coming of the Star was continually in my mind and 
the month of the possibility of this was almost at hand. The ice 
should have broken up already all along the north coast of Alaska 
and the three ships were, according to our best estimates, probably 
now in the vicinity of Herschel Island. It would not be more than 
a week or two till the Star could come across from the mainland to 
the south end of Banks Island, where in the vicinity of Cape Kellett 
she would await her chance to proceed north along the west coast 
whenever the ice should break away. The caribou were now get- 
ting towards their fattest and their skins had the right length of 
hair for clothing. It was important to hunt energetically for two 
or three weeks so as to have a large amount of meat and skins 
ready when the Star should arrive. 

So I started for Ole's coast camp, leaving Storkerson behind 
occupied with the meat-drying. He might be expected occasionally 
to kill caribou that came near camp, but his chief task was to 
assemble the drying meat and cover it up at the approach of rain 
or of a heavy fog, to spread it out again when the sun came out or 
the wind began to blow, and to protect it from gulls, foxes and 

It was a fine day when I started towards the coast, though it 
soon began to rain. Walking along the level bottom lands of 
the river, I came upon several small bands of caribou, and as I 
had not previously seen any when I had not needed to kill at least 
one of the band, I took the opportunity to experiment and see 
whether these were afraid of the appearance of a man. I found they 
behaved about the same as caribou would on the mainland in dis- 
tricts where they are frequently hunted. 

Before I got half-way home I was soaking wet, but one accus- 
tomed to the Arctic does not mind that as long as he keeps moving, 
though it is not easy to get used to being wet in camp at night. 
One adapts himself to almost anything, however, and I have been 
told with apparent sincerity by northern Indians that they do not 
mind sleeping in wet clothes, even when they are so cold that they 
shiver. After all, the testimony of one man who is used to a 
thing and likes it is worth more than that of a hundred who are 
not used to it and cannot imagine how they ever could find it 
tolerable. So probably any one could get used to sleeping cold 
and wet. 

About six miles from camp I came upon six bulls, one much 


bigger and fatter than the others. A northern hunter finds it hard 
to let go any opportunity for securing fat, and I accordingly killed 
this bull. I skinned it and got a slab of back fat weighing 
over forty pounds, which was at least ten pounds more than a bull 
of the same size would have had in the best hunting country known 
to me on the mainland at the same time of year. The reason prob- 
ably was in the cool weather and in the fewness of mosquitoes, for 
although the feed is excellent in Banks Island, it can scarcely be 
considered better than on the mainland in certain places. 

So it was evident that the caribou had not found this summer 
in Banks Island disagreeable. Neither had we, although a south- 
ern reader might infer the contrary from a glance at our meteoro- 
logical record. July 3rd, it says: "Sky overcast, snowing all day, 
temperature plus 28° to plus 32°." In another place it says that 
a slight amount of ice formed every night during the first half of 
July. We liked this weather for many reasons; one being that it 
kept down the mosquitoes. The chief reason was, however, doubt- 
less subjective. 

This was the typical weather of the arctic fall, although in a 
sense unseasonable in July. When an Iowa farmer speaks of 
"beautiful hot weather," he really means it, although if he were 
to analyze his feelings he might realize that half the pleasure he 
feels in the heat is in the thought that it is ripening his corn and 
fattening his pocketbook. An equally hot day may not please a 
North Dakota farmer so .well, for he remembers that the ground 
is dry and his wheat is withering. And just as the heat ripens the 
corn, so does the cold July wind from the ice-covered sea fatten 
the caribou, or what amounts to the same thing, keep down the 
mosquitoes which would keep him from fattening. So also do we 
like that same cold wind. 

But in his exuberance of good health it is difficult for the arctic 
hunter to feel anything but pleasure in almost any kind of weather 
or almost any circumstance. I suppose what I am trying to ex- 
plain is about what the Biblical writer had in mind when he 
spoke of a strong man rejoicing to run a race. You may find in some 
volume of the scientific report of our expedition that during a cer- 
tain summer it snowed in every week but you should not infer it 
was bad weather in the sense that it made us uncomfortable. And 
it would not have made any one else uncomfortable either, if he had 
been dressed and housed and fed as we were, with the same years of 
training and experience behind him, the same sound health and the 
same infatuation with the work. 


After cutting up my caribou and — with the gulls in mind — 
hiding the fat underneath the meat, I proceeded to the coast. Ole 
was waiting, happy as always and full of stories of his adventures 
while I had been gone. Most of these, as he told them, centered 
around wolves. It seemed that a pair of them, peculiarly sportive 
and mischievous, had been in the habit of coming near camp and 
getting the dogs excited, with a view of enticing them away. One 
day the dogs succeeded in breaking loose at both ends the long line 
by which all were tethered to two sticks. Dragging this line they 
gave chase to the wolves, Ole following. They were impeded by 
the weight of the rope and by getting tangled in it so that he was 
almost able to keep up. He fired several shots at the wolves, that 
tantalizingly were keeping just ahead of the dogs. This did not 
scare them. Of course he had little chance of hitting them, for he 
was out of breath. After a chase of several miles the dogs got 
finally so tangled in the line that Ole caught up with them. 

A year later I discovered that while this story was literally 
true, it had been told me with added emphasis and detail to appease 
any suspicions on the score of Ole's considerable expenditure of 
ammunition while I was away. Early in July we had taken an 
ammunition inventory, finding that we had 109 rounds for the 
Mannlicher and 157 for the Winchester rifle. This was not a great 
deal even with the most careful shooting, for there was no guaran- 
tee that any of our ships would get to us during the summer, in 
which case this ammunition had to secure food for us for all of 
the coming winter and would have to take us east across Banks 
Island and across Prince of Wales Straits, then south along Victoria 
Island, across Dolphin and Union Straits to the mainland and 
across several hundred miles of mainland, probably to Bear Lake 
and to the Hudson's Bay Company's post at Fort Norman on the 
Mackenzie River. When we are stationary it is possible to aver- 
age better than 125 pounds of meat to each cartridge, but in making 
rapid journeys it is not possible to be so economical, for when a 
heavy animal is killed only a part of the meat can be hauled along, 
causing a good deal of waste and bringing down the average meat 
equivalent of the ammunition. So Ole knew I put a high value on 
the ammunition; nor could his own estimate of its value have dif- 
fered much from mine, for he saw equally our dependence on it for 
comfort and safety. 

Now I have mentioned that the day we landed, while I was away 
getting the first caribou killed, Storkerson and Ole had eaten the 
last of the food we brought ashore and had discussed the probable 


delectability of the island geese, and the harshness of my rule that 
no ammunition must be spent on birds. It appears that ever after 
that Ole's mouth kept watering for the geese he had not tasted. 
Part of his contentment at being left alone when we went inland 
had been due, he confessed to Storkerson some months afterwards, 
to his lively anticipation of eating at least one fat goose while we 
were gone. Accordingly, we were scarcely out of sight when he got 
his rifle, sneaked around to a neighboring pond and killed a goose. 
But geese are small targets and it is not easy to get close to them, 
so that he wasted half a dozen bullets before he got the first one. 
Hence the necessity of impressing me, in case I should audit the 
ammunition account, with the large number of cartridges necessary 
to kill or scare the wolves that had been enticing our dogs away. 

But what annoyed Ole most was that the goose when he came 
to eat it did not taste as good as the caribou he had been living 
on. While still of the firm opinion that caribou meat was "all right 
if you had nothing else" and that many kinds of meat, such as 
goose, were better and especially desirable "for a change," he had 
in reality become so accustomed to caribou in a month, and his 
tongue if not his mind had been so thoroughly converted to it, that 
the flavor of goose did not prove half as agreeable. He told Stork- 
erson that if he had followed his inclination he would have eaten 
only a part of the goose, giving the rest to any dog that might have 
wanted it, but he decided to punish himself for the wasted ammu- 
nition by abstaining from caribou till the goose was eaten. Any 
ammunition he spent thereafter during our absence was fired at 

Ole had been studying the tides, partly because of our scientific 
interest in them and partly because the sea ice that has been land- 
fast during the winter "goes abroad" only when there is a high tide 
such that the ice is first lifted off the sea bottom by it and then 
pushed away from land by the wind. Ole had found that in 
Banks Island, as on the north coast of Alaska, there is a "low tide" 
with east winds, and a "high tide" with west winds. But what he 
had noticed in addition was that here the lowest water was brought 
about by a north wind. This was well exemplified the day I got 
home, for it was then blowing stiffly from the north and the water 
was six inches lower than it had been during our absence or at any 
time since we began to observe its height by sticks planted at the 
beach. This was not encouraging, for the winds that might be ex- 
pected to take the ice off could not easily do so because of the heavy 
grounding of the ice at low tide, while the high water that lifted it off 


the bottom would be accompanied by a wind that shoved it on the 
land. What we would have to hope for would be first a west wind, 
raising the water level, and then a sudden shift of wind through 
south to east before the water had time to fall, a sequence of cir- 
cumstances that might not occur in a whole summer. 

After a day at the camp we started back towards Storkerson's 
hunting place, leaving all our dried meat and skins on an elevated 
platform high enough to escape wolves and foxes, although unpro- 
tected against polar bears. When we got to where I had killed the 
fat bull two days before we found that foxes and gulls had eaten 
about a third of the meat and about half the fat. The gulls alone 
would not have had the ingenuity to get at the fat where I had 
hidden it, but the foxes had pulled the concealing meat away. It 
happened that I was able to kill that evening another fat bull a 
few hundred yards from the same place, to make up for the loss. 

White foxes were spending the summer in Banks Island in large 
numbers, but we lost surprisingly little meat by their thieving. 
Often they seemed even contemptuous in the way they passed it by 
untouched. This was probably because they were so well fed with 
eggs, young birds and lemmings. 

When we got back to Storkerson we found that he had been 
bothered by wolves much as Ole had been. Some of our meat was 
at his camp but a considerable part of it was still out in the field, 
where several caribou had been killed, cut up and their meat spread 
out to dry to make it lighter for carrying home, only the fat being 
immediately taken to camp. Our experience with foxes and gulls 
had been that they were not very destructive of the meat, but now 
that wolves were about much of it was lost. 

Wolves had been few during our first month and their appear- 
ance now was probably connected with the approach of the cow 
caribou. So far we had seen large bulls chiefly — very few cows and 
few small bulls. Now small bulls and cows became numerous, 
apparently coming from the north or northeast. This did not mean 
that caribou became as numerous as on the mainland, for we never 
saw more than twenty or thirty a day. I have seen a band of about 
two hundred in Banks Island, but several years' experience shows 
that bands of two hundred are as rare in Banks Island as bands 
of two thousand on the mainland north of Great Bear Lake. In 
summer there are probably not more than two or three thousand 
caribou in the whole island, with perhaps a few more in winter 
that come from Victoria Island to the east. 

Partly to explore further and partly to give Ole a chance to 


see as much of the country as Storkerson had seen, he and I now 
made a hunting trip eastward from Storkerson's camp, a distance 
of about twenty miles. We found a beautiful country of rolling 
hills with small lakes and again an abundance of heather. I re- 
member particularly one camping place in the bottom-lands of a 
small river where we pitched our tent on hard, level ground a few 
yards from a stream of the best water in the world, amid so much 
heather that we agreed that on ten acres of ground in a week or so 
we could have picked enough fuel to last the winter. 

Everywhere the Eskimos had preceded us, although apparently 
none had been there in ten years. We formed the opinion that few 
of the relics were very old, probably none over a century. There 
were "tent rings," or circles of stones that had been used to hold 
down the flaps of a tent and had been rolled away when camp 
had been broken, giving a somewhat enlarged outline where the 
tent had stood. The Victoria Island Eskimos nowadays occasion- 
ally made a wall of sod from eight to twenty inches high as the 
base of their tents. Walls of this kind are found here and there 
over Banks Island, although not numerous. The tent rings are 
in places naturally suited to them — occasionally on hilltops and 
more frequently in lower places where there are "nigger heads," the 
little knobs one can take hold of and break loose with the hands, 
getting round pieces of sod varying in size from a grapefruit to a 
pumpkin. Of these the Eskimos had built the sod foundations for 
their tents, and we used them occasionally for the erection of 

Near many of the camp sites were shavings and small pieces of 
wood. In at least three cases out of four these had been brought 
from Mercy Bay, for they were fragments of barrel staves, painted 
boards, or other parts of a ship or of the equipment of a ship. This 
was confirmation of the accounts of McClure, sixty years before, 
who saw no Eskimos at all on Banks Island, from which he ap- 
pears to have thought that there were none and from which we 
now infer that they certainly cannot have been numerous. It was 
also confirmation of stories told me by the Prince Albert Sound 
Eskimos in 1911 and later, to the effect that there had been a great 
influx of people into Banks Island following the discovery by some 
of their number of McClure's abandoned ship, the Investigator, in 
Mercy Bay, probably about 1855.* 

Often the Eskimo camp sites were in the vicinity of ovibos kill- 
ings. Sometimes these kills seem to have been what we may call 

♦See "My Life With the Eskimo," p. 293, and elsewhere. 


legitimate. The camp sites show heads and other bones that are 
the remains of animals actually used for food. This can be seen 
by the fact that the heads have been partly cut up for cooking, 
some of the horns have been removed to make utensils, the bones 
have been broken for marrow and many of them gnawed by dogs, 
and sometimes there is evidence that the bones were pounded up 
and boiled to secure the last bit of fat from them. 

But in some cases it is only too clear that big herds were 
wantonly slaughtered. We have found groups of over twenty 
skeletons lying a few yards from each other. Such a slaugh- 
tering place has always borne some indication that a small 
part at least of the meat was used, and still it is not easy to 
be clear on this point, for the absent brisket bones and ribs, the 
parts Eskimos prefer for food, are also the parts most easily 
chewed up by wolves. That the bones of the foreleg, often found 
at a distance from the rest of the skeleton, were in some cases 
not found at all, is hardly an indication that an Eskimo carried the 
forequarters away. The foreleg is not a preferred piece of meat; 
and again, wolves in devouring a caribou or polar ox will eat the 
meat away in such fashion that the shoulder-blade comes loose 
from the body, so that the foreleg bones can be dragged away. 

When Eskimos kill a band of cattle it will depend entirely 
on circumstances whether they stop beside the kill and remain till 
the animals have been eaten up, or whether they pass on, taking 
with them nothing or nothing but fat. We cannot assume that they 
would by analogy with the early buffalo hunters kill the animals 
for the tongues. Eskimos may kill for fat or kill for skins or for 
both combined, but they never kill for the tongues. They may, 
however, kill for no purpose at all, and leave their victims to be 
eaten by predatory animals. 

Our wanderings in Banks Island, both this summer and summers 
following, never disclosed any Eskimo burial place, or any imple- 
ments or other artifacts that seem to have been deposited with the 
dead. We did find two or three skulls and some odd bones, though 
none of these seemed to be the remains of a real burial. Either 
such burial places as there are escaped us, or else no true burials 
have been made. It is possible, in other words, that the Eskimos 
who moved about the island did not have the burial customs of the 
mainland Eskimos, and left their dead behind, unprotected by 
stones or otherwise, to be devoured by the first animals that came 
along. In fact we know that the Eskimos of Coronation Gulf, 
sometimes, at least, merely wrap the body in skins and leave it on 


the ground. These are near relatives of the people who came to 
Banks Island to plunder the Investigator, and it may be that the 
bodies of such people as died were similarly left. 

Ole's journey and mine was for pleasure and to pick up such 
incidental information as came in our way. We traveled so light 
that our three pack dogs were able to carry everything, and we 
wandered from hilltop to hilltop, enjoying the scenery, examining 
the ancient camp sites and killing a fat caribou whenever necessary. 
This combined the freedom from care of a picnic with the fascina- 
tion of exploration, for, except for Storkerson's excursion and mine 
some weeks earlier we were the first white men who had been in 
the interior of Banks Island. On the southwest side the American 
whalers are known to have made two landings but they never went 
beyond the beach, and the Eskimos whom they sent ashore to hunt 
did not go over four or five miles inland, for I have talked with 
them about it. It does not appear from McClure's records that in 
the two years which he spent at the Bay of Mercy on the north- 
east side of the island any of his men made journeys into the 

Since I began to know the North its beauty, freedom and friend- 
liness have continually grown upon me. They were there from the 
first but my eyes were holden and I could not see them, for even in 
that clear air I walked wrapped in the haze of my bringing-up. 
With southern feelings and an assumption of the inferiority of 
that which is different, I failed to see the resources and values 
where they lay before me, and distrusted everything that was 
strange. Especially on such delightful and care-free journeys as we 
were now making it is difficult to realize that this land is not only 
assumed to be barren by those who do not know it, but has actually 
appeared so to men who have been there. Certainly it would take 
keen eyes to read between the lines of McClure's narrative of hard- 
ship and heroism the soft beauty and homelikeness of Banks Island 
as I see it. 

When we had wandered around until we thought Storkerson 
might be getting lonesome, for he was unlike Ole, not used to living 
alone, we made our way back and found him and everything well, 
except that he was a little stiff from lying around the house in idle- 
ness. The trouble had been that he could not very well leave camp 
because of the hovering wolves. So long as a man is present a 
camp is in no danger from them, but unguarded it is at their mercy, 
whether there are dogs or not. For one thing, the dogs would not 
have the sense to stay in the camp and attempt to guard it, but 


--^ -iA.. 

A Tent Ring. 

Broken Summer Ice Along the Coast. 












would probably give chase to the wolves, and in a fight there could 
be no doubt of the outcome. The dogs were about the same size 
as wolves, weighing up to 130 pounds, but they had neither their 
swiftness of foot nor their cunning. Wolves would not allow them- 
selves to be overtaken unless they were numerous enough to get 
the best of the fight. 

To show what was most in our minds all through August, I 
quote my diary for the first day of that month: 

"This is probably the month of keenest expectations of all I 
have spent in the North. It is the season of navigation and our 
three small ships should be, with luck, as far east now as Cape 
Bathurst. The Star coming direct may arrive here any day the 
ice leaves the beach. She should reach Kellett in a few days from 
now and wait her chance there to proceed north. The Sachs should 
complete her errand accompanying Anderson to Liston Island and 
be at Kellett, too, soon after August 10th. The Alaska almost cer- 
tainly will have little trouble in reaching Cape Bexley if once she 
gets to Herschel Island. Even the Karluk may be heard from. 
There is nothing in the present or future I would not give to be 
aboard of her, and few things I would not give for news of her — 
nothing I would not pay for her safety, or rather that of her men. 
The vessel herself would not so much matter if nothing but hopes, 
plans and equipment went down with her." 

On our inland journey Ole and I had watched the weather, pre- 
pared to make rapidly for the coast should the wind lead us to 
think the ice might leave. The camp where we rejoined Storkerson 
was on a hill so high and commanding that although fifteen miles 
inland it allowed through glasses a view of the ice along the coast 
and around Bernard and Norway Islands. 

Now we spent much of every day scrutinizing the coast, watch- 
ing the gradually widening lane of shore water between the main- 
land and the grounded sea ice that was being melted by the warm 
water pouring from the land. It was one of the virtues of the 
Star that on account of her shallow draft she would be able to 
work her way up along this lane of thaw water even before the ice 
offshore broke up and was carried to sea by the wind. Once or 
twice near the middle of the month there was a slight shifting of 
the ice but the tide fell and grounded it again. But towards the 
close it became clear that although there was a ribbon of ice in the 
middle distance the ocean outside was clear. Strong winds blew 
from the east day after day, making it evident that no floating ice 
could be near, although the fogs that always hang to seaward when 


a land wind is blowing prevented us from seeing beyond the limits 
of the grounded ice. 

On the southwest coast of Banks Island between Nelson Head 
and Cape Kellett there is deep water inshore, and even in winter the 
ice is carried away from the land by any offshore wind. But north 
of Kellett there is a shelf of shallow water along the land that 
grows wider as you go north until towards the middle of Banks 
Island it is twelve or fifteen miles wide. In the vicinity of Norway 
Island the shelf becomes that much broader, so that it extends fif- 
teen or more miles beyond. On all this shelf there was the grounded 
ice that we speak of as ''landfast." The Star might even make her 
way north between it and the land, but we knew that any ship could 
sail north outside of it. 

Towards the end of August navigation conditions had become so 
good that we began to despair of the Star's coming. It seemed then 
that only shipwreck or some condition almost equally serious other 
^han that of ice must be keeping her away. I really made up my 
mind to this about the 18th of August and we were about to start 
south along the west coast, thinking she might be wrecked some- 
where between us and Kellett, when we had an unaccountable 
change of heart and decided to wait another week. By the 27th 
there was no use waiting further, so we dug a huge pit in the earth, 
lined it with stones, filled it with stores of dried meat, caribou 
tallow and caribou skins, and covered it with stones which would 
secure it from any animal except a polar bear. Not having seen a 
single bear since landing, we thought the cache might prove safe 
till we came back for it. 

Now the plan was to follow the coast south to Kellett, searching 
every bay for the Star or possible traces of her. If none were 
found we would return to our cache and stay through early winter 
until the ample daylight of February or early March. We talked 
about starting then for the mainland, going first east into Victoria 
Island, then south through the country so well known to me from 
my previous expedition, across Coronation Gulf to Bear Lake. 
Privately I had in my mind the hope that we might get through 
the winter so well that my companions would in the spring be will- 
ing to make a second ice exploration, in which case the calculation 
would be to get to the mainland in May or June. 

We started along the coast southward on September 1st. The 
method of travel was that Storkerson and Ole followed behind 
with the camp equipment and food for three or four days, carried 
mostly by the dogs, although the men carried the bulkiest bedding. 


In the morning after breakfast while they were arranging the dog 
packs and making ready for the march, I would start out with the 
aim of keeping three or four miles ahead of them all day. I trav- 
eled from hilltop to hilltop making little temporary monuments 
and leaving messages for them in case I had seen through my glasses 
anything on the basis of which any plan ought to be changed. It 
might be that I could see a bay running inland ahead of us, and my 
message would give warning and direct the course. Or I might 
see game, in which event the note would tell them whether to wait 
and watch until they saw the outcome of my hunting, or to make 
camp at some specified spot, or perhaps to go ahead to some other 
hill from which they could watch the hunting operations better. 
For several days no game was seen, nor were we in need of any, 
for we had started with dried meat enough for five or six days. 

I was able to travel much faster than the others, for heavily laden 
pack dogs will walk only about a mile and a half an hour. When 
no hunting was on I did such things as sketch an outline of the 
coast. Now and then I went down to the beach, following 
it for a mile or two at a time and sticking up on end any small pieces 
of driftwood found, the idea being that they would thus be more 
easily discoverable above the snow next winter should we have 
occasion to follow the coast by sled. 

The Admiralty chart proved rather inaccurate, as it had been 
made on the basis of observations from McClure's ship sailing 
along several miles from the land on its way north in 1851. Inves- 
tigations since made at my request by the Royal Geographical 
Society indicate that some of this map was based not on any survey 
or sketches made at the time, but on log book entries, narratives, or 
possibly even the memoirs of men who were on the journey. Noth- 
ing more than a very general correspondence between the facts and 
such a map can be expected 

There are several islands along the coast although only one, 
Terror Island, is shown on McClure's chart. On the map the coast- 
line is undulating, without deep bays or harbors; on the real land 
there are many deep bays and many harbors, if their entrances 
prove adequate when sounded. I am inclined to think, from the 
evidence of driftwood on the beach, that during the last short while, 
geologically speaking, the coast has been rising; but that before 
that there must have been a long period of considerable subsidence 
and there are, accordingly, long arms of the sea stretching inland 
through "drowned" valleys. Relying on the map, we tried for the 
first few days to follow the coast pretty closely, thinking there 


would be no deep bays or hindrances to travel, but we lost so much 
time this way that later we traveled on an average five miles away 
from the coast. Even then we would come occasionally to what we 
expected to be a creek, and which had all the winding characteristics 
of a creek, but was an arm of the sea reaching in some cases six 
or eight miles inland. 

About half-way to Cape Kellett I had a curious experience with 
a band of caribou. Each of several times I got near them they were 
unaccountably scared away. This puzzled me, when the explana- 
tion appeared in a polar bear. I don't know exactly what he was 
doing. Part of the time he was probably following me, part of 
the time he may have been preparing to hunt caribou on his own 
account, and eventually he was fleeing from me after having got 
my wind. But in each case he succeeded equally in scaring the 
caribou. When I finally noticed the bear I tried to get him, but 
he was aware of me and made off without stopping. The caribou 
that time ran into my companions and the dogs, which excited the 
dogs to loud barking and scared them again. To make matters 
worse, Storkerson did not realize that I was following the caribou 
and started following them on his own account, which scared them 
once more. There was nothing to do now they were so thoroughly 
frightened but to wait for hours until they had not only run a 
distance of several miles but had had time to quiet down and 
more or less forget. 

They finally stopped on some rather flat land, and approaching 
them was a tedious matter, entailing a great deal of crawling and a 
great deal of waiting in strategic positions for them either to move 
closer to me or else to move over a hill so that I could resume my 
devious approach, for this was the last day of our dried meat and 
we had to get something to eat. I eventually shot four, after hav- 
ing used up nearly a whole day. This was more meat than we 
needed, but game had been so scarce on the way south that I 
thought it best to kill enough for a depot for the return journey. 
So we dug a hole in the ground, lined it with stones as usual, and 
filled it with meat that had first been properly chilled. 

Part of the land traversed in the last several days had been 
sandy, and "heather" does not grow well on sandy soil, or rather, 
what grows there does not burn well. But it is one of the compen- 
sations of the Arctic that the same sandy soil that makes the 
heather unsuited for fuel seems especially adapted to a certain kind 
of willow, the dead and bleaching roots of which we always found 


in these sandy districts in sufficient quantity for cooking. Once 
or twice we descended to the seacoast for our evening camp and 
were able to find driftwood. 

About the middle of the west coast of Banks Island the Ad- 
miralty chart indicates Terror Island, a conspicuous little island 
which we found in its proper latitude. But just north of it the 
chart shows a straight coast line, and here we found a great bay 
about fifteen miles across and running fifteen miles or more into the 
land. I have named it Storkerson Bay in honor of the man who 
did more than any other member of the expedition towards the 
success of its geographic work. 

South of Storkerson Bay the amount of driftwood on the coast 
increased rapidly and in one bay a little to the south there must 
have been several cords of wood to one mile of beach. This would 
be little for the mainland coast near the Mackenzie delta, where 
there are thousands of cords to the mile in some places, but it is 
more driftwood than we found anywhere else on Banks Island. 

Towards evening on September 10th I climbed a commanding 
hill and recognized that a few miles south lay the sandspit of Cape 
Keilett. Except for Point Barrow at the north tip of Alaska, 
this is the greatest sandspit known to me in the Arctic. It is 
shaped about like a fish-hook. It first runs four or five miles 
west from the southwest corner of the land proper and then it bends 
gradually northwest, north, northeast, east and southeast in a 
two-mile curve, forming what looks like a safe harbor, although it 
has an unsafe entrance because of shoals, is swept with currents 
carrying ice at certain seasons, and is not a safe harbor at all. 

The recognition of the indubitable outline of Cape Keilett was 
followed by a quarter of an hour of suspense while my glasses 
searched all the vicinity from the hilltop, first hastily for the pos- 
sible presence of a ship, and later minutely for a beacon or other 
sign that some one had been there who had an interest in us. 
Nothing could be seen that resembled any work of man. 

I felt truly depressed as I went about the erection of a beacon 
for the guidance of my companions who were four or five miles 
behind. It happened that on top of this hill there were some 
"nigger heads" scattered about, which, as we have explained, is the 
material used by Eskimos in building the foundations for their 
summer camps. Because that material was abundant, I erected 
in half an hour a beacon that could be seen with the naked eye from 
five or six miles. I left in it a note saying nothing about disap- 


pointment, for I knew my companions capable of inferring that for 
themselves. It said merely, "Make camp on the coast half a mile 
southwest of here." 

Then I walked east along a ridge of hills half a mile, for our 
meat supply was again beginning to run low and it was time to get 
another caribou, and I had further a vague plan of remaining at 
the Cape for three or four days. From the end of the ridge I had 
a view over a beautiful valley running eastward, with great 
stretches of flat bottom lands and rolling grassy hills on either side. 
On a hilltop eight or ten miles to the northeast were some caribou, 
too far away for present need but giving assurance that, should 
we decide to stay in the vicinity, we were likely to find food here 
no less than elsewhere. 

On my return to camp I found the gloom I had expected. We 
had all felt fairly certain of finding at least some beacon at Cape 
Kellett. There was the hope of our own ships. Also Mr. Mott 
of the Polar Bear had said to me that in the event of my ships dis- 
obeying orders and not coming to Banks Island, which he antici- 
pated more strongly than I through his association with the expe- 
dition during the winter, he would leave a depot for me at Kellett. 
We had even agreed what it was to be — one or two rifles with am- 
munition to fit, some kerosene with two or three blue-flame kero- 
sene stoves, a tent and possibly some clothes, and a little of some 
kind of food least likely to be destroyed by bears. The food part 
I had told him was of small importance, but I now felt keenly how 
convenient it would have been to find rifles, ammunition, oil, and 
the like. But the moral effect of the slightest evidence that we had 
not been forgotten would have been greater than the physical value 
of any supplies we could have found. 

It is scarcely possible for healthy men living in the open air 
to remain despondent long. After an hour or two of gloom I began 
to see various romantic possibilities in the situation and launched 
upon a sermon to my companions on the text that the most precious 
use of adversity is its stimulus. I pointed out that the greater 
the obstacle the greater the achievement, with various other plati- 
tudes I have now forgotten. While we lacked many things we could 
have made use of, we nevertheless had resources enough not only 
to pass the winter safely but to make an exploratory journey in the 
spring, if it were nothing more than to cross to Victoria Island 
and finish the mapping of it between the farthest points attained 
by the expeditions of McClure and of Amundsen. Thus we should 
accomplish useful geographic work and knock in the head, if we 


had not already done so, the idea that ships and supplies are needed 
to pass an arctic winter safely and comfortably. There would soon 
be on the ground plenty of snow for the building of clean and 
cozy houses, and we still had over 200 cartridges, which meant 
20,000 pounds of fat for fuel and meat for food. 

But Storkerson had a family on the mainland, and Ole had plans 
for a trading expedition involving the purchase of a ship and the 
acquiring of wealth on the coast of Siberia. While they agreed 
with me that we could pass the winter and continue the work in the 
spring, they did not agree with me that the game was worth the 
candle, and reminded me that I had promised them when we were 
out on the ice that if no ship came to Banks Island we would make 
our way to the mainland as soon as the winter frosts should bridge 
over the arms of the sea we had to cross, and as soon as the increas- 
ing daylight of spring allowed safe travel. 



NEXT morning we decided to go down to the Cape itself and a 
few miles beyond it before giving up finally the hope of find- 
ing ship, beacon, or message. As usual, I started off ahead. 
When I had gone a mile and a half I saw in the soft mud on the bank 
of a little creek a nearly fresh human footprint. I had scarcely 
realized its meaning when my mind went back with some irony to 
the previous evening and to the moral value of the decision we had 
failed to make. Had we taken a bold concerted stand to continue 
for another year on the resources we had, we could have been proud 
ever after of a "heroic" resolve, without having had the bother of 
carrying it out. For this footprint meant that somewhere in the 
vicinity resources of one kind or another were awaiting us. 

I was near enough to the camp to be able to wave a signal. 
And then I did not stop to write a note but merely raised a stone 
on end, for I knew the footprint itself would carry as much of a 
message to Storkerson and Ole as it did to me. To me it was one 
of the gladdest sights of my life. That it was the imprint of a 
heeled boot meant white men. Half a mile farther south 1 came 
upon a second track. This showed cross-hatching on the sole — ^the 
sort of rubber boot privately owned by some of the members of 
our scientific staff. This increased the probability that whoever 
had been here, it was one of our ships that brought him. At first 
I had thought it most likely to have been the Polar Bear party 
who had promised to come if our ships failed. 

Three miles farther on, where the sandspit of Cape Kellett joins 
the mainland proper, I found no signs though I looked carefully. 
"But a mile or more east along the coast," to quote verbatim from 
the diary for September 11th, "I got to the top of a hill from which 
I saw the tips of two masts. I could hardly believe my eyes — some- 
how it seemed unnatural to find a ship in Banks Island where it 
ought to be." 

I ran forward, for the first thing that occurred to me was that 
the ship was at anchor and might start away. Half a mile of run- 



ning brought me in full view of the beach, and to my surprise and 
consternation I recognized that there was the Sachs hauled up on 
the land, her cargo unloaded and a number of her men building a 
house. And now I walked slowly to get my breath back, puzzling 
what could have happened to the Star that she had not come and 
why the Sachs was on the land instead of afloat. Obviously, there 
had been no shipwreck. Everything was too trim and orderly 
for that. 

As I approached, the men at work glanced in my direction occa- 
sionally but were apparently not impressed with anything peculiar 
in my appearance. This I understood. It meant that some of the 
party were off hunting and that they imagined me to be one of 
their own people coming home. As I got nearer I recognized Jim 
Crawford carrying sod. From the time I was 200 yards from the 
camp till I was fifty yards from it. Captain Bernard was in full 
sight and glanced occasionally at me. Then he turned his back 
on me and walked slowly away towards the ship. I was no more 
than ten or fifteen yards from Crawford when he looked up for 
the third or fourth time and at last recognized that I was not 
one of his own party. I have forgotten what it was he had in his 
hands just then, but he dropped it. He has told me since that he 
first thought I was one of their own hunters. When he saw that 
I was not, his impression was a confused sort of astonishment, 
for he thought I must be an Eskimo and still he could not see what 
kind of Eskimo I could be. He had heard that the Victoria Island 
Eskimos were different from the Eskimos he knew in Alaska, but 
he had also seen specimens of the Victoria Island clothing and my 
clothes were of the Alaska type. Furthermore, he knew they had 
only bows and arrows, and I was carrying a gun. The contra- 
diction of everything he expected confused him hopelessly. It was 
not until I spoke to him and told him who I was that he recog- 
nized me. Even then he stood still and speechless in a daze. 

A few seconds later the company became as excited, however, 
as any one could haye desired, for when Crawford finally realized 
who I was, he turned and shouted to Bernard: "Stefansson is alive! 
He's here!" 

This announcement carried greater conviction to Bernard when 
pronounced by Crawford than my statement of who I was had 
carried to Crawford when pronounced by myself. The rest of the 
party were around me in a moment. But it naturally took some 
time before I for my part began to realize under what circum- 
stances they were there and before they had adjusted themselves 


to the fact of my presence. I had expected them to be more pleased 
than surprised when they recognized me, and certainly I had not 
expected the kind of surprise I found. I thought they had come 
there to m^et me and that they would be delighted once the meeting 
had taken place. On that theory I could not interpret their be- 
havior, although it was easily understandable when I realized that 
they had come there with no idea of my being alive at all but 
merely governed by a blind devotion to the orders of a man now 

After a few words of explanation from me, indicating that 
Storkerson and Ole were coming behind, Crawford and Thomsen 
set out to meet them, while Bernard took me into a tent, insisting 
that I must eat. Somehow his first clear notion after he realized 
that I was alive was the assumption that I must be starving. I 
stopped him at that point and insisted on his looking closely at me 
and seeing for himself that I was fatter and in better condition 
than he had ever seen me before. He admitted it presently, but 
insisted that I must, nevertheless, be craving "good grub." The 
Captain was a great coffee drinker and could not understand how 
anybody could go months without coffee. Bread, too, he consid- 
ered a necessity of life, and fruits and various other articles of 
food he supposed to be by their nature such that no one could be 
healthy without them. He thought that any one deprived of these 
things for months would long for them with a craving indescrib- 
able. I tried to explain to the Captain that while I was hungry 
for news I had very little appetite for his food, but I soon found 
that it was easiest to accept a mug of coffee and some bread and 
butter and commence nibbling and sipping. My doing so put the 
Captain at his ease and he began to tell me the things I most 
wanted to know. 

He had hardly started when the one member of the company 
who had not been present at my arrival entered the door. This 
was my old friend, W. J. Baur, whom I had known since 1906 
under the name of "Levi," though he is no Hebrew by blood nor has 
he any trait supposed to be characteristically Jewish. I had seen 
Levi last when he had come from the Belvedere to bid us good-by 
when we started out on the ice from Martin Point, and here he 
was now steward of the Sachs and at the moment returned from a 
successful duck hunt, with a shotgun in one hand and two or three 
birds in the other. He was familiar with the "blond Eskimos;" in 
fact, he had wintered among them in 1908 on the second whaling 
ship to visit them, and that was two years before I saw them and 


*. / 'm'^ 

Storker Storkerson. 

On Arrival at Kellett. 

Ole Andreasen. 









P 73 
O !-. 










four years before they became the delight of newspaper readers. 
He has told me since that his first thought was that here was one 
of the blond Eskimos, but his second thought was that he'd be 
damned if he knew who or what I was. He was no farther along 
in his thinking process when Captain Bernard said, "Don't you see 
it's the Commander?" 

It is seldom in real life that people "register" astonishment or 
any other feeling in a way at all resembling the movies, but I have 
never seen nor can I imagine better movie acting than Levi's aston- 
ishment. He had already put the gun aside, otherwise he would 
have dropped it; but the ducks in his hand he actually dropped on 
the floor. After staring at me he almost collapsed upon a bench 
without saying a word. I have heard of people's eyes "sticking 
out of their heads" with fear or surprise. Without saying that 
Levi's actually did, I will say it seemed to me they did. 

There was a special reason for Levi's being rather more startled 
than the others. He had been on the expedition their guide and 
philosopher as to all northern things. He had been a whaler around 
Herschel Island and in various parts of the Arctic for twenty 
years and was looked up to by members of the Sachs party as wise 
beyond any of them. They all knew, each on his own account, 
that my companions and I must be dead ; but even at that, Levi had 
taken frequent occasion to explain and enlarge upon the certainty. 
He was in truth, as he said himself, an old friend of mine; but he 
had seen no reason why affection or any weakness should blind 
him to facts. In addition to explaining that it was not possible 
we could ever have reached Banks Island alive, he had also ex- 
plained that we could not have lived there even had we been able 
to land. He had warned that it was "all storybook stuff" about 
any white man being able to live in the Arctic, and especially on 
Banks Island, without help from Eskimos. Even the Eskimos 
could not live on Banks Island, for had he not himself years before 
seen traces of them there and were they not absent now, and had 
they not always been absent when anybody came to the island? 
These Eskimos had come on a furtive visit from another island 
(Victoria Island) and had not stayed because the country was a 
difficult one even for them. 

Of course this was ordinary whaler lore, partly intuition and 
partly picked up from the Alaska Eskimos whom they carry in 
their crews ; but it amounted to a body of truth with Levi and the 
crew of the Sachs, with the partial exception of Wilkins, as we 
shall see later. But the broadest-minded scientist was never more 


willing to accept the verdict of facts against a theory than was 
Levi, so obviously glad was he to have been wrong at the price of 
finding us alive. 

The first thing I asked Captain Bernard for was a list of those 
who had come with the Sachs to Banks Island. They were George 
Wilkins, in command; Peter Bernard, sailing master; James R. 
Crawford, engineer; W. J. ("Levi") Baur, steward; Charles (really 
Karl) Thomsen; Natkusiak; Mrs. S. T. Storkerson with her daugh- 
ter Martina; and Mrs. Charles Thomsen with her daughter Annie. 
Martina was about five years old and Annie about three. 

When I found Levi here in place of Andre Norem, there flew 
to my mind Norem's fears for his own sanity and I asked about him. 
Bernard's reply was brief, I remember it almost word for word 
still: "Poor Norem. He was a fine fellow. I had known him for 
years and so it was no credit to me that I believed him when he 
told me his mind was going. I could see the signs plainer than 
he could. But there were still one or two men left at Collinson 
Point who thought he was shamming, when one morning he shot 
himself in the alleyway outside our door and was dead before any 
one got to him." This was the first tragedy of our expedition 
to come to my ears. 

I now turned my inquiry to what had been an anxious burden on 
my mind. There was reassuring news of the Karluk. Some whal- 
ing ships had reached Herschel Island, the Captain said, before the 
Sachs left there and had reported that the Karluk was crushed by 
the ice sixty miles northeast of Wrangel Island in January, 1914, 
and that all of her men had made their way safely ashore in 
Wrangel Island; that Captain Bartlett had left them there and with 
one Eskimo companion had crossed the hundred miles of ice to 
the mainland of Siberia, had traveled along the coast from house 
to house until he met Baron Kleist, a Russian official, who had 
taken him to Emma Harbor, where Captain Theodore Pedersen * of 
the Herman had picked him up, carrying him to St. Michaels. From 
there the news was sent to the Government and to the press. The 
United States was said to have detailed two revenue cutters, the 
Bear and the Thetis, to pick the men up in Wrangel Island, and 
the Russian government two ice breakers, the Taimyr and the 
Vaigatch, for the same service. There seemed to be no doubt that 
while the ship was lost to our expedition, her company of men 
were safe. 

* Captain Pedersen is Theodore among his friends ; he is in this book some> 
times referred to by his legally correct name of C. T. Pedersen. 


This piece of news set my mind at rest; the reported outcome 
was exactly according to my expectations. I had said in my re- 
ports to the Government that while the ship had no more than an 
even chance of surviving I did not see any reason to think that any 
of her men would be lost if she were crushed in the ice in winter and 
especially if she were crushed after the New Year, when the daylight 
was increasing and the conditions were ideal for getting ashore. 
The only thing that surprised me was that the men should have 
been left on Wrangel Island. It appeared to me that they should 
have walked ashore at the same time that Captain Bartlett did, 
for it is well known that that coast is thickly settled with people 
who have an abundance of native food in addition to stores of 
groceries brought in by traders and could care adequately for al- 
most any number of shipwrecked men that might arrive. A hun- 
dred miles over ordinary arctic sea ice is not far to walk. 

I have here given the news as reported to me by Captain Ber- 
nard, and the feeling I then had about the news. It was to develop 
later that the news itself was in part incorrect. 

I next asked why the Star had failed to come to Banks Island. 
To this Captain Bernard replied that everyone in Alaska, Eskimos, 
whalers and members of our expedition alike, had been sure of 
our death. He said Dr. Anderson had not taken him into his 
confidence, but he thought our supposed death might have been the 
reason why he had decided not to follow my instructions about the 
Star and had taken her himself to Coronation Gulf. I asked if 
Dr. Anderson had sent me any message on the chance of my being 
alive. He had not, nor any report or letter explaining why he 
had disobeyed my orders. 

So ended our dreams of the Star, of what she was to do for us 
and of what we might be able to do with her. With characteristic 
fondness for speculating over what might have been, I thought a 
good deal that day and I have thought a good deal since, of what 
we might have accomplished with her had she not been taken else- 

It seemed that in accordance with my instructions Wilkins had 
at first taken command of the Star, with Aarnout Castel as sailing 
master and himself as engineer. Wilkins had intended to bring 
me to Norway Island my former traveling companion, Natkusiak, 
and some other Eskimos, including at least one seamstress. The 
spring had been a fairly early one and the Star made her way suc- 
cessfully to Herschel Island. Here, as misfortune would have it, 
Wilkins made a decision, wise in itself, of waiting a few days till 


the mail came down the Mackenzie River, so that he could carry 
the mail to Banks Island and especially so that he could secure the 
chronometer watches and other scientific equipment which I had 
asked the Government to send by way of the Mackenzie, expecting 
them to be picked up just as Wilkins was doing. But while he 
waited for the mail he incidentally waited so long that he was 
overtaken by the Alaska and Sachs coming from Collinson Point. 

Wilkins' point of view now was one with which, in spite of my 
great admiration for him in general, I never could agree. It 
seemed to me that as he had his orders from the commanding of- 
ficer direct he should have obeyed them irrespective of countermand- 
ing orders from any officer of inferior rank. The theory he acted 
on was that my death had removed me from the situation and that 
Dr. Anderson was the actual commander and his orders should take 
precedence, mine being as it were canceled by an assumption of my 
death. Dr. Anderson now told Wilkins that he had decided not to 
let the Star go to the Norway Island rendezvous but would take her 
to Coronation Gulf instead. For reasons which he gave, he would 
transfer Wilkins to the Sachs. 

The reason for the transfer had been the assertion that the Sachs 
was better for sending to Banks Island because she was the bigger 
ship. This was canceling my judgment as well as my orders, for 
if I had thought so I should have arranged it that way. The sup- 
position that the Sachs was better than the Star was tenable only 
if the chances of meeting ice were ignored, and obviously the 
chances of meeting ice around Banks Island were much greater 
than of meeting it in the direction towards Coronation Gulf. The 
reader will recall how the Star was purchased especially for the 
Banks Island trip, and how the Sachs, through her twin propellers, 
was particularly badly suited to those more northerly and icy 

Wilkins had transferred to the Sachs, taking Natkusiak with 
him, and the Sachs had come to Banks Island. But on the way 
one of her propellers struck a cake of ice, as was to be expected, and 
was broken off. She had also been insufficiently caulked before 
leaving winter quarters and was leaking heavily. When she got 
to Kellett she found considerable ice along the sandspit and Wilkins 
decided to haul her ashore in the last week of August for the fol- 
lowing reasons: 

First, she was leaking so fast that she had to be pumped forty 
minutes out of every hour; second, she was under one propeller and 


hence very difficult to maneuver, and her speed had been cut to 
two miles per hour as against six ; and third, it was not believed that 
I was alive. Even under this last head Wilkins had been prepared 
to go ahead to Norway Island had the ocean been open, be I alive 
or dead; but in view of the disabilities of the ship and in view of 
the ice at Cape Kellett, the consideration that he did not expect to 
find me alive, anyway, weighed heavily with him. There was also 
the pressure exerted by the opinions of the crew. Levi had explained 
that any ship going north beyond Kellett would be in grave danger 
of being unable to get out of the country again the following year, 
and as they were provisioned for one year only and had orders from 
Dr. Anderson to stay but one year, they considered it unwise to 
go on. 

But at Kellett they knew of no harbor in which a ship would be 
safe, although we have since found a good one for a boat of her 
draught two or three miles east of where she was actually hauled 
out. Not knowing of this harbor, they saw no way to keep her 
safe except to haul her out on the beach. They accordingly un- 
loaded her, put her broadside against the land, got out their ropes 
and tackle and hauled her up. There she was when I found her, 
rather a house than a ship, for it was impossible to launch her with- 
out beams to slide her back into the water. These beams she did 
not have and they could not be obtained on Banks Island. 

A tale of minor importance told by Captain Bernard was that 
Peder Pedersen, whom I had engaged as engineer for the launch 
Edna, had been unable to run her during the summer and that this 
had greatly handicapped Chipman in his survey work of the 
Mackenzie Delta. Chipman, failing to get any use of the launch, 
had carried on his work as best he could with a whale boat and 
had, after the delta survey had come to an end, towed the Edna 
behind the whale boat to Herschel Island. Here she met the com- 
petent engineers of our ships, Jim Crawford of the Sachs, and 
Daniel Blue of the Alaska, who in two or three hours put her into 
good shape. Dr. Anderson, having decided to take the Star to 
Coronation Gulf, gave the Edna to Wilkins who, not knowing 
Banks Island conditions, thought she would be worth taking along. 
Where the Edna could have been valuable was in the eastern work 
she had been bought for, although the Star was of course better. 
Coronation Gulf is free from ice most summers and is full of islands, 
an ideal place for a power launch. But in Banks Island there is 
so much ice on the west coast that only under rare circumstances 


can a launch be useful ; and while it might be well enough to carry 
such a boat on a big ship where she could be hoisted in davits, she 
was nothing but a white elephant to the Sachs, which was too small 
to handle her comfortably on deck. The Edna had been towed part 
of the way and nearly wrecked by ice; then with the greatest dif- 
ficulty they had managed to lift her up on the decks of the Sachs. 

We might have made some use now of the Edna if she had been 
in seaworthy condition. I put Crawford at fixing her up, but it was 
eight or ten days before she was ready for use. By that time 
the frosts had set in and the season of navigation was over. 

Two new chronometer watches had been sent to me by the 
Government down the Mackenzie and had arrived before the Sachs 
sailed. One of these had been taken for O'Neill to replace the 
watch he had turned over to me, but Wilkins had been given the 
other, so we now had two good pocket chronometers. A battery 
of three Waltham ship's chronometers, really huge watches mounted 
in gimbals, had also been given the Sachs, and various small items 
of scientific equipment from the Alaska. 

But there were three exceedingly serious gaps in our equipment. 

A special feature of our ice exploration was the large water- 
proof tarpaulin used to convert our sleds into boats. Of the two 
the expedition possessed we had already used one for the trip from 
Martin Point to Banks Island, and it was nearly worn out. The 
other I had expected would be brought by the Star. It had been 
taken to Coronation Gulf to be used for spreading over stores to 
keep the rain out. 

The specially strong sled which we had lost with Wilkins and 
Castel had also been taken to Coronation Gulf. Lighter sledges 
of the sort best suited to work on or near land had been sent us 

Why the tarpaulin and the sled had not been sent us I under- 
stood in a measure, though not fully. What I never understood was 
that the Alaska had miles of sounding wire and sent us none of it. 
This was truly heartbreaking. We should have to make our ocean 
exploration next spring over depths inevitably beyond the reach 
of our 1386 metre line, and thus our journey would be robbed of half 
its scientific value. 

An answer to all these things would be: "We thought Stefansson 
was dead, and expected Wilkins to confine his activities to the 
shores of Banks Island where the boat tarpaulin, the strong sled, 
and the sounding wire would be needed no more than by us in 
Coronation Gulf." 


Apart from the relief of being told of the safety of the Karluk's 
men, it was rather depressing news the Sachs had brought us. Evi- 
dently our task of exploring the ocean to the west and north of 
Prince Patrick Island was going to be difficult, both because of 
the gaps in our equipment and because of the too southerly base 
at Kellett. 

But to this cloud there was the silver lining that the southern 
section of the expedition was, so far as I could judge from the news, 
in an excellent position to do good work. I hoped so then, and later 
events fully justified the hope. The competent specialists of that 
section secured during the next two years a fund of information 
and a mass of specimens such that had we achieved no other scien- 
tific results than those gathered by the complement of the Alaska, 
the expedition could be considered to have added materially to the 
sum of knowledge.* 

While I have mentioned both Wilkins and Natkusiak, I have 
said nothing about meeting them. This is because they were not 
at home when I arrived, but were the hunters who were away and 
for one of whom I was mistaken when I was seen coming down the 
hillside towards the camp. They had gone to the northeast looking 
for caribou two or three days before. We planned to send some- 
body in the morning to look for them and bring them back. Mean- 
time Wilkins had got track of us on his own account, a story that 
I am enabled to let him tell for himself, since he has written a 
magazine article on the incident from which I may quote. After 
telling how the Sachs was forced to decide against trying to get 
north beyond Cape Kellett and how they first landed there, he 
goes on: 

"We saw no trace of game on the land, and finding no trace of 
Stefansson we were fully convinced that even had he reached the 
land he must have starved to death. After waiting in vain for 
the ice to move we decided to establish winter quarters and search 
the coast for his dead body or possible traces of him, when condi- 
tions would permit sledge travel. There was not sufficient snow on 
the ground to travel along the coast, so with an Eskimo companion 
who had been with Stefansson on most of his arctic journeys I went 
inland afoot. We hunted for two days without success and at 
night we discussed our leader's fate. 

"There were many reasons why he could not be alive. He had 
not come ashore in Alaska. We thought he could not get food 

* For a summary of the scientific results of the Alaska section, see Ap- 


on the ice; he could not travel to Banks Island against the wind 
and drift, and even if he had reached Banks Island, he must surely 
have starved to death. Natkusiak, the Eskimo, explained that 
Stefansson had recently developed many unusual ideas. When he 
first knew him he was like the other white men, but lately Stef- 
ansson had been getting so he wanted to do many things that other 
white men never did. All the Eskimos knew that a man cannot go 
far out on the sea ice and live, and now Stefansson's death had 
proved it. He thought that it would be the last time, as it was 
the first, that any one would try to do anything so foolish. We 
went to bed mourning the loss of our leader, but feeling that we 
had always known that he would not succeed. 

"The third morning we started out early, determined to stay 
out all day and all night in a final effort to find some game, I 
walked a mile or two from our camp, and then from a hilltop I 
saw a beacon in the distance that I had not noticed the day before. 
I examined it with my glasses and thought as it was near the coast 
that it might be an old one erected by somebody from a passing 
whaling ship. But I was almost sure it had not been there the 
day before. Then came the thought, 'Perhaps it's one that Stef- 
ansson has just erected!' and I hurried towards it. I found myself 
running as my hopes grew stronger. As I neared the beacon I 
could see that it was a new one built of sod. Could it be that 
Stefansson and his party were alive? I reached the place almost 
breathless and found a tiny note in Stefansson's handwriting. He 
and at least one of his companions were alive! 

" ' Make camp on the beach a quarter of a mile S. W. from here' 
was all that was written on the note. But that was enough to tell 
me that they were alive and traveling in the direction of our 
boat. I hurried back to my camp, but meantime the Eskimo had 
gone hunting. I could not go home without him, so I waited all day 
and half the night. He at last returned, having been successful 
in killing several caribou and a polar bear. 

"We made all haste to the main camp, discussing on the way 
the probable condition in which we should find the men. We 
thought of them as worn and haggard, starving and struggling on 
toward the camp with one last effort. In fact, I thought of them 
in every condition of which I had read of heroic explorers in story- 
books. We reached the hut at four o'clock in the morning and I 
tiptoed round the sleeping quarters, not daring to wake them for 
fear they needed rest. Stefansson's two companions, Storker 
Storkerson and Ole Andreasen, were fast asleep in the bunks and 


were snoring roundly, but Stefansson had occupied my tent. I 
peeped in and saw him sleeping. In the dim light I could not 
judge the men's condition and decided to look at their dogs. These 
were fat and frisky and the whole six that left Alaska were there. 
I was amazed, yet not prepared for the sight of the men when the 
cook's breakfast shout brought them to the kitchen. All of them 
were fat and strong, stouter, in fact, than when we last saw them. 
They had with them when they left Alaska only a month's supply 
of food, and now five months had elapsed and they were pictures 
of health and strength. They told no tale of hardship, hunger, or 
adventure. We were almost disappointed. They had traveled 
eastward over the ice, shooting bears or seals when they had need 
for food, and had made the journey of over a thousand miles, living 
on the local food supply, and had never missed a meal! They had 
in fact completed, so far, the plans of the expedition almost in 

"So this was the end of the enterprise which for months I had 
heard condemned or deplored by Eskimos and whalers and the 
men of arctic experience in our expedition as 'one crazy and two 
deluded men going north over the sea ice to commit suicide!' " 



DOUBTLESS the average man turns to polar narratives, 
when he turns to them at all, with the desire and expecta- 
tion of reading about suffering, heroic perseverance against 
formidable odds, and tragedy either actual or narrowly averted. 
Perhaps, then, it is partly the law of supply and demand that 
accounts for the general tenor of arctic books. However that may 
be, my main interest in the story I am telling is to "get across" to 
the reader the idea that if you are of ordinary health and strength, 
if you are young enough to be adaptable and independent enough 
to shake off the influence of books and belief, you can find good 
reason to be as content and comfortable in the North as anywhere 
on earth. An example to me is the fall of 1914, to which I fre- 
quently look back as a time I wish I might live over again. 

To begin with, we had that all-important thing, an object for 
which to work. The Sachs had brought the news that the Karluk 
had been wrecked near Wrangel Island, that the main resources 
of our expedition had sunk or had been diverted beyond our reach. 
But it was up to us to make good in spite of that. I confess the 
idea of a large expedition had had in it for me less of challenge 
than the new conditions imposed. When you have under you many 
officials and more subordinates of a lower rank, it is with a com- 
mander largely a case of issuing orders, an easy but uninteresting 
way of bringing anything about. Now, with most of our best men 
and resources gone, it had become a matter of individual prowess. 
We had to show that by adapting ourselves unaided to local con- 
ditions a few could do the work of many. 

The first point was that, although the Sachs had brought a 
certain amount of food, this wouldn't have been enough even for 
one winter if men and dogs had subsisted entirely on the cargo. 
Furthermore, as polar expeditions have proved from the earliest 
times down to Scott, living on ship's food brings danger of scurvy. 
We did not have dozens of competent and locally familiar Eskimo 
hunters as Peary did to send out here and there for meat of walrus 



or cattle or caribou, but only one Eskimo hunter, Natkusiak. And 
walrus and cattle are absent from Banks Island and its vicinity. 

That the native resources here were less than are commonly 
found in the North made the task all the more absorbing. It was 
a question of caribou and seals, and the seals we left to the mid- 
winter. This for two reasons: first, you can kill seals under favor- 
able circumstances even in the twilight of winter when the sun 
never rises, but for caribou, where the field-glasses are as important 
as the rifle, daylight is necessary for any considerable success; and 
second, to us who have lived long in the North the lean caribou of 
midwinter and spring are only a food and not a very satisfactory 
one at that; but the fat caribou of the autumn are a delicacy. 

Wilkins, Natkusiak, and I commenced the hunt at once by 
traveling three days northeasterly from our base at Kellett. It was 
snowing hard most of the time. We could not see more than a mile 
or two, and all caribou tracks were naturally buried. It is an 
idiosyncrasy with me, or possibly a matter of pride, that however 
abundant the food supply is in the camp from which we start upon 
a hunt, we seldom carry more than two or three days' provisions. 
We have never yet failed to get some game before the fund was 
gone, and it is generally good policy, for one travels more rapidly, 
hunts more energetically and feels a greater reward in his success 
when he knows that it is a matter of getting game or going hungry. 
It need not be imagined either, that the method is dangerous, for 
no one who has tried fasting can be induced to fear four or five 
days without food. You get no hungrier after the afternoon of the 
first day, and any traveler who complains about going three or 
four days without food will get scant sympathy from me. Having 
three days' provisions in the sled means that your party is good 
for at least ten days, before which time something is sure to 
turn up. 

Darkness was coming on rapidly and we had to make our 
harvest in its season. The caribou were getting leaner and their 
meat less desirable. On the fourth day I asked Wilkins, then least 
experienced of the three of us, although he later became a first- 
class hunter, to stay and guard the camp while Natkusiak and I 
struck off in different directions through a fairly thick blizzard. 
The visibility of caribou in that sort of storm was under four 
hundred yards, but there is this compensatory advantage in a 
blizzard, that by real watchfulness you are practically certain to 
see caribou before they see you, and at a range where you can 
begin shooting at once. Furthermore, the wind drowns any noise 


you may make and the storm itself seems to make the animals 
less watchful. While you have small chance of finding caribou 
at all, yet if you do run into them you have a good chance of 
getting them. 

We were in a country which none of us had previously seen, 
and there were no river-courses or landmarks that could be thought- 
lessly followed with the assurance that you could with equal 
thoughtlessness follow them back again. In thick weather it is 
a matter of the closest observation and the most careful reckoning 
to find your way home to camp. As you advance you must notice 
the speed at which you are walking and the time it takes to proceed 
in any given direction, and must know exactly at what angle to 
the wind you are traveling. Furthermore, you must check the wind 
occasionally, either by pocket compass or by a snowdrift on the 
ground, to see that it isn't changing, for an unnoticed change in 
the wind would throw any reckoning completely out of gear. The 
method is first to walk around the hill — our hunting-camps are 
commonly on high hilltops — and study each face of it until you feel 
sure that if you strike any point within half a mile of camp you 
will recognize it on the return. When the topography of the half- 
mile square or so surrounding camp has been memorized, you strike 
out perhaps into the wind or perhaps at an angle of forty-five or 
ninety degrees to it, and travel straight for an hour or two hours, 
according to the degree of confidence you have in your ability to get 
back. If no game has been found, you turn at some known angle, 
commonly a right angle, to your original course and walk in that 
direction an estimated distance, perhaps as far as in the first direc- 
tion. If then nothing has been found you turn again, and if this 
time also you make a right-angle turn, it is easy to calculate at 
what time you are opposite camp and one hour or two hours' walk 
away from it. Turning a third right angle will face you directly 
for camp, and if you have been careful you will land within half a 
mile of your mark, or within the area memorized before starting. 
But should you miss it you will know at any rate at what time you 
are close to camp, and by thinking the matter out you will see how 
to walk around in circles or squares of continually increasing size 
until you find a place you recognize. 

If in the course of your walk you do see game, your first thought 
must be to take the time by the watch, or make some similar ob- 
servation to assure yourself at that moment of the direction of your 
camp. If you can kill the game at that spot the matter is simple, 







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but if you have to follow about a good deal, or if it is a trail you 
come upon rather than the game itself and you follow the trail, 
then it is not so easy to lay down the rules for getting back. 
Everything can, however, be summarized by saying that you must 
continually memorize your course; and if you do this it is a matter 
of angles to determine the course you must eventually take when 
you start for home. 

This simple outline of our procedure in a storm, and in fact at 
all other times when direct vision will not serve, will show at once 
why it is that a white man of trained mind can find his way home 
so frequently where an Eskimo gets lost and has to camp and wait 
for clear weather. 

In the hunt under discussion I walked about three miles into the 
wind, then three miles to one side and back to camp without seeing 
any sign of game. But Natkusiak had better luck. Within two 
or three hours we knew that this must be so, otherwise he would 
have been back; and sure enough, just as daylight was disappear- 
ing he returned with an account of seeing about thirty caribou and 
killing and skinning seventeen. Wolves were very numerous at 
this time and we frequently saw them in bands of ten or less, and 
our first concern was to get the meat of these deer home. By the 
next evening we had more than three-quarters of it safe, although 
the wolves did get some. When the meat had been gathered, 
Natkusiak and I again hunted but in clearer weather. This time 
the luck was reversed; he got no deer, while I secured an entire 
band of twenty-three in twenty-seven shots. 

It must not be supposed that killing twenty-three caribou in 
twenty-seven shots is remarkable. This will appear when you see 
how it was done. To begin with, my powerful field-glasses sighted 
the band at seven or eight miles. I advanced to within about a 
mile of them, climbed a hill much higher than the rest of the coun- 
try, and used half an hour memorizing the topography. There 
were various small hills and hollows and creek-beds here and there, 
with branches in varied directions. All this could be studied from 
the elevation. The main difficulty was to remember the important 
details after you had descended into the lower country, where 
everything on closer view looked different. The wind was fairly 
steady and I made the approach from leeward. But I found when 
I got within half a mile of the deer that they had moved to the 
top of a ridge and were feeding along the top about sidewise to the 
wind. There was no cover by which they could be directly ap- 


proached, so I went to the ridge about half a mile from them and 
lay down to wait. They grazed in my direction very slowly for 
half an hour or so, and then lay down and rested an hour and a 
half or more. Meantime I had nothing to do but wait. If, when 
they got through resting, they had decided either to descend from 
the ridge or reverse their course and graze back to where they 
came from, 1 should have had to make another detour and start the 
hunt over again. But they grazed toward me, and in another 
hour every one of the twenty-three was within two hundred yards 
and some of them within fifty yards. Caribou and other wild 
animals commonly fail to recognize danger in anything that is 
motionless, so long as they are not able to smell it. They saw me 
plainly, of course, just as they saw all the rest of the scenery, but 
their intelligence was not equal to realizing that I was something 
quite different. 

About this season, when the lakes are freezing all around, the 
lake ice and even the ground itself keeps cracking with a loud, 
explosive noise, so caribou frequently seem to take rifle-shots for 
the cracking of ice and are not disturbed. I took pains to see 
that my first shots especially should be of the right kind. What 
you must guard against especially is a wound through or near the 
heart, for an animal shot that way will startle the herd by making 
a sprint of fifty to two hundred yards at top speed and then drop- 
ping, turning a somersault in falling. But he will always run in 
the direction he is facing when shot, so that you can control his 
movements by waiting to shoot until he is facing in a suitable direc- 
tion. When an animal is frightened he will run toward the middle 
of the band, and if he is already there he will probably not run at 
all, at least for the moment. But caribou shot through the body 
back of the diaphragm will usually stand still where they are, or, 
after running half a dozen yards, lie down as if naturally. I there- 
fore now did the thing that may seem cruel, but which is necessary 
in our work; I shot two or three animals through the body, and 
they lay down quietly. The shots had attracted the attention of 
the herd but, sounding like ice cracking, had not frightened them. 
Furthermore, the sight of an animal lying down is conclusive with 
caribou and allays their fear from almost any source. I then 
moved my rifle so slowly that the movement was unnoticed, and 
brought it to bear on the next one, holding it so near the ground 
that the working of the bolt in reloading was equally not noticed. 
After the first animals had lain down I shot two or three that were 
near instantly dead with neck shots, and then began to aim for 


the hearts of those farthest away, so that any if they ran, would 
run towards me. The calves were left till the last. 

The very deliberation with which this sort of hunting is done, 
while it makes conspicuous the element of apparent cruelty, makes 
it the least cruel method possible in point of the pain caused the 
animals. A number of hunters greatly excited and blazing a<way 
in the manner of those inexperienced or afflicted with "buck fever," 
will mean all sorts of painful wounds that are not fatal and that 
may be borne for days or weeks by animals that escape. The most 
cruel of wounds to caribou is a broken leg, for there is no hope 
of recovery, and yet they can escape for the time being. I have 
on two or three occasions had a chance to study these animals 
afterward. They appear to realize that their speed, now that they 
have only three legs to run on, is inferior to the rest of the herd, 
and they are in evident and continual dread of the wolves that 
are sure to drag them down unless a hunter's bullet mercifully 
intervenes. In a properly conducted hunt by such a method as ours 
a wounded animal hardly ever escapes, and with our powerful 
rifles even a shot through the abdominal cavity will ensure death 
in five minutes to half an hour. 

The reason for killing entire bands of caribou is conservation 
and convenience. If you kill them in scattered places the freight- 
ing problem becomes serious, and especially the matter of protec- 
tion of the meat from wolves. But with a big kill you can camp 
by the meat and see that none of it gets lost. Furthermore, in 
islands like Banks Island, caribou are so scarce that in the ordi- 
nary fall hunts in order to get enough meat we have to kill 75 
per cent, or more of all animals seen. In the fall of 1914 we 
had only two or three weeks of reasonably good daylight in which 
to get meat for all winter. For when the daylight comes again 
in the spring we are not only busy with exploratory work, but also 
the meat is lean and neither as nutritious nor half as palatable as if 

Any one who sees charm in the life of a hunter or life in the 
open will need no argument to convince him that the lives of 
arctic hunters are interesting, but he may think they are uncom- 
fortable enough for that to be a serious drawback. This is by 
no means the case, thanks to the cozy dwellings in which we spend 
our nights and excessively stormy days and any periods that are 
idle through necessity or choice. 

A snow house that is essentially as comfortable as a room of 
the same size in an ordinary dwelling-house can be put up in fifty 


minutes or an hour by the method already described. They are 
spotlessly clean, beautifully white; they protect you so perfectly 
from the weather that you actually have to go outdoors to find 
out if it is good or bad. You are warm enough, as I have said, 
to sit in your shirt sleeves and as comfortable as can be. 



LIKE all of our arctic winters, the winter of 1914-15 was spent 
in getting ready for the exploratory work of the coming 
spring. Captain Bernard occupied most of his time making 
sledges. Much of the material was obtained by stripping the ship of 
her "ginger work" to secure the hardwood and iron. Our pemmican 
had gone with the Karluk, and our steward, Baur, and others spent 
many hours slicing and drying beside the galley stove the meat of 
polar bears, seals, and caribou which the rest of us killed either at 
sea or on shore and brought to camp. The Sachs had not brought us 
much fuel, so that one or two men had to busy themselves con- 
tinually in searching up and down the coast, under the snow, for 
pieces of driftwood and hauling these home, sometimes a distance 
of fifteen miles. 

A special windfall was the discovery of a whale carcass on the 
beach about ten or twelve miles southeast of winter quarters. 
One afternoon Natkusiak and I were going down that way with 
a dog team, traveling about half a mile from the land through a 
moderately thick snowstorm. We were starting out on an extended 
trip meaning to be gone several days if not weeks, and we were ap- 
proaching land for the purpose of finding deeper snow for making 
camp. We were nearing the beach and it was already so dark that 
rifle sights could no longer be seen for good shooting when a band 
of nine wolves made rapidly toward us. One's first thought must 
always be to look after the dog team, and as I was walking ahead 
I took hold of the leading dog, telling Natkusiak to upset the sled 
and thus prevent the team from dragging it when the wolves and 
the shooting got them excited. Natkusiak stepped to one side, 
kneeling on one knee and waiting for the wolves to come as close 
as they would. At about fifty yards they drew up sharp when 
the dogs began yelping with excitement, and Natkusiak fired at 
one of the two large wolves — there were evidently the parents and 
seven nearly grown pups. They immediately broke and ran, Natku- 
siak firing several times after them — we were now near a ship's 



stores, so ordinary rules of ammunition economy did not apply. 
Shooting with a rifle in half darkness must always be a matter of 
chance and the wolves escaped, though one left a trail of blood, 
perhaps the one originally fired at. 

We now proceeded with both of us holding the harness of the 
greatly excited dogs, and about a quarter of a mile from a creek 
mouth where we expected to find good camping snow, a bear 
walked out from shore and lay down near a big cake of ice about 
two hundred yards from the land. Natkusiak turned the sled 
over on its side again and went after the bear while I restrained 
the dogs. I had seen one bear on top of a forty-foot cutbank 
and another at the foot of it about half a mile away, but I could 
not leave the team until Natkusiak had killed his bear. One shot 
did it and then I righted the sled and let the dogs make their own 
way to Natkusiak awaiting them beside the bear, while I turned 
aside to follow the ones I had seen on the land. Meantime three 
other bears came scampering from the shore, going past Natkusiak 
about three hundred yards away. He fired a dozen shots but 
missed on account of the darkness. As the bears were running over 
the ice I could see their outlines only faintly and could not see their 
legs at all. This meant that although Natkusiak was only about 
half as far from them as I he had no good chance for aiming, as he 
only caught glimpses of them as they appeared and disappeared 
between the hummocks. I followed on the land for a little way, 
but the snowstorm thickened and the pursuit turned hopeless. 

Of course we realized that some special local thing had at- 
tracted the bears and wolves, and that it could scarcely be any- 
thing but a whale carcass. We built our snowhouse right by the 
dead bear, while foxes, white and ghostlike in the half dark, cir- 
cled around inspecting us. We must have seen dozens, and had 
there been bright daylight we should probably have seen a hun- 
dred. That evening we merely skinned the bear, waiting for day- 
light to look for the whale. 

It was not difficult to find it. About two hundred yards from 
the camp the snow was thick with fox tracks and there were dozens 
of holes where they had been burrowing through a snowdrift down 
to the carcass. Some of the foxes ran away when we approached, 
but others stood their ground at a distance and a few barked at us. 
We could have shot them but preferred not to injure their value 
as scientific specimens or as furs. 

Natkusiak was in his element. Although we had been just set- 
ting out on what was intended for a long journey I changed the 


plans, leaving him by the carcass to watch for bears while I re- 
turned to the ship with a load of bear meat and the news of our 
find. That evening Thomsen went to the whale with a dog team 
and twenty or thirty fox traps to spend the night with Natkusiak. 
They divided the traps between them and set them one lot at 
each end of the carcass. At first they caught the foxes at the rate 
of eight or ten an hour, and sat up nearly all night at the work of 

This whale proved of the greatest usefulness. Not only did we 
get a dozen or more bears in connection with it, but it furnished 
excellent dog feed that year and even the year following, for 
decay of a whale carcass lying in such a position is exceedingly 
slow. It was half buried in sand, but in summer continually bathed 
with sea water. As the temperature of the polar sea is actually 
below the freezing point of fresh water (often as much as 2° F. 
below freezing) it was not strange that decay should not be rapid, 
especially when one remembers that the sea water is happily im- 
pregnated with common salt and other chemicals that are bac- 
tericidal in nature and of well known efficacy in preserving meat. 

With this work going on, Natkusiak and I nevertheless found 
time for an exploratory crossing of the south end of Banks Island. 
Since we made this in the darkness of midwinter, first-class ge- 
ographic results were not to be expected. Our main purpose was, 
in fact, to pay a visit to the Eskimos whom we supposed to be 
wintering on the southeast corner of the island. The supposition 
that we should find them there was based on the verbal statements 
of these Eskimos themselves when in the spring of 1911 I had 
met them on their return from Banks Island on the ice of Prince 
Albert Sound.* Eskimos may be as truthful as any people, and 
they are; nevertheless, they give wrong impressions even to one 
another and to those most conversant with them because of their 
fatal lack of exact words for time and distance. Although the 
Mackenzie River Eskimos, for instance, have numerals and can 
count up to four hundred (twenty twenties) those of Victoria 
Island, Coronation Gulf, and vicinity (the Copper Eskimos) cannot 
count above six. They have to describe distances by such indefinite 
terms as "not far" or "very far," and with regard to time their 
vocabulary is almost equally vague. We now know that the por- 
tion of the winter spent by them on the southeast corner of Banks 
Island is not January, but March and April. 

But not knowing it then, we devoted much of December to a 

*See "My Life With the Eskimo," p. 281. 


hazardous crossing of the mountains back of Nelson Head. The 
danger is not in the mountains themselves, although precipices are 
frequent, but in the darkness which makes every precipice treach- 
erous. Because of the elevation of the land to perhaps fifteen 
hundred or two thousand feet, and because of the open water which 
prevails most winters around the south end of the island, every 
breath of wind that blows off the sea is converted into a cloud of 
fog when it strikes the colder hills. The daylight is negligible; 
and the moonlight, which comes to you first through clouds that 
are high in the sky and later through an enveloping fog, is a 
light which enables you to see your dog-team distinctly enough, 
or even a black rock a hundred yards away, but is scarcely better 
than no light at all upon the snow at your feet. So far as" the 
eyes can tell, you never know whether you are going to step on 
a bank of snow or into an abyss. 

Walking ahead of the team I used to carry a pair of large, 
dark-colored deerskin mittens. After throwing one of them about 
ten yards ahead, I would keep my eyes on it till I got within three 
or four yards and then throw the other, so that most of the time 
I could see the two black spots on the snow ahead of me separated 
by five or six yards of whiteness. But in falling snow or in a 
blizzard we used to remain in camp, sometimes two or three days 
at a time, unless we happened to be following a valley where, 
without great danger of falling, we were merely inconvenienced by 
walking now and then against the face of a cliff. 

Although the south end of Banks Island where we crossed it 
was no more than fifty miles in diameter, we traveled in twilight 
and darkness through labyrinths of valleys behveen haphazard 
mountain ridges double that distance between December 22nd and 
January 4th, when we reached the sea ice of De Salis Bay. In 
another five days we had examined the whole southeast coast of 
the island and had crossed Prince of Wales Straits to Victoria 
Island without discovering any signs of human beings. This is the 
one time of the year when traveling is dangerous if you rely upon 
game for food and fuel. The game is there, of course, no less than 
at other seasons, but the darkness is the handicap in securing it. 
We found the ice in the vicinity of Victoria Island not to be in 
motion, and as there consequently was no open water the chance 
of getting bears was less than elsewhere. Seals could be secured 
only through the tedious method of having the dogs discover breath- 
ing-holes and then waiting for the seals to come up, a method 


where the element of chance plays such a part that no one should 
use it where another method is available. 

So instead of stopping to hunt in Victoria Island when our 
food-supplies began to run low, we turned back to Banks Island 
toward open water observed on the way along the coast east from 
De Salis Bay. One reason why supplies began to run low was 
that we had taken but little food with us from camp, even though 
we realized that midwinter darkness was going to make hunting 
precarious. It was imperative to travel light if we were to cross 
a range of mountains, climb steep ridges and make precipitous 
descents into valleys, in daylight insufficient for the selection .of 
better courses. A light sled could be managed; a loaded one could 
not be moved by the combined strength of men and dogs. I had 
also felt certain of finding the Eskimos who would have had stores 
of food from which to supply us. 

When we turned back from Victoria Island I had no immediate 
intention of giving up the search after Eskimos, but expected 
merely to replenish food stores at De Salis Bay. January 12th 
was our first day of hunting. A clear day at noon, it gave day- 
light enough to see the sights of the rifles for about two hours, al- 
though not clearly enough for good shooting. It is never really 
safe to leave a camp unguarded, with the dogs subject to attacks 
of wolves and bears, but we took the chance, and went in dif- 
ferent directions to search for game, I to find none, Natkusiak 
to kill one seal. 

For three days after that both of us continued to be unsuc- 
cessful in our hunting. Both of us killed seals, but the ice was 
moving so rapidly that before we could secure them they had been 
buried under crushing heaps. Tracks of polar bears were numer- 
ous, and it was only a question of time when one would be en- 
countered. On the fourth day I had just killed a seal and secured 
it when over my shoulder I saw three bears approaching. It was 
past the twilight noon and their yellowish-white outlines against 
the pure white ice were so indistinct that they could not be seen 
except when they were moving, or at least their bodies could not, 
except for the shiny black noses. When bears are on the alert 
and when they either see something indistinctly or are expecting to 
see something the presence of which they suspect, they move their 
necks and their whole bodies to peer about in a peculiar snaky 
way. Then they give about the effect of railway men's signal lights 
that are being swung on a dark night. These particular bears 


made themselves conspicuous now and then by standing on their 
hind legs, which brought their profiles against the sky. My first 
two shots brought down one big bear and a small one, but the 
third inflicted apparently only a flesh wound and the bear that 
received it disappeared in the rough ice. 

Natkusiak, about half a mile away, heard the shooting and soon 
arrived. We skinned the two bears, and, making a sort of sledge 
of the skin of the small one, loaded into it its own meat and 
dragged it home, allowing the meat of the other and the seal to 
take its chances. These bears came just in time, for we had but 
a single meal left of the seal killed three days before. The fol- 
lowing day we found where we had left them the other bear and 
the seal, although the ice, which was crushing in the neighborhood, 
might easily have buried them during the night. 

One of the most serious losses when the Karluk sank will be 
recalled as that of our small kerosene-containers intended for 
sledge journeys, which had been substantially made of galvan- 
ized iron. As kerosene is much more convenient than blubber 
for cooking in snowhouses in winter, we were carrying a supply 
of it in an ordinary five-gallon tin such as is furnished by the 
oil companies, and now found that it had sprung a leak and that 
nearly all the kerosene was gone. This mischance, together with 
the too rapid passing of the midwinter period, decided me to give 
up for that year the search for Eskimos and to return to the winter 
base at Kellett. We made the return with such good luck in 
weather for picking a trail through valleys where earlier we had 
floundered up and down ridges, that we were able to travel in one 
day as much as forty-five miles, a distance that had taken seven 
days on the way east. 

When we got back to Kellett we found that Wilkins had com- 
pleted a series of tidal observations. But both during this period 
and through most of his time with the expedition he put much 
labor and care into the gathering and preparing of zoological 
specimens. This is, for any one who lacks the scientist's enthusi- 
asm, a sort of work where the fun soon wears off. The animal, say 
a fox, is first measured as to several dimensions in a routine way. 
Next the skin is carefully removed and hung up to dry, salted 
or "poisoned" with arsenic and alum or some similar chemical, 
and a label attached giving all available information as to age, 
sex, size, date and place of killing, etc. The skull, after being 
cleaned and having the brain removed through the foramen magnum 
in a tedious way, is labelled correspondingly with the skin, and 


so are the "long bones" of all four legs, and the lot are put away. 
These are the data of the closet naturalist who studies the speci- 
mens and the accompanying information after the expedition gets 

I have never known any one who worked harder than Wilkins. 
He would be cleaning the scraps of meat off the leg bones of a 
wolf before breakfast and scraping the fat from a bearskin up to 
bedtime at night. His diaries were filled with information about 
the specimens he gathered, his fingers were stained with the pho- 
tographic chemicals used in the development of his innumerable 
plates and films, his mind was always alert and his response al- 
ways cheerful when a new task was proposed. A half dozen such 
men would make an invincible polar expedition. 

Everybody remaining at the home base was working so well 
that it seems almost invidious to single out Wilkins. Crawford, 
Ole Andreasen, and Storkerson were at their trapping camps five, 
fifteen and twenty-five miles away, catching each his hundred or 
two hundred foxes, the pelts of which grow more expensive each 
year as women's need for summer furs increases. These three 
men were working for the expedition only half the year and so 
had time to grow rich during the winter. The men at the base 
camp were trapping foxes also in their spare moments, but many 
pelts went to Wilkins to become zoological specimens and the rest 
to the expedition storekeeper, for all these men were on full pay 
and everything they secured belonged to the Government. But 
most of their time was spent in work preparing for the ice trip. 

Mrs. Thomsen at home and Mrs. Storkerson at the trapping 
camp were busy making or mending skin clothing. Thomsen hunted 
seals for dog feed part of the time and foraged around Kellett 
with his team in search of driftwood. Levi did the cooking, in 
addition to slicing and drying bear and caribou meat to make it 
more portable as sledge provisions, and, most important of all, 
kept everybody in good spirits with his inexhaustible good nature 
and his everlasting tales, some of which were probably truer than 
they sounded, though the adherence to truth was never slavish 
enough to make them commonplace. Captain Bernard, a won- 
derful carpenter, blacksmith and mechanic in all lines, worked 
as early as Wilkins and as late repairing or making sledges. His 
ingenuity and industry were beyond price, for we had no good 
sledge except the one used in coming to Banks Island over the ice 
the previous spring. Neither did we have any really suitable 
material for making a new sled, but by plundering the Sachs of a 


bit of hardwood here and a strip of iron there Bernard was able 
to make us one of the finest sleds we ever used. It must have 
hurt him to do it, for he loved the Sachs, which he had owned for 
many years before selling her to us, and he had sold her with the 
provision that he might buy her back at the end of the voyage. He 
already had dreams and plans of what he would then do with her. 



THE first advance ice party of the year left Cape Kellett under 
the command of Wilkins on February 9th, and the rest of us 
started a few days later. Our plan was to follow the west 
coast of Banks Island north about a hundred and fifty miles and 
then to cross McClure Strait to Prince Patrick Island and strike out 
on the ocean northwest from the southwest corner of that island. 

Before leaving I had come to realize that we were facing a 
failure of the plans for that spring because of circumstances not 
to be prevented, however clearly foreseen. The various sorts of 
dog sickness are still as mysterious as were the African fevers in 
the time of Livingstone. By Christmas-time our dogs at Kellett 
had begun to die one by one. In some cases it was the fattest 
and the youngest dogs, in others the oldest and most decrepit. The 
only thing we could do was to isolate the affected animals from 
the healthy ones, and this may have helped, although one or two 
of the dogs that died appeared never to have had any contact 
with the ones that originally showed the disease. There are many 
theories about these diseases. There may be some significance 
in the fact that we have never lost any dogs that have been living 
on caribou or other land game, but always dogs that have been 
living on seal meat. 

When we finally got away from Kellett we still had two good 
dog-teams and a third poor one, which was really all we needed 
with only two first-class sledges. But a day or two after starting 
we faced a serious additional difficulty. During the preceding 
autumn a certain amount of snow had first fallen upon the coast 
ice and later a shower of rain had formed a skin of ice over the 
snow. On top soft snow had again fallen, but the thin layer of 
ice was left as a sort of roof over innumerable cavities and soft 
places underneath, so that ever>^ few steps a dog would break 
through and get the sharp, angular pieces of thin ice between his 
toes. Before we realized it nearly all our dogs had bleeding feet 
and some of them were incapacitated for work. The temperature 



was averaging for a period of weeks forty-two degrees below zero. 
Out at sea such cold is really an advantage, but now it prevented 
us from doing what we should have done had the weather been 
warmer — namely, tying boots upon the feet of the dogs to protect 
their pads from the cutting ice. At this temperature we did not 
dare to do it for fear the tight lashing might so interfere with the 
circulation as to cause freezing of the feet. 

When we got to the northwest corner of Banks Island more 
kerosene-containers were leaking. To have kerosene is an un- 
doubted convenience; and now since the only hope of healing the 
feet of our dogs was through a long rest, I sent Storkerson and* 
Thomsen back to Kellett for more kerosene, with a team which we 
did not expect to use on the ice, giving the sore-footed dogs a 
rest meantime. The result of these delays was the healing of 
most of the sore feet, but also that it was April 5, 1915, when we 
were finally able to leave shore. It had taken us 55 days to get 
from the south end of Banks Island where our base was, to the 
north end of Banks Island where our base should have been. It 
was now too late, in my opinion, for crossing to Prince Patrick; 
Island, so we struck northwest from Cape Alfred. 

Our party up to this time had consisted of seven men. But 
now I sent back Wilkins, Crawford, and Natkusiak, and the ice 
exploratory party of that year therefore consisted of Storkerson, 
Thomsen, Andreasen, and myself. 

Of the three men that went back, Crawford could not very well 
have been taken on the ice, though he would have been an excellent 
man otherwise, because he had the orthodox attitude towards meat: 
that while it is a desirable part of any meal, no meal should con- 
sist of it wholly. His view was that "no wages could pay him for 
living on meat alone, like a dog or a savage." Natkusiak did not 
mind living on meat, but he was afraid of the sea ice; he con- 
sidered it luck or necromancy that we had not been lost on the 
Martin Point trip. "Some time," he said, "you will go out to 
sea and not come back." He did not consider himself a coward, 
neither do I consider him so. On the basis of what he believed 
about the sea ice he was merely making such a distinction as most 
people approve between courage and foolhardiness. 

As for Wilkins, I would have liked to have him along and he 
would have liked to come. But the value of a more northerly 
base to work from next year, which had always been clear, was 
more than ever clear now after two wasted months on the west 
coast of Banks Island. The obvious thing to do was to send for 


the North Star so as to have her next summer to make this more 
northerly base in the fall. The only man to fetch her from Corona- 
tion Gulf was Wilkins and I reluctantly delegated him to that job. 
The reluctance was not merely because he would have made ai 
good ice man; I had three good men, all that could be used when 
we had only two strong sleds and two good dog teams. But had 
he been able to spend the summer on Banks Island he could have 
added greatly by photographs and observations set down in his 
notebooks to our knowledge of the topography, geology and nat- 
ural history of this interesting and fertile land. It was our home 
for several years, but because of the paramount importance of 
searching the Beaufort Sea to the west and north for lands and 
deeps and currents and other data of that hidden region, we 
crossed Banks Island always too hurriedly, and brought back 
at the end of the expedition no really comprehensive account of its 
geology, geography or zoology. 

Because the season was already so late we took rather more 
risk on this sea ice journey than I consider generally justifiable 
in polar work. On April 10th, for instance, we camped at the 
southern edge of a level expanse of ice of unknown width. I ex- 
amined it in the evening and found it about four inches thick, 
not strong enough to bear a sled, but that night we had an ex- 
ceptionally hard freeze and the next morning it was between six 
and seven inches thick. This is quite thick enough for loaded 
sledges if the area to be crossed is a limited one, and no matter 
what the area it is safe so long as the ice remains unbroken. But 
ice of this thickness, as indeed of any thickness, may at any time 
be broken up by increase in the strength of a current or the sud-f 
den oncoming of a gale. If the ice is thick no great danger to life 
results, for then a cake of almost any size will be a refuge for men 
and dogs, but if six-inch ice commences to break up no cake 
is safe unless it is of great area; and under the strain cakes 
naturally break into smaller and smaller pieces. If we were to 
find ourselves with a loaded dog-sled on a piece not much bigger 
than is necessary for the men and dogs to stand on, the cake 
would either tip on edge, spilling us into the water, or actually 
sink under our weight. 

It is not often that we have found perfectly level ice to be 
more than five miles across, and the morning of the 11th when 
we started out on this six-inch ice we expected to cross it in an 
hour. But we found it sticky with the salt crystals on its surface, 
as indeed it was bound to be, and this interfered with speed so that 


we did not travel at much more than three miles per hour wherte 
we had thoughtlessly supposed we could run at the rate of five 
or six. In some places the ice had telescoped on the previous day, 
but wherever it was of single thickness it bent perceptibly thoug'h 
slowly under our weight, and we never dared to stop except upon 
telescoped places. 

Hour after hour we traveled and the horizon was everywhere 
a straight line with the sky. It was exceedingly cold, and clouds 
of "steam" were seen rising here and there. These worried us a 
bit, for we thought they might be from opening leads, danger 
signals that the break-up of our ice had commenced. But there 
was about an even chance they might be rising merely because six- 
inch ice is so warm from the water underneath that it throws 
off clouds of vapor if the air is at a low temperature. The vapor 
clouds continually receding before us showed that they did not 
come from open water, but were forming from the ice. After 
twenty miles of travel under this fairly tense nervous strain we 
sighted some heavy old ice upon which to make a safe camp for 
the night. Less than an hour after we landed the thinner ice we 
had left began breaking up. This gave excellent sealing water 
right by our camp, but it gave also an uncomfortable feeling that 
had the thin ice been five miles wider or had we started an hour 
later, this day would have been the last day of our travels. 

For some two weeks traveling northwest from Cape Alfred 
our soundings showed an uneven sea bottom, for the water varied 
in depth from a hundred to two hundred fathoms. Comparison 
of the dead reckoning with our astronomical observations also 
showed that the ice we were on was moving steadily to the south- 
west — an inconvenient fact when our hopes all lay to the north- 
west. There was a great deal of open water, but a quarter or 
half a mile of it took us only an hour or two to cross, for we 
were expert by this time in converting our sleds into boats by the 
use of the tarpaulin. Much more often the leads were filled with 
moving ice, or with stationary ice not strong enough to. walk on 
but so strong that, had we attempted to break a way through it 
with our sled boat we should in half a dozen crossings have chafed 
holes in the already worn canvas. 

A delay beside a lead when the ice is not moving is one thing, 
and a delay when it is drifting opposite to your course is quite 
another. We took frequent chances in crossing leads on thin ice, 
and one of these crossings, on April 25th, came near ending in 


disaster. We had realized the risk and taken certain precautions. 
Our main dependence being always rifles and ammunition, we 
carried half the ammunition and two rifles on each sled, and for 
an additional precaution I used to carry my own rifle on my back, 
and about fifty rounds of ammunition with it. Had we lost one 
sled we could still have continued with the other; and had we 
lost both, the fifty cartridges would probably have taken the four 
of us home, even across five or six hundred miles of sea ice and 
uninhabited land. The question of footgear for so long a walk 
would have been the most important. We should have had to 
bend every effort toward getting home — there would have been 
no loitering by the way. Certainly exploration for the year would 
have been at an end. 

The accident resulted when we came to a strip of young ice 
about ten yards wide. As on all such occasions, I walked out 
upon it carefully, while the teams and men awaited the verdict. 
With my hunting-knife I made holes at three different places, 
and by putting my hand in the water found the ice was about 
six inches thick. To those used to fresh water, ice of six inches 
seems a great thickness, and as a matter of fact a team of dray- 
horses and a heavy load could be taken across six inches of fresh- 
water ice. Salt-water ice is a different thing. A piece four inches 
thick, if you allow it to drop on any hard surface from a height of 
three or four feet, will splash like a chunk of ice-cream instead of 
falling like a piece of glass as would glare ice of the same thick- 
ness. So I knew the crossing was dangerous, but it was so short 
that I thought the dogs would probably be upon firm footing be- 
fore the ice broke, if it did break. 

The first sled crossed safely. It had been built by Captain 
Bernard according to a modification of my own of the standard 
Nome design, with runners that rested on the ice for seven out of 
their twelve feet of length, so as to distribute the weight over a; 
large area. The other sled was of the typical Alaskan type, where 
the runners are bent somewhat rocking-chair fashion to make the 
sled easier to turn and maneuver, and only two or three feet 
of the middle part of the runners rest on level ice. 

Ole was in charge of the leading sled, and as it came across 
without difficulty Storkerson and Thomsen anticipated no trouble 
with the second. They were walking close to the rear end when I 
noticed the ice under them begin to bend. I shouted to them to 
get away from the sled, my thought being to remove their weight 


and to expose the ice to the sled's weight only. But when they 
realized that the ice was about to break they began to push the 
sled with the idea of getting it quickly over to the other side. 
When both of them took hold of the handle-bars and commenced 
pushing, the inevitable happened. The sled broke through, after 
the dogs had landed on the firm ice beyond, but when the front 
end had barely touched it. Before the ice had fully broken 
I had hold of the trace of the leading dog and Ole was at the bow. 
Storkerson and Thomsen escaped falling into the water by letting 
the sled go, and the stern was immersed while the bow was held 
against the ice by the combined pull of the dogs, Ole and myself. 
It was doubtless not much more than a second before we all had 
our hands on the front end of the sled and not more than two or 
three till we had it out of the water, but it seemed much longer, 
and it was certainly long enough for us to visualize what our situa- 
tion would be if we lost what was on the load. Not a fatal situa- 
tion necessarily, although we might have had to give up our work 
for the year at that point. As it was, we had to spend the next 
two days in camp getting rid of as much as possible of the ice 
that had formed on the articles that got into the water. 

After the accident we examined the ice, measured every broken 
piece, and found that at the very thinnest it was five and three- 
quarters inches thick. The temperature in the shade at the time 
had been twenty below zero, but the sun was shining on the ice, 
bringing the temperature upon its surface up to about zero F. 

Long before this we had left the area of shallow soundings 
and were now traveling over an ocean of unknown depth, for 
our sounding-wire of 4,500 feet never sufficed to reach bottom. 
The ice behaved in a peculiar way. When the wind blew from 
the south or southwest, no matter how hard, it would merely stop 
moving, or, in the case of an extreme gale, would in the course of 
a day move a few miles to the north. But whenever there was a 
calm or when the wind was from the northwest, the north, or the 
east, the ice kept moving steadily southwest. In other words, a 
large part of our gain by walking northwest was neutralized by 
this nearly constant drift to the southwest. By the middle of 
May we had lost hope of making any notable journey to the north- 
west that year, for we were only a hundred miles offshore from 
the Prince Patrick Island coast. 

For a time after reaching this conclusion we tried to travel 
northeast directly into the teeth of the drift, but we lost as much 
ground at night as we gained in the daytime, and eventually turned 


toward shore. The current was so strong, however, that we were 
unable to reach land on Prince Patrick Island abreast of our 
turning-point but were carried south, and were with difficulty able 
to get ashore on the southwest corner near Land's End, on June 4th. 



THE west coast of Prince Patrick Island was explored in 1853 
by a party under command of Lieutenant Mecham, of Mc- 
Clintock's expedition. Mecham tells how no country could 
possibly be more barren or desolate. Not a blade of grass was found 
nor a living creature, but gravel everywhere, and the land sloped so 
imperceptibly to the sea that they had to dig through the snow 
to ascertain whether they were on land or on ice. In view of this 
and of the fact that we had been for several weeks out of fuel 
and had finished our dog feed before that, it became necessary to 
talk over the advisability of going on. We all knew that the 
world would approve if we were to turn home at this point, for 
it has been the rule in arctic exploration that the traveling parties 
face toward home soon after half their provisions are gone, rely- 
ing on the other half to take them back. It had been so with 
Mecham and with McClintock; a portion of this very coast re- 
mained unexplored because Mecham's party on the south and Mc- 
Clintock's on the north had been forced by the partial exhaustion 
of supplies to turn back toward their base on Melville Island. 

But I was delighted to find all of us agreeing that no risk of 
life was involved in advancing into any portion of the Arctic 
without supplies at this season of the year. While we did not ex- 
pect to find Mecham wrong in saying that no life could be found 
on the coast of Prince Patrick Island, we felt that this would only 
mean that if our experience agreed with his we should have to 
turn back to sea again, where, on the ice and in the water, food 
could be secured. This was a fact that Mecham and the explorers 
of his time did not realize, as we can see by his account pub- 
lished in the Parliamentary Blue Books, and by Sir Clements 
Markham's review of the work of Mecham and McClintock in 
his "Life of Admiral McClintock." So we traveled on, enthusi- 
astic not only about possible discoveries ahead, but about proving 
that they are wrong who lack faith in the bounty of the Arctic. 

In following the coast northeastward we soon saw that 



Mecham's charting of it was by no means correct, but we saw also 
that were we to attempt to revise its minute details our results 
would not be much better than his, if at all. It was a question of 
light. There is much fog at this season, and Mecham had evi- 
dently done a good deal of his mapping in fog, with the inevitable 
results. If we were going to attempt a revision of his work we 
should have to do part of our work in fog also, and those portions 
of the coast where he had sunlight would have been done by him 
better than we could do them in fog; the only improvement we 
could hope for would be here and there where our luck in weather 
was better than his. Nor can any one with any reasonable ease 
make a map of this coast in winter, for the land slopes so im- 
perceptibly into the sea ice that so long as snow covers both alike, 
their limits can be ascertained only by digging. A good map of 
this coast can be made only when the land is free of snow, in late 
June, July or in August. 

A few days confirmed Mecham's opinion of the absence of 
game. Accordingly, we went offshore about ten or twelve miles 
to where the landfast ice meets the moving pack, and there in the 
open lead secured some seals. It is a curious fact, confirmed by the 
experience of years besides this one, that bear tracks are absent in 
spring north of the south end of Prince Patrick Island. This is 
doubtless because seals in these latitudes and longitudes are in- 
accessible to bears on account of the peculiar ice conditions, al- 
though they are easily secured by the more skillful human hunter, 
whose methods it is high time for us to describe. 

There is little originality about our methods of hunting seals — 
we have borrowed them from the Eskimos unchanged except for 
the omission of numerous superstitious practices which, though con- 
sidered integral parts of the technique by the natives, present them- 
selves to our minds as clearly adventitious. 

Obviously seals, where they exist, are found in one of three 
situations — they are on top of the sea ice, under it, or in the open 
water between the floes. Accordingly, there are three branches to 
the method of the hunter. 

The simplest case is when you hunt seals in open water. On 
arriving at the edge of a lead or other body of water you may 
find dozens of seals swimming about within gunshot. We shoot 
seals through the head, commonly, because a seal is more likely 
to sink with a body wound, especially one that lets blood or water 
into the lungs. In all seasons except summer nine killed seals 
out of ten will float if shot through the head and perhaps seven 


out of ten even with a body wound. As noted elsewhere, the 
sinking of a large percentage in summer is probably due not so 
much to the seals then being less fat and of a higher specific 
gravity, as to the comparative freshness and diminished specific 
gravity of the surface sea water, the fresh water of the rains and 
thaws forming a surface layer on the ocean through which the 
seals sink to the heavier, saltier water below. 

If the killed seal floats, and is not more than twenty to thirty 
yards away, he is secured by the manak. A manak is a ball of 
wood the size of a grapefruit. At its equator are three sharp re- 
curved steel hooks and at one pole is a ring to which is attached 
a long cod line or slender thong. The hunter holds the coiled 
line cowboy-fashion in his left hand and with a fathom of free 
rope he swings the manak about his head till it whizzes, and then 
throws it somewhat as the South Americans are said to do the 
bolas. You throw beyond the seal where he floats like a short 
log in the water. Before pulling in you try to flip the line over 
so that as you haul towards you it will drag over the seal. As 
the manak is about to slide over the back of the seal you give a 
sharp jerk, one of the hooks catches in the seal's skin and you 
pull him to you. 

If the seal is too far off to be reached by the manak you con- 
vert a tarpaulin and a sled into a sledboat, as already described 
for crossing leads, and paddle out to the seal. 

When you come to open water you may see dozens of seals 
swimming about, but again you may have to wait a dozen hours 
before you see the first seal. You may see none the first day, 
which requires a second day of watchful waiting. If you see none 
the second day you watch a third day and, if needed, a fourth. 
So far it has never happened to us that we did not secure a seal 
within four days of watching; but if that did happen we would 
simply continue waiting if we needed the meat and had no other 
way of getting it. If you are on a "water hole" surrounded on 
all sides by ice but slightly broken, you should not undertake a 
wait of more than a few hours, for no seals may come. But if 
you are on a lead of considerable length it is merely a question 
of a few days at most till they arrive, for the great leads are their 
highways. From your camp by a lead you may see no seal Mon- 
day and Tuesday where a hundred may pass you on Wednesday 
and Thursday. 

To understand the detection and securing of seals under the 
ice our view must go back to the preceding summer. Each sue- 


cessive summer gale breaks the ice more, and there are no frosts 
to cement the fragments together before autumn. There is enough 
water between the floes so seals can travel freely in all directions, 
and they do, coming up in the free water patches to breathe. 
Then comes the autumn with its light frosts and mushy young ice 
forming everywhere. The seals are reluctant to stop their wan- 
derings and are free to continue them awhile, for a sharp upward 
bunt of their heads will break ice up to four inches thick and give 
them a chance to breathe. When a seal travels along a lead cov- 
ered with young ice he leaves behind a trail of circular fracture 
spots from a dozen to several dozen yards apart. Months later, 
and up to next summer, these fracture spots are our game signs, 
our index to the former presence of seals. Most of them are hid- 
den by the snow in winter, but if you watch as you travel, all day 
and every day, you will eventually be rewarded by seeing an ice 
patch swept bare by some wind eddy where there happens to be 
the characteristic round fracture spot. 

But when the ice thickens beyond four inches and hardens, the 
seals must stop traveling and take up residence. Here, by mdus- 
trious gnawing, they keep breathing holes open all winter. At 
the surface these holes have openings only an inch or two in 
diameter; but underneath they are enlarged continually until as 
the ice thickens to two or four or even the maximum of seven 
feet, they become cigar-shaped chambers of diameter large enough 
for the seal's body. Each seal may have a half-dozen of these 
cigar-shaped chambers leading to breathing holes that are cov- 
ered with a few inches or a few feet of snow and thus hidden from 
the observation of man and from the eye of an animal. A bear can 
discover them by the sense of smell. This may serve his purpose 
if the ice is only a few inches thick, as he can with his mighty 
strength fracture it for several square yards around. The seal will 
imagine this ice to have been broken by the pressure of wind 
and current and will rise with purpose to breathe and with result 
of becoming a meal for the waiting bear. Near land the ice is 
much broken by pressure at all times of year and young ice thin 
enough to be broken by a bear is continually forming over patches 
where seals sported in open water a few days earlier. On this 
young ice as well as in the open water itself the bears know how 
to get the seals. But far from land the pressures are milder and 
the ice less often broken by it, so that there are large areas where 
the skill and strength of the bears do not suffice to get them any 
seals. Accordingly, bears are rare or absent, which is one of the 


reasons for the view which was universally held that seals were 
non-existent in the deep polar ocean far from land. Bears are 
really absent from these areas because they lack the ability to get 
seals there and not because the seals are absent. 

Man alone would not succeed any better than the bear in find- 
ing seals on the large areas of fairly level ice far at sea, but man 
and the dog in partnership combine the needed abilities. A man 
and a trained bear could do as well. 

The breathing holes of seals are sometimes seen on patches of 
ice swept bare of snow by the wind, but these holes have usually 
been abandoned by the seal. The ones in actual use are generally 
covered with snow so no eye can see them and no faculty of man 
detect, and only bear or dog can find them by the sense of smell. 
While this ability does the bear no good if the ice is too strong to be 
broken, the ingenuity of man is equal to the task of securing the seal. 

If a man who has no interest in seals, or to whom it has never 
occurred that any might be near, drives a dog-team over snow- 
covered ice and finds them wanting to stop and sniff the snow, 
he urges them on impatiently, imagining the dogs trying to find 
an excuse to shirk. But if you believe that seals are found here 
and there all over the polar ocean, you will infer when a dog wants 
to pause and sniff the snow that a seal's breathing hole is con- 
cealed underneath. This inference is usually right, for there are 
few other things up there that smell. 

If you allow it, the dogs may begin to dig in the snow as a 
dog would for a rodent. You must not permit it, for daylight 
in the breathing hole will scare the seal. The dogs' usefulness is 
over when they have scented out the holes. You lead or drive them 
to a distance of a few score yards where they lie down and sleep 
while your part of the work is on. 

After quieting the dogs you go back, take a long rod like a 
slender cane and with it poke and prod the snow till the rod 
slips through into water. Now the hole is exactly located. You 
withdraw the cane and fill the hole made by it with soft snow to 
prevent clear daylight from entering. Then, by scraping with 
your hunting knife or by cutting blocks you remove most of the 
snow from over the hole, leaving a layer of only a few inches. 
Next you take an ivory "indicator" that much resembles a coarse 
knitting needle and stick it down through the snow so that its 
lower end passes through the breathing hole and is immersed in 
the water. When the seal rises to breathe his nose will strike this 
indicator and shove it upwards. You are now standing motion- 


less above the hole (and perhaps have been for hours, for this 
hunting method, like most other primitive ways of getting game, 
requires much patience). Your eye should not leave the indicator 
where it stands upright like a peg in the snow. When the seal 
rises to breathe you cannot hear him, you cannot see him, and 
you have no warning till the indicator quivers or moves up. Then 
you drive your harpoon down alongside the indicator. If you 
hit the one or two-inch hole you hit the seal, for his nose is in 
the hole. He is now harpooned and you hold him by the harpoon 
line twisted around one leg while with an ice chisel you enlarge 
the hole enough to drag him out. One man can do this easily with 
a common seal {phoca hispida) weighing 150 or 200 pounds, but 
with a bearded seal weighing 600 or 800 pounds it is no easy 
job for two men. 

The reason why you may have to wait for hours and even days 
for your seal to come up in the breathing hole is that he may have 
a dozen other breathing holes scattered through several acres of 
snow-covered ice, and he may be using one of the others tempo- 
rarily. It is therefore best for several men to work together. 
When one hole has been located and a hunter stationed there, other 
hunters should take dogs in leash and lead them around in circles 
until as many holes have been located as there are available 
hunters. This greatly increases the chances of getting the seal 
promptly. Any clumsiness of method at one hole will, further- 
more, merely drive the seal to another hole watched by a better 

No one should aim to live by hunting on the sea ice without 
understanding this manner of sealing, called by the Eskimos the 
"mauttok," or waiting method (in the Greenlandic dialects "mau- 
pok") ; but in actual practice we have never had to resort to it. 
We have merely had it as another string to our bow. Our seals 
are secured either by the (among the Eskimos) nameless way 
first described where a seal is shot in open water, or by the pro- 
cedure about to be described, called by the Eskimos the "auktok" 
or crawling method. 

Seals may at any season of year crawl up on the ice to lie 
there and sleep, but they do it chiefly in the spring and summer — 
from March when it still goes down to 30° or 40° Fahrenheit be- 
low zero to midsummer when even on the ice the temperature is 
40° or. 50° above zero and much of the surface is covered with 
pools of water. 

A seal does not crawl unguardedly at any time out on the ice 


from his hole (enlarged by his teeth, or by the thaw, till it will 
let him up) or from the lead in which he has been swimming. He 
is always fearful of polar bears. When he wants to come up and 
bask, he spies out the situation by bobbing up from the water as 
high as he can, lifting his head a foot or two above the general ice 
level. This he does at intervals for some time — perhaps for hours — 
until he concludes there are no bears around and ventures to hitch 
himself out on the ice. 

Here follows another period of extreme vigilance during which 
the seal lies beside his hole ready to dive in again at the slightest 
alarm. Eventually, however, he begins to take the naps that were 
his desire in coming out of the water. But his sleep is restless 
through fear of bears. He takes naps of thirty or forty or fifty 
seconds or perhaps a minute. Then he raises his head ten or 
fifteen inches from the ice and spends five to twenty seconds in 
making a complete survey of the horizon before taking another 
nap. A nap of three minutes is protracted slumber for a seal, 
although far away from land and in other regions where bears are 
few or absent I have seen them sleep for five and six minutes. 

In rare cases basking seals will be found lying within rifle 
shot from an ice hummock or land, and can be shot from cover. 
Ordinarily, however, they select a level expanse of ice. In that 
case they will see the hunter long before he gets near enough to 
shoot. An essential of a successful hunt is therefore to convince 
the neal that you are something that is not dangerous. He may 
see you move and so you must convince him that you are some 
harmless animal. 

There are only three animals with which seals are familiar — 
bears, white foxes and other seals. It would not serve the hunter 
to pretend he is a bear, for that is the one thing the seal fears. 
This consideration shows you must not wear white clothes for the 
advantage of "protective coloration" on the white ice. The seal 
will probably see you, and if he sees something suspicious and 
white he will think of a bear and dive instantly. You cannot very 
well pretend to be a fox for they are not much larger than cats, are 
very agile and continually keep hopping around. That part you 
would fail in playing. But if you are dressed in dark clothing 
and are lying fiat on the ice you look at a distance much like a 
seal and you will find by trying it that you can imitate his ac- 
tions successfully. 

You can learn the auktok method of sealing from an Eskimo if 
you are among some group who practice it, but there are several 


groups among whom it is not in use. But in any case you can 
learn from the seals themselves, for your task is but to imitate 
them. Take your field glass with you and spend a few hours or 
days in watching basking seals from a safe distance. With seals 
that is 400 or 500 yards. In the books of the nature fakers ani- 
mals are sometimes endowed with marvelously keen sight. I 
think it is true of many birds; and mountain sheep see well, 
though I doubt that they see as well as a man. Of the remaining 
"big game" animals known to me, the wolf has the keenest sight 
and yet conditions of visibility have to be favorable to him if he 
can see you at much over 500 or 600 yards. Neither a grizzly nor 
a polar bear is likely to see you at more than half that, nor are 
polar cattle, while a caribou may see you at 400 or 500 yards. A 
seal is not likely to see you at much over 300 yards. 

Your cue is, then, to begin playing seal when you are about 
300 yards away. Up to that point you advance by walking bent 
while the seal sleeps and dropping on your knees to wait motion- 
less while he is awake. But at less than 300 yards he might notice 
you on all fours, and as that is not a seal-like posture you must 
begin to wriggle ahead snake-fashion. You must not crawl head-on, 
for a man in that position is not so convincingly like a seal as he 
would be in side view. You must therefore crawl side-on, or craw- 
fish fashion. 

You crawl ahead while the seal sleeps and you lie motionless 
while he is awake. Had you been upright or on all fours he might 
have noticed you at 300 yards but now he does not till you are 
perhaps 200 yards away. When he first sees you his actions are 
plainly interpreted — he becomes tense, raises his head a little 
higher, crawls a foot or two closer to the water to be ready to dive, 
and then watches you, intent and suspicious. If you remain mo- 
tionless, his suspicions increase at the end of the first minute, and 
before the third or fourth minute are over he plunges into the water, 
for he knows that no real seal is likely to lie motionless that long. 
Therefore, before the first minute of his watching is over you 
should do something seal-like. You are lying flat on the ice like 
a boy sleeping on a lawn. The easiest seal-like thing to do is to 
lift your head ten or fifteen inches, spend ten or fifteen seconds 
looking around, then drop your head on the ice again. By doing 
this half a dozen times at thirty or fifty-second intervals you will 
very likely convince your seal that you are another seal. 

But some seals are skeptical. If yours seems restive and sus- 
picious it is well to increase the verisimilitude of your acting by not 


only lifting your head at varying intervals but also going through 
whatever seal-like antics you have observed while watching the 
real seals through your field glasses. 

It is one of the few unharmful results of the late war that we 
can now describe freely and discuss openly certain things that 
were taboo before. Thanks to the war experience and frankness 
of our soldiers, those of us who lack practical experience have at 
least theoretical knowledge of the "cooties" which our more fa- 
miliar ancestors knew as a louse. Seals are lousy, not with our 
familiar graybacks of course, but with a variety of louse or tick 
of their own. Being thus infested they itch, itching they want to 
scratch, and not being restrained by any etiquette in these matters 
they are continually rubbing and scratching themselves. They rub 
themselves by rolling on the ice and scratch chiefly with their hind 
flippers which are long and flexible and armed with admirable 
claws. It is therefore advisable for the hunter to roll about a 
little and to flex his legs from the knees frequently as if scratching 
with hind flippers. These actions make an impression upon the seal 
which in the long run is convincing and in eight cases out of ten 
a good hunter is accepted as a fellow seal that has just come out 
of his hole to bask and sleep. The seals that refuse to be con- 
vinced have probably had a narrow escape recently from a bear. 
Possibly, too, some of them may be getting hungry and may 
decide not to bother to study the new arrival but to take the occa- 
sion for going down and having a feed. That this motive fre- 
quently influences seals we judge from the fact that towards 
midnight a seal usually goes down soon after noticing us. As 
remarked elsewhere, a seal usually comes up on the ice in the 
early morning or forenoon and commonly goes down to feed 
towards midnight. 

But if you once get your seal convinced he stays convinced. 
There is nothing fickle about a seal. He not only does not fear 
you but even appears to rely on you. He is always alertly on 
guard against the approach of a bear. I am not very deep in seal 
psychology, but they appear to me to say to themselves: "Over 
there is a brother seal, and if a bear approaches from that side he 
will get him before he gets me. So I can afford to leave that 
quarter unwatched and can devote myself to guarding against a 
surprise from the other side." As if he held this view, the seal 
will give you only a casual glance now and then and you can 
approach with great confidence. You crawl ahead while he sleeps 
and stop when he wakes up. If he watches you for more than a 


few moments you reassure him of your sealship by raising and 
dropping your head, rolling and wriggling as if itchy, and by flexing 
your legs from the knees as if scratching with hind flippers — all 
this lying flat on the ice with your side towards the seal and never 
allowing him to see your long arms, for a seal's front flippers are 
short. If you are careful, if the snow is not crusty so it crunches, 
if a moderate wind from the direction of the seal covers any 
noises there may be, you can crawl as near him as you like. I 
have known Eskimos to crawl right up to a seal and seize him by 
a flipper with one hand while they stab him with a knife with 
the other. But they do this only rarely, either "for a stunt" or else 
because they have not the proper hunting gear with them. Ordi- 
narily an Eskimo hurls his harpoon from a distance of from ten 
to thirty feet. I ordinarily shoot from a distance of twenty-five 
to seventy-five yards. 

An Eskimo, using his native gear, holds the harpooned seal 
by the harpoon line. With a rifle only a brain shot will serve; 
for if the seal is not instantly killed he will crawl to the water 
and dive. The reason why I hardly ever shoot at as much as a 
hundred yards is that the seal is lying on an incline of ice beside 
the hole or lead. There are few things so slippery as wet ice and 
the mere shock of instant death may start him sliding and the 
blood from his wound may get under him, lubricating the ice and 
making him slide faster. The seal in most cases has buoyancy 
enough to float. But in sliding towards the water he acquires 
momentum enough to take him down diagonally ten or twenty 
feet. He then comes up diagonally under the thick ice and you 
can't get him. Fearing this, I always drop my rifle the moment I 
fire and run as hard as I can towards the seal. In some cases he 
does not slide at all and I slacken speed on getting nearer; in 
others he is sliding, gradually gaining headway, and I slide for 
him like a player stealing a base in baseball. In some cases I have 
caught the seal by a flipper just as he was disappearing; in others 
I have been too late and the seal, though stone dead, has been lost. 

A good hunter should get sixty or seventy per cent, of the seals 
he goes after. Thfe approach takes on the average about two hours. 

Readers of antarctic books may wonder, "Why all this to-do 
about just the right way to hunt seals?" Their idea is that you can 
secure a seal any old way. So you can — in the Antarctic. Down 
South the seal knows no enemy, for there were no predatory animals 
till the explorers came. Fear is consequently unknown to them and 
if you walk up to a seal and scratch him he will roll over so you 


can scratch him better. The Arctic is different. It takes patience 
and an elaborate technique to get a seal near Prince Patrick Island. 
In the account of his journey in 1853 to the very place where we 
were now, McClintock, our only predecessor, said he had seen 
several seals, "but of course we were unable to secure them." It 
was formerly supposed that the auktok and mauttok methods de- 
scribed above could be used only by Eskimo hunters. But white 
men can use them equally. 

In the fall hunting seals by the auktok method is often dan- 
gerous, for they are lying on ice so thin and treacherous that the 
hunter may break through, especially while trying to get the seal 
from the hole after he is killed. In midwinter seals can seldom 
be secured in this way because they do not crawl out on the ice. 
From April to June we kill most of our seals by this method. 
From June to September there is so much water on top of the ice 
that the auktok necessitates wriggling, snake-fashion, through 
pools of ice water from a few inches to a foot or more deep. This 
is not only disagreeable, but the almost unavoidable splashing 
may scare the seals. Therefore this is essentially a springtime 
method of hunting. We get about a third of our seals by it, two 
thirds by shooting them in open water. As said above, the maut- 
tok method we keep in our minds merely as a standby. It is 
used by Eskimos in midwinter on level, thick bay ice near land. 
We would use it on the large expanses of fairly uniform ice found 
far from land if any of these proved so extensive that we ran out 
of food before we came to open sealing water. This has never 
happened to us, though it appears from the narrative of other ex- 
plorers that it would be likely to happen. But that is because 
their travel methods were different from ours. 

Our method of selecting a route over sea ice differs funda- 
mentally from that of other explorers because our method of 
subsistence differs fundamentally. The Bible tells that the Is- 
raelites were guided across the desert by a pillar of cloud by day. 
The inference is that they traveled directly towards the pillar of 
cloud. As we traverse the sea ice in winter we see all about us 
pillars of cloud. If we are relying on the food in our sledges and 
either believe that no seals exist in the vicinity or else do not 
take any interest in them, then we avoid the pillars of cloud, 
for we know that each is but the vapor rising from a patch of open 
w^ter hindering progress. To avoid these is a great concern to 
those who do not expect to profit by anything found in or near the 
open water and who are struggling ahead slowly and laboriously 


with laden sledges. But we are traveling rapidly and freely with 
light sledges. A detour therefore delays us less, and further, we 
have our food and fuel in the meat and fat of the seals that may 
be in these patches of water and the bears that prowl about the 
margins seeking seals. We therefore travel towards the pillars 
of cloud where others have avoided them and usually camp near 
the patches of open water. It ordinarily takes the men two hours 
to build the snowhouse, feed the dogs, cook the supper and get 
everything snug for the night. In less time than that I usually 
get a seal and bring it to camp before the chores are done. But, 
as said above, we give any needed time to the hunting and get 
to-morrow the seal we cannot get to-day. 

The basking seals are usually seen first from some high hum- 
mock which we have climbed for reconnoitering with field glasses. 
They are killed either while the men are making camp ; or else there 
is a pause made in the day's march while the hunter crawls up to 
the seal. In that case the men usually cook us a hot lunch while 
waiting, for — by the very nature of our method — it would be illog- 
ical to go on food and fuel rations in a country where hunting is 
actually being carried on. The animal when secured is then dragged 
behind the sled till camp time when he is cut up, part fed to the dogs, 
part cooked for us, and the rest stowed in the sled. A party of three 
men and six dogs need about two seals per week. 



BECAUSE we traveled parallel to the land ten or twelve miles 
offshore, we found a series of small islands or reefs that 
Mecham had not noticed. When finally we came to the por- 
tion of the coast which he and McClintock had been unable to ex- 
plore in 1853, we loaded up our sledges with meat and blubber and 
proceeded toward shore. The coast turned out to be rather compli- 
cated and there were several little islands. It took three days to 
complete the survey between the most southwesterly reached by 
McClintock, who had been working from the opposite direction. 

When we started traveling on June 13th we were just about 
finishing, we thought, the unexplored part of the coast. The seal 
meat brought to land a few days before was now nearly gone. 
We had expected, any time it was finished, to leave the coast for 
a trip out to the shore floe, about ten or twelve miles, to get more 
food and blubber for fuel. But now that the weather was getting 
rapidly warmer the sun was thawing the roofs off the winter 
habitations of the seals that dwelt in the bays and shallow shore 
water, and they were beginning to come out upon the ice to sun 
themselves. It may be that the seals found in winter farthest from 
shore are the smallest, and that they get bigger the nearer land 
you find them. At any rate, I am fairly sure that the seals that 
come out on the inshore ice in late spring in places like Banks, 
Prince Patrick or the Ringnes Islands, are far larger than the 

I think we had already seen two or three of these basking seals 
before I shot one the evening of that day. This was the largest 
"common" seal {phoca hispida) we had killed up to that time on 
either our 1914 trip or the present one. We weighed it with a 
spring balance as follows: meat 971/2 pounds, head, flippers, stomach, 
lungs, etc. (some of these suitable to eat, though we do not class 
them as "meat" in this estimate) 32^/2 pounds, hide with blubber at- 
tached 85 pounds. We estimated in addition II/2 gallons of blood, 



some of which was used for "blood soup" * for ourselves and some 
for the dogs. Perhaps the "live weight" of the animal was towards 
300 pounds, but it is probable the seals killed by us throughout the 
year would average under 150 pounds. That depends on whether 
we count the occasional bearded seals {erignathus barbatus). 
These run up to 800 pounds each, and a few of them bring up the 
average handsomely. 

The evening of June 13th we camped on a grassy island shaped 
like a huge comma — huge only as a comma, not as an island, for 
it was only a mile across. We felt pretty sure that our survey 
had now begun to overlap McClintock's. We had been working 
in thick weather much of the time. So had he, as can be seen 
from the following quotation which, so far as concerns descrip- 
tion of land, ice and weather, might have served as an entry in 
our own diaries. He wrote it sixty-two years before at just about 
the spot where we were now: 

"16th June. Saw two other small islands and encamped inside the 
second one, on a small sand-heap at half-past five o'clock. Appearances 
were against us when we commenced this march, the dark threatening 
weather, high contrary wind with falling snow, sand heaps in all direc- 
tions, and driving banks of fog, so that the land could seldom be seen; 
and the snow-covered land too, showed only as a low streak of bright 
white, with the top of an occasional bare ridge appearing through it at 
long intervals like a dark horizontal line. At our last encampment this 
decided land was about 1 mile within us, whilst the sand-heaps extended 
nearly IV2 mile outside of us. Almost all this march has been over flat 
sand-banks covered with soft but level snow. A continuous line of very 

* Blood soup is a dish, the preparation of which we learned from the 
Eskimos. It is made after the boiling of any sort of meat, and Eskimos 
usually consider that the blood used should be of the same sort of animal 
as the meat boiled, although I have known seal's blood to be used with 
caribou broth. The preparation is as follows: When the meat has been 
sufficiently cooked it is removed from the pot which is still hanging over the 
fire. Blood is then poured slowly into the boiling broth with brisk stirring 
the while. In winter small chunks of frozen blood dropped in one after the 
other take the place of the liquid blood poured in summer. If the tempera- 
ture of the soup is too much reduced the pot is allowed to hang over the 
fire until it comes nearly to a boil again, but not quite. Stirring must con- 
tinue while the soup is over the fire. The' consistency of the prepared dish 
should be about that of "English pea soup." Among Eskimos it was for- 
merly drunk from horn dippers — the horn of ovibos being used in the east 
and those of the mountain sheep in Alaska. Nowadays tin or other cups 
are used and sometimes spoons. Small pieces of caribou or other suet 
may be added; if seal's fat is the only kind available, a little uncooked oil 
is added just before serving. Soup, among such Eskimos as I know, is not 
served nearly so hot as among us; we would consider lukewarm what they 
call hot. 


formidable hummocks has been seen in the offing. These sand-heaps 
have a considerable intermixture of mud, probably washed off the land, 
whilst the Polynia Islands lying further offshore are all pure gravel. 
We also find here small pieces of gray gniess. On this little patch of 
earth I found the jawbone of a seal, and a few very small pieces of much 
decayed wood. 

"P. M. Started at seven o'clock for an islet in the center of a deep 
bay, round which the land rises to moderate elevation; found the islet 
to be an oval ridge of gravel, its longest diameter about a quarter of a 
mile. Its most elevated part is to seaward and about 40 feet high, all 
within is a lagoon. Found here small fragments of driftwood, no tide 
crack or ice pressure. 

"17th June. After taking bearings, etc., here, we traveled 7 or 8 miles 
to the next extreme of land, on rounding which we saw several islands 
forming a chain a few miles offshore; these keep off the heavy polar 
pack, and within them we have ordinary old floe, but having much less 
snow upon it all the hummocks being bare . . . Encamped at a quarter 
before five o'clock. 

"The land is of a more considerable height; in some places a mile 
or two inland, it may be 150 feet high; and the sand-heaps are now con- 
fined to the depths of bays and inner points of the islands. We had 
not been long in our bags before a heavy gale came on, bringing drift 
and thickly falling snow in its train. 

"P, M. The weather is worse if possible, we cannot advance against 
this gale not being able to see our way, nor will we retreat before it. 
It is very mortifying to be thus arrested within one march of our ex- 
treme, and to be unable to get a glimpse at the coast beyond that which 
we have actually walked to ; to-morrow we must commence our retreat. 
The little sledge turned up on its side forms the weather end of our 
hurricane house; one end of a ridge pole rests upon it, the other end 
on my compass stand. The sledge's sail thrown over this affords us 
shelter on three sides, and here we sit anxiously watching the weather, 
and catching in our spoons the drops which penetrate the canvas. On 
this sand-heap there are many small fragments of decayed wood, and 
I have no doubt there is some of larger size and more recent importation 
on the oviter islands, but now of course hidden by snow. 

"18th June. Towards noon the weather began to improve. 

"P. M. I had intended walking a few miles further, but the weather 
became too thick, so we reluctantly commenced our return at half-past 
six. Left a cairn and record on a point near our encampment, then 
crossed overland into Satellite Bay." (Report of Captain F, L. Mc- 
Clintock as published in "Further Papers Relating to the Recent Arctic 
Expeditions in Search of Sir John Franklin," London, 1855, pp. 570-571.) 

Such was the weather and such were the difficulties recorded 
by McClintock June 16, 1853, and the days just before and 

'w ^N 

/ 45 


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after. An entry from my diary for June 16, 1915, completes and 
resembles the picture. 

"June 16. Storkerson keeps the record and I seldom note the 
weather (in this diary) but I have never seen anything like it 
for clouds, snow and fog — only two partly clear days since we 
landed (on Prince Patrick Island), snow nearly every day and 
no shadows (cast by anything) so that dark objects are the only 
ones visible." 

Again I would recall that to those who have not been in some 
country resembling the Arctic it may seem incredible that in day- 
light so intense that the eyes have to be protected against it, objects 
not of dark color should frequently be invisible. McClintock 
points out above that a snowclad hill with thawed ground on top 
does not appear as a white hill with a black top, but only as a 
black horizontal line apparently suspended in the sky. This is 
because the daylight on cloudy days is so evenly diffused that no 
shadows are cast. A snowclad hill does not loom against the 
clouded sky but blends with the background so well that when a 
man is seen to walk behind such a hill his legs disappear without 
visible cause of eclipse and then his whole body. You infer the 
hill that conceals him but you cannot see it. A snag of ice will be 
equally invisible until you stub your toe against it, though it may 
show then by contrast with your foot. That is the whole point 
— there are no contrasts on such a day. There are no shadows. 
And so you can see only dark things, or light things that are in 
close proximity to dark. 

In view of the circumstances under which McClintock and we 
alike had to work it was not surprising that we had difficulty in 
making our map of the day correspond with his map of his "farth- 
est." But we felt we had completed the gap between him and 
Mecham — that our comma island was a period to the story of 
our linking up the work of our predecessors and making the out- 
line of Prince Patrick Island complete. We should have built a 
cairn and left a record here had we been able to find anything 
beyond gravel out of which to build it. 

In outfitting the Karluk I had provided her library with those 
of the British Parliamentary Blue Books which contain the route 
maps and diaries of the sledge parties of the Franklin Search — 
one containing the diaries and surveys of McClintock and Mecham. 
These documents had gone with the Karluk and through lack of 
them I did not know that we were now in the vicinity of one of 
McClintock's cairns. We always looked around with the binocu- 


lars as well as the weather allowed, and probably the reason we 
saw no cairn was that it had been built of materials which had 
not withstood weathering. 

June 4th we traveled north only about four miles and then 
camped at the west end of another island, oblong with the main 
axis east and west, about two miles long and 100 feet high. The 
day was cut short because while I was exploring some deep bights 
to the eastward the men saw several seals scattered on the ice. 
We had five days' provisions on the sledges, so that by ordinary 
rule no halt for hunting should have been made before camp 
time. But we had been talking much lately of the unwisdom of one 
man always doing the hunting. Were he to get sick the others 
might have undue trouble in getting food for themselves and him. 
Through my greatest experience and our desire to save both time 
and ammunition, I had so far done all the sealing on the ice; seal- 
ing in the water needs no training and all had had their share of 
that. Now that several seals were scattered about in ideal hunting 
weather the men concluded the psychological moment for practice 
had arrived. So, much to my wonder — I was watching them with 
glasses six or eight miles away — they camped, thereafter going 
off in different directions, each after his own seal. 

Crawling up to seals sleeping on the ice is simple in theory and 
easy to describe. But as often happens to those who learn by 
precept, one may think he understands every detail and find on 
trial that he does not. So it turned out now. Although Storker- 
son, Thomsen and Ole all had excellent explanations when they 
came home, none had a seal. Thomsen, who was a very deter- 
mined chap, later stayed up all night while the rest of us slept, 
making fresh attempts. He had a good appetite for breakfast next 
morning but no fresh seal meat to satisfy it. But I must say that 
when once he did secure his first seal, some days later, Thomsen 
seldom failed thereafter. 

On this island were stones fit for making a cairn, although small 
and not abundant. Thomsen built a beacon two or three feet 
high and I wrote to deposit in it a "record" giving the latitude and 
longitude and describing in about a hundred words our journey up 
to that point. There was also a forecast of what we should do 
the remainder of the season. 

As we approached the north end of Prince Patrick Island we 
felt we were coming into more intimate touch with the tragic 
occasion for the explorations we were now completing. Our pred- 
ecessors, who over sixty years ago had mapped all but a little 


of this coast, were not mainly concerned, as we were, with adding 
to geographic and other knowledge. They did great things in that 
field incidentally, but only incidentally, for their main purpose 
was humanitarian. They were searching for the Erebus and 
Terror and the 119 lost men of Sir John Franklin's company. 
We know now that Franklin's men were all dead long before Mc- 
Clintock came to Prince Patrick Island in what was for the time 
a vain search. It was McClintock, however, who on a later expe- 
dition finally brought to light, a long way to the south and east of 
this his farthest north, the main events of the Franklin tragedy. 
Many of its details are still unknown. 

Naturally as we approached the cape named after McClin- 
tock and the turning point of his search for the lost explorers, 
we began to talk and think more about the heroic adventures and 
accomplishments of that time, the traditions of which gave inter- 
est to every point of land as it came in view. And we tried to 
identify each with some landmark shown and named on Mc- 
Clintock's map. 



ON the afternoon of June 15th we had evidently come to the 
north end of Prince Patrick Island. The two islets ahead 
were clearly those shown on the Admiralty chart just north- 
west of Cape McClintock. There was food for only a day or two in 
our sledges so we headed for one of these islands as a good vantage 
point from which to spy out seals. While my companions were 
pitching camp, I climbed the fifteen or twenty-foot cutbank of the 
isla'ftd and looked around. There were three or four seals sun- 
ning themselves on the ice, so the food problem was by way of 
being solved once more. I then turned the glasses to the east. 

On the tip of the land, just where I expected that McClintock 
might have built a cairn, I saw a low, round heap so placed as to 
suggest a work of man. Then I walked two miles across from the 
island to the mainland and found the remains of a monument. 
Probably the beacon was originally conspicuous, though now it 
was only a rounded heap not much over a foot high. It was com- 
posed in part of earth, in part of gravel and then of a few stones. 
There was one slab of 8x12x16 inches, and one stone the size of 
a pound loaf of bread. The rest were smaller, and all were half- 
embedded in the sand and gravel. 

On removing the stones I found a papier mache cylinder similar 
in size to an ordinary shotgun shell, except a bit longer. With 
this I returned to camp. 

I got home about midnight, to learn by exactly what perversity 
of nature each hunter had again been prevented from getting the 
seal he went after. But another day was coming and these trials 
of a hunter were soon forgotten in our interest in the McClintock 
record. First we discussed how the cylinder should be opened, 
and settled on cutting off one end with a penknife. With the three 
others watching I did this very delicately, lest the document be 
mutilated. But it came out in marvelous condition, considering 
that the sealing of the tube with sealing-wax had not been quite 



There was a thrill about unrolling that damp and fragile sheet 
and reading the message from our great predecessor which had been 
lying there awaiting us more than half a century. We felt it as 
marvelous that his steady hand was so legible after so long a time. 
It brought the past down to us, quite as wonderfully as it did for 
me five years later to talk in London with McClintock's wife, 
still hale and charming, and with his sons, and to be shown the 
manuscript diary of the day he wrote this message. 

The record was on the ordinary printing paper of that time, 
and the message had in part been printed at the Dealy Island 
winter base before the party started on their western journey, in 
part written in red ink at the base, and in part entered by Mc- 
Clintock in pencil just before the record was deposited. The print 
was legible and so was the pencil writing, but the red ink had faded 
badly. I noted in my journal that while I should continue keeping 
my diary with a fountain pen for the sake of clearness, I should 
write in pencil any records I wanted to deposit. • 

The record follows, the print denoted by ordinary type and the 
writing in italics. 

"Cylinder buried 10 feet true north from this cairn : None* 

Traces: None found.** 

Party. All well. Have examined this shore to the southeastward for 
about 150 miles. The sledge is now returning to the SE preparatory 
to crossing to Melville Island. I am about to proceed to the westwwd 
with a light sledge and two men for three marches, and will then return 
after the main party and make the best of my way to Pt. Nias and 
Dealy Island.*** 


15th June, P. M. 

"I have searched the islands and reefs lying offshore to the northward." 

* It was a rule in the expeditions of the Franklin Search that any 
party finding a monument were to dig in the ground ten feet true north to 
look for a message unobtrusively buried. This was for fear of Eskimos in 
inhabited lands who might remove any message frankly left in the cairn. 

** Traces of Sir John Franklin's Party. 

*** McClintock made this exploration from his and Kellett's base at 
Dealy Island. The journey lasted 105 days (April 5 to July 18), and was 
estimated by McClintock at 1,030 geographical miles. Except the similar 
journey of Mecham from the same base to Prince Patrick Island simul- 
taneously with McClintock's, it was far the best arctic journey with sledges 
up to that time. It has frequently been called "the greatest of all arctic 
journeys." Cf. Sir Clements Markham, "Life of Admiral McClintock," p. 166. 


On the reverse of the sheet was the following, chiefly in print: 

"Record, deposited 16th June, 1853, by a Sledge party from H.M.S. 
Intrepid. Parties searching the NW, NE, SW & East coasts of Melville 
Island and Banksland for the Expeditions under Sir John Franklin & Capt. 

"At Beechey Island: H.M.S. North Star, also Depot, House, Decked 

"Port Leopold, Depot, House and Steam Launch. 

"Navy Board Inlet — Depot. 

"Dealy Island (Bridport Inlet) H.M.S. Resolute and Steamer Intrepid 
the winter of 1852-53. All well: Will deposit depot. Boat, Sledges, &c. 
H.M.S. Assistance, and Steamer Pioneer went up Wellington Channel 1852 
H.M.S. Investigator wintered north side of Banksland in long. 118° W. 
1851-52. All well (learnt from her record left at Winter Harbour April 1852; 
and found October, 1852. 

"Officer Commanding Party." 

(The following in red ink in another hand) : 

"Commander . . . winter at Point Barrow ij practicable; but is to send a 
. . . at Grantly Harbour and at Michaeloxmki Redoubt." 

It is a matter of curious interest that this record is dated "P. 
M., June 15, 1853," and that I picked it up at 9:58 P. M. local 
apparent time, June 15, 1915, just sixty-two years later to the 
nearest half day. 

In the original manuscript diary shown me in London by 
McClintock's son, Mr. H. F. McClintock, there is no reference to 
the placing of this record in the cairn. In the diary as published 
in the Blue Book we find in the account of the return from Mc- 
Clintock's farthest the following entry under date of June 20th: 
"Passed our encampment of June 15th at seven o'clock and en- 
camped at eight beside the cairn. . . . Placed a record in the caim." 

All of McClintock's polar work, and indeed his whole career, 
shows that no man could have been more truthful or scrupulously 
honest. Yet we find him here apparently contradicting himself. 
His published diary says he placed the record in the cairn June 
20th on his return from the west. But the record itself, in his 
indubitable handwriting, is dated "15th June, P. M." and speaks 
of the journey to the west as in the future. ("I am about to 
proceed to the westward.") 

Evidently what happened was this: He wrote the record on 
June 15th and gave it to the men whom he had detailed to build the 
cairn before they started back towards Melville Island. Then 
he proceeded west before the others had built it. On his way 


back he visited it. At no time did he think of entering in his 
diary the .fact that he had written a record to be deposited in it. 
Some two years later, when his memory of the less important de- 
tails of the trip had become hazy, he was preparing his diary for 
the press. He then recalled having left a record at the north end 
of Prince Patrick Island, and his memory played him the trick 
of making a thing that had happened on the advance journey seem 
to have happened on the return. Or else he wrote the record on 
June 15th but carried it with him to his farthest west, depositing 
it only on the return journey. 

I have dwelt on this trivial discrepancy, apparent or real, be- 
tween two statements exactly because their author cannot be 
suspected of either untruthfulness or carelessness. What I intend 
is to point out how errors will creep in. I have no doubt that a 
keen critic can find such discrepancies and perhaps more serious 
ones either in this book or between it and something else I have 
written. But I hope that every such discrepancy is open to a rea- 
sonably charitable interpretation. 

After we had reread and talked over the McClintock record we 
composed the following document for the next explorer who comes 
along. Surely it will remain in the cairn much less than sixty-two 
years. I hope so, otherwise he who uncovers it will fail to find 
anything legible. McClintock had brought with him for the pur- 
pose the papier mache tubes which have preserved his messages so 
admirably; we had nothing intended for a similar service and had 
to use tin cans. I did not enter in my diary the exact way this 
record was packed, except to say that the outer covering was a 
two-pound tin that once contained coffee. Inside I think the slip 
of paper was first wrapped in more paper and then put in a small 
Burroughs-Wellcome tabloid tea-box: 


"P. M. June 16, 1915. 
*'A sled party of the Canadian Arctic Expedition H.M.G.S. Manj 
Sachs are camped on the island which bears 192° magnetic from this 
point, distant two miles. From that island I saw a cairn at this point 
(Cape McClintock) and walked over, arriving at the cairn at 9:58 P. M. 
June 15th, local apparent time. On top the sand under the stones I 
found a record form of the Franklin Search containing printed informa- 
tion as to ships, depots, rescue operations, etc., some illegible writing in 
ink and the below in pencil, well preserved : (Print is underscored in 
the following.) 


(Here follows copy of pencil part of McClintock's record) 

"I am taking the original records to be stored or otherwise suitably 
disposed of by the Department of Naval Service of Canada, and am 
leaving this copy in a cairn built of the same stones on the same spot. 

"Our party consists of these members of the Canadian Arctic Ex- 
pedition : S, Storkerson, 0. Andreasen, C. Thomsen and V. Stefansson. 
We left the winter quarters of the Mary Sachs on Banks Island Febru- 
ary 20, 1915, and Cape Alfred April 5th, reached farthest west at sea 
in about W. Long. 131° and farthest north in N. Lat. 76° 40'. Were 
driven south again by contrary currents, landed on Prince Patrick Island 
in N. Lat. 76° 09.' approx. and have followed the coast, mapping the 
unexplored part as well as our means and continual thick weather al- 
lowed. Intend to proceed a few miles beyond Ireland's Eye, thence SE 
and S across MelviUe Island and Banks Island to the winter quarters 
of the expedition. We are living on seals and burning blubber. Men 
all well and gear in good condition. 

"Expect to leave the camp on the island the forenoon of June 17th, 
following the floe edge north beyond Ireland's Eye." 

This document was signed by all of us. 

One of McClintock's claims to preeminence among arctic travel- 
ers is that he was among the first to realize the possibility of 
lengthening his journeys both in time and mileage through hunting. 
Still it may be fairly said that several of his young contemporaries 
of the Franklin Search were brought by similar facts to the same 
conclusion equally early — for instance, Mecham,* Osborn and Bed- 
ford Pim. 

In the summary of his journey to Prince Patrick Island Mc- 
Clintock says, "We were most fortunate in securing game, which 
enabled us to remain out ten days longer than I otherwise could 
have done." ** Turning to the table he publishes, we see that he 
secured in Prince Patrick Island during forty-six days spent there 
three polar cattle, five caribou, one hare, two geese and nine ptar- 
migan. These would not have enabled him to lengthen his journey 
by ten per cent.; what enabled him was the meat of cattle and 

* Mecham appreciated game both because it enabled him to lengthen his 
journeys and because of the excellent effect upon the health of his men. On 
page 523 of "Further Papers Relative to the Recent Arctic Expeditions in 
Search of Sir John Franklin," London, 1855, he says, "It is to me very 
evident that without occasional supplies of game, a long journey would be 
a very doubtful experiment." 

** Op. cit., p. 585. 


caribou killed before leaving Melville Island on the outward journey, 
and after reaching it on his way home. 

But he goes on to say:* "But no fuel of any kind could be 
got (in Prince Patrick Island)." This brings out strikingly what 
it would have meant to him had some one in his party understood 
sealing. In his table of "Animals Seen" he notes eighteen seals, 
none of which could be killed. A good seal hunter should have 
secured at least twelve of them, yielding 600 to 900 pounds of blub- 
ber, about equal in heat value to that much of the fuel McClintock 
had brought from his ship to last for over a hundred days. In 
other words, these seals represented more fuel than he used on his 
whole journey, fuel which could have been picked up along the 
way when needed instead of being laboriously hauled by man-power 
through hundreds of miles of soft snow. And if McClintock, when 
he was not particularly looking for seals, saw eighteen, he would 
have seen many times that number had he been depending on 

It does seem a pity that progress has to be so slow. If the men 
of the Franklin Search could only have rid themselves wholly, as 
McClintock did in part, of the idea that the Arctic is insufficiently 
stocked with food and fuel, it would have changed the whole aspect 
of the Search. A few score young men needed only to spend sev- 
eral months learning native Eskimo methods of hunting, house- 
building, etc. — they did not have to learn how to burn seal oil, 
for seal oil is but train oil, which they already knew how to burn 
for it was commonly used for light in those days. Then they could 
have traveled where they needed to travel, comfortable, well-fed 
and safe. 

And if the idea of the barrenness of the Arctic could have been 
shed a decade earlier there would have been no Franklin Search, 
for Franklin's men would not have starved to death, as we now 
know they did, in a region where game is abundant.** 

* "Further Papers Relative to the Recent Arctic Expeditions in Search 
of Sir John Franklin," p. 585. 

** I have said something of this sort before and a critic has replied under 
three heads: (1) "He who says Franklin's men could have lived by hunting 
overlooks the terrible handicap of numbers" — but the crews could have scat- 
tered in small parties; also Eskimos sometimes live in parties more numerous 
than Franklin's crews. (2) "Eskimos are skilled hunters, but Englishmen 
are not," — but I have seen young boys from cities become expert sealers in 
a few weeks. (3) "Franklin's men were weakened by scurvy," — but they 
would have had no scurvy had they lived on fresh game. (On the last head see 
my article on scurvy in the "Journal of the American Medical Association," 
November 23, 1918). 



JUNE 17th, after directing the men to proceed straight north 
all day if traveling conditions allowed, I left camp while they 
were hitching up the dogs, walked two miles southeast to 
Cape McClintock, rebuilt the cairn and put in it our record to 
replace the one we had found. Then I struck north, having pre- 
viously seen that our teams were already on their northward way 
to the west of me. 

I walked first to the nearest of McClintock's "Polynia Islands." 
He has not told us why he named them so. Of itself the name is a 
monument to one of the respected dead among polar theories. I 
have heard that the word is of Russian origin and refers to an 
open water space among ice. But as applied in the polar specula- 
tion of McClintock's time it signified the open spaces that were 
thought to exist permanently ice-free in the most northern lati- 
tudes. The largest of these open spaces was supposed to be around 
the Pole. There was much high authority back of this idea in 
the schools and among scientists. Especially there was the weighty 
German geographer, Petermann. Some even thought they had seen 
the thing itself and so proved it — for instance, the American ex- 
plorer Hayes, who made of his observations and beliefs a book 
called "The Open Polar Sea." 

Walking towards the islands I wondered if McClintock's men 
had perhaps seen water-sky to the northwest of them and assumed 
it hung over a "polynia." I could see water-sky in that direction, 
but I knew it was merely our friend the "shore lead," open now 
temporarily because of the wind. On the second and largest 
Polynia Island I must have walked within a hundred yards of 
one of McClintock's records — I know it now from seeing his diary, 
but at that time I did not think he would have left one so near 
to the other which we had already found. 

Beyond the big Polynia Island I had no difficulty in recognizing 
the "reefs lying to the northward" mentioned in the record we had 
found and shown on the Admiralty chart we carried. McClintock 



in his manuscript diary, I now know, refers to them as "three 
reefs," and three they were and there they were. But about "Ire- 
land's Eye" I could not be so certain, for there were several more 
"reefs" of the same sort. Later, however, we identified tentatively 
as Ireland's Eye an island lying a good deal farther from Mc- 
Clintock's three reefs than the chart indicated and more to the 
east. At least it appears a real island from a distance; the ones 
lying more nearly where the chart puts Ireland's Eye are mere 
ridges of gravel scraped up from the shallow sea bottom by the 
plowing of wind-driven ice. 

So far as McClintock's records are concerned, Ireland's Eye is 
mysterious. His diary as printed in the Parliamentary Blue 
Books has no hint of such a place. His manuscript diary contains 
certain notes that have been omitted from the published version or 
else altered. But I have had opportunity to examine this manu- 
script carefully and have found no reference to Ireland's Eye 
nor even compass bearings leading in that direction. At one time 
we did think we had found something referring to it, but this was 
later clearly identified as the little unnamed island which appears 
on the Admiralty chart as about twenty miles straight south of 
Ireland's Eye. In the manuscript map the line of the heavy pack 
ice is indicated as curving north of the three reefs, which appear 
exactly as they do on the Admiralty chart. The published chart 
does not reproduce this line of heavy ice, but if it were transferred 
there it would curve around north of Ireland's Eye. From this one 
might conclude that Ireland's Eye is one of the reefs noted by us in 
about this position. 

Yet Ireland's Eye on the Admiralty chart is evidently intended 
to be something more than a reef, for the south side of it is marked 
plainly while the north side is dotted in, indicating that the extent 
of the land was unknown. It is this feature which makes us 
identify it, provisionally, not with one of the reefs but with an 
island we saw lying considerably to the east. 

It occurred to me that Ireland's Eye might have been reported 
by some of the men whom McClintock detached to send towards 
Melville Island at the time when he with two companions proceeded 
westward from Cape McClintock. We were able to find in the 
diary a summary of the report of these men when he overtook 
them, but no mention of their having seen any land previously 
not noted by McClintock. I have appealed in this connection 
to the Royal Geographical Society, but a search through all records 
available to them leads only to the same results: Ireland's Eye 


is upon the map but no one knows whence it came or how it 
got there. 

From the west end of the largest of McClintock's Polynia 
Islands I could see the sledges to the northwest traveling along 
steadily and leaving me farther and farther behind, for I spent 
a great deal of time in taking cross bearings not only of the islands 
laid down by McClintock to verify their position, but also of 
several islands or reefs which he had not seen. Apparently we 
were more fortunate than he had been in the conditions of visibil- 
ity; indeed this was one of the best days we had in the vicinity 
of Prince Patrick Island. Although the sky was mainly clouded 
one could see a considerable distance, and sufficient light came from 
one quarter of the sky so that shadows enough were cast to make 
even white objects visible. 

I traveled about fifteen miles a trifle east of north from Cape 
McClintock when I saw the men making camp about five miles 
north. They had been compelled to turn slightly to the eastward 
because of the trend of the shore floe, which was reflected in the 
sky as a dark streak and which showed its presence not far away 
by the roughness of the ice. 

It becomes second nature after long years of hunting in the 
North to spend much time in examining from any available emi- 
nence every part of the landscape. I was on the top of a hum- 
mock twenty or thirty feet high and had already taken bearings 
of every landmark in sight. Prince Patrick Island to the south had 
disappeared, either because it was low or because the conditions 
of visibility were not so good in that direction. But I could still see 
the islands just northwest of Cape McClintock from which we had 
started that morning. I next turned the glasses to the west, exam- 
ining the region of the shore floe for possible seals. Polar bears 
I was not expecting, for we had not seen the tracks of a single one 
since landing at the southeast corner of Prince Patrick Island, and 
seals were not likely to be out at this time of night — about two in 
the morning of June 18th. Seals may lie on the ice twelve or 
fifteen or even twenty hours but they will usually go down for a 
feed somewhere around midnight. That they go down in search 
of food after their long basking periods is reasonable on the face 
of it. We have direct evidence also. When a seal is killed in the 
early morning after he has just come up on the ice we usually 
find in his stomach undigested and partly digested shrimps and 
other Crustacea, 

I did not see any seals, and I had already been examining the 


horizon to the eastward in connection with taking the bearings 
of the scattered reefs and islands. I next turned to the north 
where undiscovered land seemed most likely to lie. Nothing could 
be seen on the horizon, but our camp was in the line of vision and 
I noted what was going on. 

The tent was up — we had long since ceased using snowhouses 
on account of the mild weather — and the dogs had been tied. 
Thomsen was feeding them. Ole was not in sight and must be in 
the tent cooking. This meant that he had decided to use up our 
last kerosene. One evening many weeks before we had discovered 
only a remaining quart or so of kerosene and it had been decided 
to save this for an emergency when bad weather made it more com- 
fortable to cook within doors. Kerosene has the great advantage 
over seal oil that when one has the ordinary commercial stove it 
produces no smoke, while the highest art is required to burn seal 
oil without smoke. But a day or two ago somebody had noticed 
that half the cherished kerosene had been spilled, as the container 
was not quite tight at the top. This meant not only loss of fuel 
but worse, for any oil that was spilling was getting into our cloth- 
ing and into other things we were hauling. Trying to save it was 
less a convenience than a nuisance. 

Presently I moved the glasses one field to the west and noted 
that Storkerson was climbing an ice hummock. Evidently I could 
borrow his eyes by watching him, for he had the advantage of me 
by five miles of northing and would be able to see things that lay 
below my horizon. If there were anything of note I should be 
able to tell it from his actions. It is easy to say now and I can 
almost make myself believe that I had a premonition of what he 
was going to see. Still I know that such was not really the case. 
I had often before watched my companions from a distance as I 
was doing now to form an opinion of what they were seeing. 

Storkerson sat down on the top of the hummock, took his glasses 
from their case and spent several minutes in wiping every lens of 
them with our unfailing piece of clean flannel, then raised his elbows 
on his knees in the ordinary way and turned his glasses to the north. 
Evidently he saw nothing in the first field nor in the second or 
third, for during the next four or five minutes he moved the glasses 
farther and farther east until he was facing northeast. Instead 
of examining this field as he had done the others he swung the 
glasses slowly into east and then into southeast, following some- 
thing that was very plain and needed no careful scrutiny. With 
the glasses still at his eyes he then made a movement which I in- 


terpreted to mean that he was shouting, and when I turned my 
glasses on the camp Ole was scrambling out of the tent and Thom- 
sen had stopped his dog feeding and was looking at Storkerson. 
A moment later both of them started towards him on the run. 

This could mean only one thing — a new land a great deal larger 
than any of the scattered islands we had been seeing all day. I 
stood up on my hummock and looked carefully from northeast to 
east but nothing could be seen but the level horizon. The greater 
height of Storkerson's hummock and the five-mile advantage in 
position accounted for the difference. 

Now I started for the camp — that I did not run was a matter 
of deliberate intent. That a big new land could actually have been 
found seemed too good to be true. The behavior of Storkerson 
and the others was open to no other logical interpretation, but I 
decided to pretend to be illogical for the moment, attempting to 
guard against a possible reaction. 

But Storkerson came to meet me along the sled trail, which he 
never would have done under ordinary circumstances, while Thom- 
sen and Ole had opened up the sled loads which had already been 
covered and lashed for the night. This I understood also, for they 
were Norwegians and Norwegians are the greatest people in the 
world for celebrating every conceivable happening by some sort 
of feast. Evidently they were hunting for something special to 
eat and I knew what it would be. There was a big packing box 
which had formerly contained biscuits but in which we had for a 
long time been carrying something else. There were a few biscuit 
crumbs in the comers and so it had to be emptied of the goods 
packed in it and these crumbs scraped together. The saving of the 
crumbs had been accidental but we had saved deliberately a little 
malted milk on the theory that somebody might get sick, though 
it is almost inconceivable in such work, done under such disease- 
forbidding conditions, that any one in normal health should lose 
it. I always feel hoarding food as a mental strain, and for 
that reason I was delighted when I found that Ole had the milk 

We first went up on the hummock, all of us, and took turns in 
looking at the new land. It lay indubitable along the horizon from 
northeast to east by north, but no straining of the eye could reveal 
any land farther north or farther south. After careful compass 
bearings and a sketch of the sky line, we went into the tent and 
celebrated with a sort of stew or soup made of the malted milk and 
the crumbs. I don't think any of us considered this a better meal 


than seal meat, but it was different. We had therefore some of the 
psychological elements of a celebration. 

We slept less than usual because of the excitement, and at five 
in the afternoon of June 18th started towards the land. After 
about a mile and a half a seal hole appeared which gave opportunity 
for sounding. The depth was 69 fathoms and there was a strong 
current running a little west of north. There must be a fairly 
deep strait between our new land and Prince Patrick Island, for 
otherwise the current could scarcely have had such force. This 
is our only evidence for thinking that the strait may be deep ; apart 
from that we would suppose it to be shallow, for certainly it is 
studded with islands and reefs. 

Seven and a half miles ENE from camp we came to one of the 
gravel islands that form a sort of chain from Prince Patrick Island 
to our new land. Their position may be more accurately indicated 
by saying that a line drawn through them would be tangent to the 
west sides both of Prince Patrick Island and the new land. 

It is about five miles from this particular islet to the mainland. 
The sleds landed about straight east of it, but I walked more to 
the north, for in that direction was the highest visible hill. I had 
great hopes of what I might see from the top of this hill, but by 
the time I got there the regular half fog had descended again. I 
could see little black dots and horizontal black lines which ap- 
peared as if they were floating in the sky but which I knew to 
be the tops of hills from which the sun had removed the snow. 
Under such conditions not much that is profitable can be learned, 
and the only significant thing was the trend of the water sky, which 
was running a little west of north to a distance which I estimated 
by the elevation of the black reflection in the sky at about fifteen 
miles. To be able to see so little on the first day was disappoint- 
ing but we hoped for better things to-morrow. 

The hope was disappointed, for the morrow came cloudy and 
obscure. We should have liked to remain in camp here long 
enough for the sun to come out so that we might locate exactly 
both in latitude and longitude the spot of our landing. But summer 
was advancing so rapidly and the need of returning to the base 
at Kellett had become so pressing that we did not dare to wait. 
There was also the palliating circumstance that we had been 
able to secure good observations at our island base near Cape Mc- 
Clintock, and that on the march north on the 17th and again to 
the new land on the 18th we had been able to take many compass 
observations, both direct and cross bearings, so that we thought our 


estimates would not be out as to either latitude or longitude by 
more than two miles at the most. 

We got up early in the morning of the 19th — ordinarily we were 
sleeping daytimes and traveling at night — and were able to secure 
an indifferent time sight, for the sun was faintly visible through 
clouds. But at noon we got no latitude sight and in the afternoon 
no confirmatory time sight. We could not wait longer. 

Before leaving we heaped up gravel into a mound three or four 
feet high and placed in it the following record: 

"June 20,2 A. M. 
"This land was first seen, so far as I know, by Storker Storkerson 
of the Canadian Arctic Expedition, June 18, 1915, at 2 A. M. from a 
point on the ice distant from the cairn where this record is left about 
fourteen miles due west (true). From an ice cake about 40 ft. high, 
land was seen extending from E x N to NE x E. The first man to land 
here was Ole Andreasen of the same Expedition at 1 :50 A. M. June 19th. 
"By authority especially vested in me for that purpose, I have to-day 
hoisted the flag of the Empire and have taken possession of the land 
in the name of His Majesty King George V on behalf of the Dominion 
of Canada. 

"Vilhjalmur Stefansson, 

"Canadian Arctic Expedition, 

"Witnesses: Storker Storkerson, Ole Andreasen, Karl Thomsen." 

"Party, dogs (13) and equipment, all well. Shall proceed eastward 
along this coast some distance, should it prove extensive, and then south 
across or around Melville Island to the Expedition headquarters near 
Cape Kellett, Banks Island. 

V. Stefansson." 



WHERE we landed first the coast line is made up generally 
of rounded gravel banks, few of them more than ten or 
fifteen feet high, and on my walk inland the first day I 
estimated that the rise of land even in the direction of the most 
conspicuous hill was not more than fifty feet to the mile. 

A little earlier in the year we should undoubtedly have trav- 
eled north along the west coast of our land, but the need of return- 
ing to our base decided us upon a course in the other direction. 
After waiting vainly through the whole day of June 19th for the 
sun to peep out and give a chance for an observation, we took a 
little nap in the evening and at three in the morning started south- 
eastward following the coast. At first it was cloudy with the con- 
ditions of visibility not quite as bad as the worst we were used 
to. About all we learned concerning the land at first was that the 
coast gets gradually a little higher, but as the day advanced we 
began to see both the coast line ahead and some islands to the 
southwest, notably the one which we have identified as Ireland's 
Eye and which we judge to be about ten miles from the coast. 
About northeast of Ireland's Eye the weather cleared enough for 
us to make sure of being in the mouth of a bay. It was still hazy 
inland so that we were not equally sure of our supposition that this 
bay is the mouth of a river. 

What interested us most about the land were the various signs 
of life, both vegetable and animal. We saw no driftwood, possibly 
because the beach was heavily covered with snow. Nevertheless 
from our general knowledge of this vicinity we are prepared to 
believe that there is very little. On the land was grass in some 
places and lichens and mosses were in others, but what was more 
convincing in this respect was the great number of caribou tracks 
preserved in the mud from the previous summer. We all agreed 
that in no part of Banks Island had we ever seen caribou tracks 
so numerous. From the fact that no horns were found we deduced 
that the bulls are not here in January nor the cows in May, those 



being the shedding periods for adults of the two sexes. Later, 
however, in other parts of this land we found caribou horns, so we 
know it was mere accident that none were noted the first summer. 
Caribou, then, are in these islands at all seasons. The caribou 
traces seen that first day were mainly from the months of June 
and July of the previous year, as we could tell by the size of the 
footprints of the newborn caribou. There were no large footprints. 
From this we inferred that the country is generally rocky, for hoofs 
are large when caribou feed in swampy territory and are worn down 
smaller the rougher and stonier their pasture. 

In walking about we noticed a lemming running over the 
ground. One of our dogs named Hans was known for the gingerly 
way in which he killed lemmings. Indeed whenever he killed small 
animals he did it in such a way as not to injure the skin and to 
leave it in good condition for the zoologist. We had just turned 
Hans loose but he had not yet seen the lemming when an ivory gull 
appeared suddenly from nowhere and stooped towards it. Fearful 
of losing the lemming, we all shouted and ran towards the gull. 
Our action may have been the cause or it may be their regular 
habit, but this gull gave the lemming one peck in passing, leaving 
it paralyzed though not dead, and then flew away as if she had no 
concern either with the lemming or with us. Foxes have a habit 
of killing lemmings and leaving them behind if they don't happen 
to be hungry and it is possible that gulls have a similar habit. We 
later found on examining the nests of the ivory gulls, not only those 
occupied at the time but also remnants of the nests of other years, 
that they feed on lemmings; indeed, it is likely that in these lati- 
tudes in the early spring the lemming is their only food. 

During the entire time we spent on the new land caribou traces 
continued to appear more numerous than on Banks Island. The 
only animals seen, however, were two bulls and these were ob- 
served only through the glasses at a distance of seven or eight 
miles. We were picking up seals right in our road and did not 
care to bother to go after caribou far inland and out of the way. 
No traces of cattle were on the mainland although we later found 
one ancient and decayed skull on the island to the south which we 
have named Eight Bears Island. Lemming signs were in most 
places numerous and the exgorgitations of owls indicated that at 
certain seasons they are there to feed on the lemmings. On June 
19th a jaeger gull appeared and on June 21st four more. Besides 
ivory gulls there were others of a larger variety, perhaps the Barrow 
gull, and there were a good many snow buntings and longspurs. 


o 5 







.'^ -^l^>fr 


A Young Owl on the Arctic Prairie. 


Tie saw no ptarmigan although two years later one flock was ob- 
eerved in the same island. And we saw no Hutchins geese but 
found their feathers here and there, and later observations showed 
that they nest both here and farther north. Of seals we saw about 
a dozen per day. Most of these, however, were seen only through 
the field glasses and a party traveling along the coast might easily 
fail to see any for several days at a time if no pains were taken 
to look for them. 

We saw no hares nor do I remember seeing any traces of them 
later. Foxes did not appear to be numerous as compared, for in- 
stance, with Banks Island. Polar bears while not absent are evi- 
dently exceedingly rare. On all our visits to this neighborhood in 
succeeding years we never saw a bear, but in 1916 we found in the 
frozen mud near the west coast the tracks of a bear that had been 
there the previous summer. Only two wolves were actually seen 
on this first visit but their traces were numerous, as had to be 
the case where caribou were so plentiful. 

There has been much talk about the wisdom of foxes. In 
ancient fables and modern nature-faking alike they are invariably 
wise. Possibly the southern fox is by nature more intelligent than 
his arctic cousin or it may be that experience has taught him more 
through a dangerous environment. But the verdict must be 
that in the North foxes are stupid, or trustful if you prefer that 
point of view. A fox that sees you is very likely to come up to 
examine you more closely. If he finds your trail he may follow 
it till he catches up and if he is a young fox he may run ahead and 
in circles around you for miles, barking like a toy dog at a pedes- 
trian. It is remarkable that they should be so foolish for they are 
continually when on land in danger from the wolves that snap 
them up as an appetizer before breakfast. 

It would seem reasonable that wolves would not be afraid of 
any living thing they find, for in reality their only danger arises 
from failure to find something. They can run faster than all 
animals that are more powerful, and they are more powerful than 
any animal that can run faster. This would make it probable that 
a wolf would come running up frankly to any animal he sees, for 
he has a right to conclude that if the animal is dangerous he will 
be able to avoid it easily. My experience with the northern wolf 
is that this is just what he does not do. 

The first day of our travel along the new land I was walking 
across the foot of a bay, while the sledges several miles outside 
were following a course touching only the capes and points of the 


coast. I saw a wolf at about half a mile and he apparently saw 
me at the same distance, for I was black and moving against the 
hillside that was already speckled with the black patches of the 
spring thaw. After watching me a while he came towards me at 
a sedate lope until about three hundred yards away. Then he 
noted something peculiar in my actions, which of itself shows a 
high grade of intelligence, for it is fairly certain that the only 
dark animals he had ever seen were either ovibos or caribou. The 
former he regards with respect and never attempts to attack, but 
it cannot be supposed that he is afraid of them, for while they are 
powerful and have a good defense against wolves they are too 
clumsy to be dangerous on the offensive. Caribou, on the other 
hand, are his regular food, and in the northern islands at every 
season except summer must furnish more than 99 per cent, of it. 

When the wolf stopped I stopped also. After he had watched 
me for a minute he commenced to circle to get my wind. As soon 
as he was sufficiently to leeward he stopped to sniff what must have 
been to him a strange scent. Just as soon as he had his mind made 
up that it was strange he went off at a lope. And it seemed to me 
as I watched him that he was using a good deal of will power to 
keep himself at a fairly dignified gait. 

In places equally distant from human beings I have often since 
met wolves singly or in pairs and have found them equally cautious. 
Sometimes they are in bands of eight or ten, presumably the par- 
ents and the family of grown-up pups, and on such occasions they 
may come a little closer but seldom within 150 yards, if in the 
open. In the woods, as for instance near Bear Lake, they will 
approach closer, especially the family groups if the pups are well 

At noon on June 20th we found ourselves on the west coast of 
what appeared to be a bay fifteen miles or more across and ob- 
viously a great deal deeper than that, for no land could be seen 
towards the bottom of it. The weather had cleared and visibility 
was excellent. We would have liked to continue traveling but the 
opportunity was too good to lose and we stopped to get a very good 
determination of latitude and longitude. 

From this observation camp I walked a short distance inland, 
both to get some idea of the elevation and to secure a view, especially 
for islands to the south. Measured by the aneroid, the land rose to 
75 feet a hundred yards from the beach and to 175 feet four hun- 
dred yards inland. A mile or two inland it was probably 500 to 
800 feet high, in places rolling grassy prairie, but in other places 


there was but little vegetation on a surface of limestone that had 
been split into fragments by the frosts of winter. 

From the 175- foot elevation I was able to see Prince Patrick 
Island plainly to the southwest, but there was fog hanging lower 
on the ice so that intervening islands could not be made out. To 
the south I could see two islands and made the correct judgment 
that one of them would be Fitzwilliam Owen Island of McClintock 
and that the other a little to the east was new, later named Eight 
Bears Island. Across an apparent bay in the coast we were fol- 
lowing I could see the land continue its trend to the southeast. 

The next day we crossed the "bay" (which later proved a strait) 
and found it to be about sixteen miles wide in a direct line SE from 
our camp of June 20th to the one of June 21st. On the way across 
I had an experience which illustrates how easily one may be de- 
ceived into misidentifying even things seen in fairly clear weather. 

Baron Nordenskiold tells of mistaking a walrus for an island 
and identifying the white tusks with two extensive glaciers coming 
down between mountain ranges to the coast. Hanbury tells of mis- 
taking a mouse for a polar ox, and Godfred Hansen describes how 
his dogs ran up to and killed a polar bear which turned out to be 
a fox. Similarly, I had myself on a previous expedition mistaken 
a marmot {citellus parryi) for a grizzly bear. 

From what I had already seen my mind was made up that this 
was an extensive land, and was thinking about how large it might 
be as I was walking across the bay, following a course somewhat 
more northerly than that of the sledges. I had almost reached the 
beach on the east side and was just rounding a point when I looked 
to the north and saw on the other side of the next low point the 
top of a pressure ridge of sea ice. Then the land was not so very 
large, or at any rate there was a deep fjord running into it from 
the opposite side, for here I was looking across a low neck of 
land at the sea ice on the other side. This was a discovery not 
very pleasing, for although the scientific attitude is to be satisfied 
with the truth whatever it is, still I knew very well the achieve- 
ment of finding the absence of land is not popularly valued as 
highly as demonstrating the presence of it, and the bigger the land 
the greater the fame attached to the discovery. I was a bit dis- 
consolate when I turned to the left, deciding that I would actually 
cross the neck of land and measure in paces the distance from sea 
ice to sea ice. 

But when I came to the top of the low ridge which had ap- 
peared to separate me from the pressure ice, I found a shallow 


depression beyond and then another ridge, with my ice still behind 
that one. So the width of the neck of land was not a few yards 
but perhaps half a mile or a mile. But when I came to the top 
of the second ridge the ice was behind a third one, and it was only 
when I got to the top of that and had walked a mile or two that I 
realized that what I was looking at was not pressure ice at all but 
the top of a mountain peak. It might be supposed that I who had 
seen thousands of pressure ridges under all sorts of conditions dur- 
ing many years would not be so deceived, especially against the 
trend of my desires. 

When I realized that here was a mountain peak I turned to 
climb the nearest high hill and from an elevation of three or four 
hundred feet made sure of all my surroundings. Seven or eight 
miles to the south the men were already pitching camp. It was a 
little after midnight. The sky was clear and visibility promised 
to be excellent. I made up my mind to go to the top of the moun- 
tain, seizing this rare opportunity to learn much about our sur- 
roundings in a little while. 

It was now the 21st of June, "the longest day of the year" in 
places where nights are dark, and it promised to be the first really 
warm day of our experience. But as I proceeded overland I could 
see that there must have been several warm days here, for little 
lakes of water in the low places and some of the smaller creeks were 
beginning to run. The walking could scarcely have been worse. 
Where the ground was bare the sticky clay stuck to my feet till 
they weighed each ten or fifteen additional pounds. Where the 
snow remained it was so soft that at every step I sank deep and 
occasionally up to the hips. In a few places walking was actually 
dangerous, for where there is a deep snowbank running from a 
hill out into a lake it is possible to sink in ten or fifteen feet of 
slush as one might in quicksand. I was naturally on my guard, 
for the condition was not new to me, but in several cases I had to 
cross ravines on top of snow where a brook was running through 
a tunnel underneath. Every one of such crossings had a danger 
which I realized fully. 

When I recognized my pressure ridge for a mountain I had es- 
timated it to be six or eight miles away, but I walked six miles 
and another six and still the peak was far ahead. Eventually 
after twenty miles of walking I got to the top of it. But not quite 
soon enough. The wind was beginning to blow from the north- 
west and had already rolled a cloud of fog in from the sea that hid 
everything lying between the north and northwest. There was not 


much use looking to west or southwest, for that was the district 
from which we had come. To the south I had already had a good 
look from the observation spot, so that the new and fruitful fields 
lay to the northeast and east. In those directions I saw high hills 
or low mountains rising one behind the other until the farthest 
ones were blue in the distance. I estimated that these were at least 
fifty miles away from my mountain to which I gave the name of 
Leffingwell Crags after Ernest de Koven Lefiingwell now of Pas- 
adena, California, one of the joint commanders of the first polar 
expedition of which I was a member — The Leflfingwell-Mikkelsen 
Expedition of 1906-7. 

To the south I could see camp from the top of the crag although 
it was so far away that I could not have identified it apart from 
my knowledge of where it ought to be. The tent, sledges and every- 
thing together were visible through my powerful binoculars as a 
mere dark speck. I was able, however, to get an exact compass 
bearing so as to make a direct course. Towards morning it had 
frozen a little and I found the walking less bad, and the land was 
also more level. It was ten minutes before noon when I started 
for home and I arrived there after seven hours and thirty-five 
minutes more of steady walking. 

Within a mile of the camp I saw the men beginning to hitch up 
a dog team attached to a light sled. I knew this meant that they 
had been beginning to worry about me and had decided to go out 
for a search. They had first waited supper a long time, then they 
had gone to bed and slept ten hours, after which they had had 
breakfast and waited around an hour or two and finally made up 
their minds that something had to be done. 

One might think that my companions would have had enough 
experience by now not to worry over my absence for twenty hours 
in good weather. This was one bit of hunter's wisdom which 
they had so far refused to absorb, although all of them learned it 
later. During my second year with the Eskimos I had been with 
a deer-hunting group in northern Alaska who still kept the ancient 
custom of beginning the hunt without breakfast. It was etiquette 
there that the hunters would get up stealthily while everyone else 
in the house was asleep and start for the hunt without touching food. 
It was considered effeminate to do otherwise. On a theory which I 
have found to work invariably, I decided that if this custom was 
all right for them it would be all right for me, and I found that it 
took but a few days of practice until I could quite as easily as 
they make a ten or fifteen-hour hunt without breakfast and come 


home at the end with nothing more than a good appetite. It was 
part of the same etiquette to eat twice in the evening. The women 
were supposed to have a sort of intuition by which they knew how 
to have a meal ready when the hunters came home and nearly 
always we got our food within the first half hour. Three or four 
hours later we would have a second meal before going to bed. 
I do not know, or rather I do know, what the orthodox hygienists 
would say about such things, but I have found the practice to 
work well, and after all that is the test. 

In my diary I read as follows: "On arrival at camp I found 
the men had been about to start for a search expedition when they 
saw me coming. They had had supper and ten hours' sleep and 
breakfast. Apparently they think a man will collapse from hun- 
ger after he has been six hours without a snack. I can't get them 
out of the idea that a meal every five or six hours is necessary. I 
find twenty hours no hardship so long as my mind is on my job, 
although when in camp I feel like eating every three or four hours." 

The walk overland with sticky mud on my feet and a ripple of 
brooks in my ears had convinced me that we had better hurry 
south. The special point of danger was that if we were too late 
we might be unable to cross McClure Strait from Melville Island 
to Banks Island. It was also possible that whaling ships might 
come to Kellett in early August and we wanted to be at home to 
make certain purchases and possibly engage a few men to help 
us. We also expected Wilkins with the North Star in early Sep- 
tember and I wanted to be there to meet him so he would not be 
compelled to wait, for it was my intention to board the Star with 
two dog teams and three or four of the men best adapted to 
sledge travel and proceed as far north as possible. Accordingly, I 
asked Storkerson and Thomsen to take the sled which they had been 
hitching up to search for me and proceed with it eastward to spy 
out the land, having in mind that they had to be back in time for 
a short sleep before we started out in the evening for home. 

Storkerson returning reported that he had gone about fifteen 
miles east and that from the top of a hill two or three hundred 
feet high he had seen land twenty or thirty miles farther to the 
east. To the south he had seen islands which we had noted a 
day or two before and beyond them a more distant and larger land 
which was probably Emerald Isle. This latter he had seen in a 
sort of mirage. 


I had a feeling that leaving a newly-discovered land of unknown 
extent so soon after finding it needed some justification, and I made 
the following lengthy and rather formal entry in my diary: 

"determine to turn home 

"The season when survey work can best be done here is just begin- 
ning, there are plenty of caribou on land and seals on the sea ice, so 
food and fuel are assured, but I have nevertheless decided to turn with 
the sun on June 22nd and follow her south to Kellett. The reasons, in 
the order in which they most obtrude themselves on me now, are: 

"I. If we follow the coastline farther east we get Melville Island 
between us and home, and I have become convinced that crossing it 
would at this season be difficult. For the land is mapped rugged in 
many places and if it were to prove like the land near the Leffingwell 
Crags, even the ten miles — if correct — where the chart shows Melville 
Island narrowest would be nearly half a month's task to cross, judging 
from my previous experience with sleds in rugged, muddy and stony 
land in summer. We should therefore, if we went farther, have to 
double back on our trail when we finally turned home or else go east 
around Melville Island. 

"II. If we turn now we may hope to reach Kellett by ice all the 
way. Thus we could probably be home before July 15, and could on 
the way determine the NW coast of Banks Island instrumentally — it 
seems to be considerably out in longitude, and this it is as imrportant 
to correct as to map new land. If we delay much beyond this date we 
can hope to have the ice take us no farther than say the Bay of Mercy, 
whence we should have to 'pack dogs' overland, at the rate of 8 miles 
per day or so. This would be an added delay of two weeks perhaps and 
we might miss early ships that come to Banks Island — if any do come. 

"HI. It is necessary to start home soon to be at Kellett to meet the 
North Star if she finds an early season. It is even more necessary now 
than last year (if that were possible) to have a more northerly base, and 
for this the Star is our only present hope. 

"IV. Starting home now promises to land me at Kellett in time to 
make out my reports to the Government to send should a whaler touch 
at Kellett — an important matter, as the plan I had when I left Kellett 
last February was to go myself for the Star to Coronation GuK and I 
left some of the financial part of my report to be completed then. On 
deciding to send Wilkins in my stead I had to leave these reports at 
loose ends. 

"V. If we go home now the trip should not prove very difficult, and 
the men are getting to show the strain of the long trip. We are over 
four months out now. If I work them too hard now they may rebel at 
going next year, and the trip west from Land's End is still to make. 

"VI. The trip west from Land's End must be made next year, Star 


or no Star. To be prepared for her not coming we must get home to 
dry meat for use as dog feed on the ice. In any case she will probably 
not bring us skins for clothing and we must secure and dress enough 
caribou and seals for winter clothing and spring water boots for next 

"VII. Bernard and Levi are alone at home and there is much work 
of many kinds to do, so we are all urgently needed there. 

"VIII. My own especial scientific interests are in the archaeology of 
these lands and I want a week or two to dig at Kellett in the old village. 
It is possible I may learn something there which, when co-ordinated with 
my own previous work on the mainland and that of Jenness in Victoria 
Island and on the mainland, may lead to enlightening results. 

"IX. The men are out of tobacco and Thomsen (who still has a 
little from Ole) seems to take this hard. Then all of them are 'home- 
sick' for the fleshpots of Kellett. Storkerson is the only one of the three 
who has imagination to see anything in exploration beyond hard and 
disagreeable work. 

**It is to be noted that none of the men worry over the question of 
quantity of food, though Thomsen especially dreads a long siege of 
'meat straight.' It is therefore shown that I have at least three disciples 
who have faith to believe that the rifles will provide food for the 

The evening of June 22nd we started south. From now until we 
got half-way down the west coast of Melville Island we had condi- 
tions which McCIintock describes very well in his entry for June 
25, 1853. He is speaking then of the vicinity of Emerald Isle 
and, as it happened, we were in that vicinity the same day of the 
month but with us, as doubtless with him, the description was ap- 
plicable to the condition in that general locality for a matter of two 
weeks. He says: 

"Snow fell throughout the day but the weather now is beautiful. 
Started across the strait at a quarter before seven for Emerald Isle; 
we have ten days' provisions to last us to Depot Island. . . . Soon found 
the floe to be exactly in the condition we expected, the snow upon it 
partially thawed about knee-deep and the lower six inches saturated with 
water; our progress therefore was extremely slow. The men worked un- 
commonly well so that by frequent 'standing pulls' and occasional 'dig- 
ging out' they got the sledge along about two thirds of a mile in an hour. 
A thick fcg came on shortly after starting and continued throughout 
the march." * 

Although this entry of McClintock's is typical as to weather and 

♦"Further Papers Relative to the Recent Arctic Expeditions in Search 
of Sir John Franklin," London, 1855, p. 574. 


conditions of snow, we were in several respects more fortunately 
situated. Our sledge was pulled by dogs while the men had to 
pull his. However, our sledge kept sinking in so deep that had it 
been of ordinary type it would have had to be pulled ahead right 
through the granular snow, somewhat in the manner of a snowplow. 
That was the way on the west coast of Banks Island when we 
were getting ashore in 1914, and so it evidently was with McClin- 
tock. But our sledges now had the special "toboggan bottom" 
so that when the runners had sunk about six inches the snow came 
in contact with it. They had the merit that they were as good 
as any ordinary sledge on glare ice or on hard snow, at the same 
time that they converted themselves into toboggans when they 
sank deep enough in soft snow. The snow was so soft now that 
our dogs had very poor footing and the smaller ones floundered 
about so that they, as well as the sledges, had to be dragged along 
by the bigger dogs. I have no doubt that but for the toboggan 
bottoms our progress would have been even slower than McClin- 

Another advantage of our equipment was in the snowshoes and 
skis. All of us were used to skis from childhood but we had long 
ago come to the conclusion that in the Arctic they are of little 
use, and although we had a pair with us we were carrying them 
mainly because we used them in constructing the frame of our 
sled boat for crossing open water. The snowshoes were for actual 
use. Now for the first time conditions appeared where skis were 
better. The snowshoes would sink into the slush and when you 
pulled them up you brought up with them a heavy load of it, so 
that in some places they were worse than useless. The man who 
had the skis was usually able to glide along on the surface without 
breaking through, partly because of their greater surface area 
but mostly because they slide smoothly, while snowshoes have to 
be lifted up and put down with a sort of stamping motion. 

On this journey as on most journeys we kept taking soundings. 
The depth between the new land and Eight Bears Island was a 
hundred fathoms. Soundings were taken through seal holes and 
occasionally we shot the seals for food. We found it an even 
greater advantage now not to be compelled to haul food with us, 
and we traveled with the sledges so light that there was seldom 
more than two or three days' provisions ahead. 

On the evening of June 22nd, just before we landed on Eight 
Bears Island, came perhaps the heaviest fall of snow that I have 
ever seen and in weather well above freezing, so that in a few 


minutes we became as soaking wet as if it it had been a tropical 
shower. When we got to the land we found it clayey and at first 
everything seemed mud, but one grassy patch made a tolerably 
comfortable camp spot. When you keep your sleeping gear dry 
you can always get comfortable by taking off your clothes and 
going to bed. Winter travel is much more comfortable than sum- 
mer, but it is rarely indeed that we are uncomfortable even in 
summer, or if we are it is only a temporary matter, mitigated by 
the knowledge that we shall presently be comfortable again. Il 
is not much worse than being hungry when you know that a square 
meal is only a little way off. 

"Wednesday, June 23rd," says the diary, "was a day of snow 
and fog on which we camped early in the morning and slept all day. 
This makes a bad beginning for a diary volume, but Ole says a 
bad beginning makes a good ending." This is the first entry of the 
book that runs from June 23rd to December 6th, 1915. It proved 
one more old saying to be wrong by ending worse than it began, 
but it is too early to tell about that now. 

June 24th when the weather cleared we could still see the Lef- 
fingwell Crags forty or fifty miles to the north. They are the 
most peculiar and most conspicuous landmark we found on any of 
the lands we discovered. 

Eight Bears Island turned out to be some five or six miles east 
of McClintock's Fitzwilliam Owen Island. The two are similar 
though Owen Island is perhaps a little larger. Each is rolling land 
with grass and moss. Eight Bears Island is less than four miles in 
its greatest diameter and about two miles wide. Here appeared 
the first ptarmigan of the year and Thomsen shot one so that we 
might make sure which kind it was — a rock ptarmigan. We saw 
also a few dozen Hutchins geese. A dozen seals could be seen 
from camp and of these Storkerson killed one and Ole another. 
We did not need two and Ole killed his "for practice." This was 
the last of the practice hunting. 

It was on Eight Bears Island that we found the ancient and 
far-decayed skull of a female ovibos. I have often wondered how 
it got there, for this is our only evidence that these animals may 
migrate from island to island. In our experience they avoid sea ice 
scrupulously, never going much more than a hundred yards from 
land. But this cow apparently had come across from some other 
island, unless she was a survivor from the times when the various 
islands were a connected land. That is by no means impossible, 
for although the skull was not petrified, it might have been pre- 


served since half a million years ago, provided that most of that 
time it had remained embedded in frozen earth to be exposed and 
thawed out only recently. 

Without landing on Fitzwilliam Owen Island we struck SW by 
W from Eight Bears Island for the NW corner of Emerald Isle, 
which could not be seen from sea level but was plain when viewed 
from the top of the island. The next day the sledges traveled along 
the west coast of Emerald Isle about half a mile from shore while 
I walked overland. We would have liked to stop and complete 
the survey begun by McClintock but the late season forbade. The 
island was well supplied with grass and moss but not as exception- 
ally as McClintock seems to have wanted to imply by calling it 
Emerald Isle. It is easy to see from his record that up to this 
period of his career as an explorer he had seen little if any low or 
rolling land in summer but had been confined in his summer experi- 
ence to such rocky lands as Melville Island. Most of the explorers 
who have been in Melville Island comment on the richness of vege- 
tation there. This is in contrast with our account, for we find it 
more rocky and with less vegetation to the square mile than almost 
any other land known to us. This merely means that most other 
explorers had seen no other arctic land in summer and assumed it 
to be exceptionally rich in vegetation merely because it contained 
any at all. 

Mecham may have thought that he had found a great exception 
to ordinary arctic conditions when he wrote for Melville Island, 
"Sent the sledge across the bay and walked around myself upon a 
perfect field of grass and moss much resembling a rich meadow. 
Several musk oxen and reindeer grazing. A large flock of snowy 
geese flew over." * 

This was indeed a great exception to arctic lands as they are 
supposed to be, but not an exception to arctic lands as they are. 
But naturally men brought up in such lands as England were in- 
capable of imagining when they were traveling over the snows of 
winter that under them were grass and moss. They noted these 
only in summer. Had they done much winter overland traveling 
they would have seen the grass even at that season, but practically 
all the exploring which put on the map the islands north of Canada 
was done by sledges following the coast, touching the land chiefly 
at the promontories and with only rare excursions upon it. To 
this Melville Island has been the chief exception, for from Parry 

* "Further Papers Relative to the Recent Arctic Expeditions in Search 
of Sir John Frankhn," London, 1855, p. 533. 


(1819) onward it has been frequently crossed in summer and hunted 
over by the crews of ships wintering there. 

As we proceeded south along the west coast of Melville Island 
we found it beautiful in a way quite different from most of the 
other northern lands. Banks Island, for instance, has some pic- 
turesque cliffs near its south end and also towards the north, but 
in the main the beauty of Banks Island is that of the rolling 
prairie, a landscape not commonly appreciated by others than those 
who happen to have been brought up on prairie land. It is the 
beauty of openness, fertility and utility. Melville Island, while 
scarcely alpine in character, has deep gorges, sheer precipices and 
bold headlands. This leaves no room for extensive grass lands, 
and the great number of ovibos in the island as compared with 
most other northern lands is due not to its fertility but to the 
fact that it has not in recent times been overrun by Eskimos. 

But Eskimos have been on Melville Island. We and others 
before us found traces of them on Liddon Gulf. Similar traces 
have been found on Byam Martin Island by others and by us on 
the south coast of Melville Island east of Bridport Inlet. But it 
is clear that the country was not long inhabited. The reason seems 

There are certain groups of Eskimos that live on fish. Probably 
Melville Island is not well supplied with fish although of that we 
know little. But most Eskimos live by hunting walrus, seals, 
caribou, cattle and polar bears. Of these walrus are absent and, 
so far as my experience goes, Melville Island is the poorest locality 
in the north for seals with the exception of the north end of 
Byam Martin Channel. There is some sealing both in Liddon 
Gulf and in Hecla Bay in spring and rare seals are found elsewhere. 
Polar bears are not nearly so numerous as in most other arctic 
localities. Caribou have not been found there in large numbers 
by us nor are they reported in large numbers by others. Indeed 
they could not be numerous, since the land is exceptionally in- 

There remain the polar cattle. Undoubtedly Melville Island at 
present would be a paradise for a small band of Eskimos but it 
would remain a paradise only a few years, when all the cattle 
would be killed off. It is clear that Eskimos in the days antedating 
the fur industry and the support of traders would not by choice 
have remained in Melville Island long. Coming perhaps from 
Victoria Island to the south, possibly from the east, they discovered 
Melville Island (to judge by the ruins) two or three hundred years 


ago. At first it must have been a desirable land to them but the 
desirability consisted entirely in the cattle. In a few years these 
were killed off, whereupon the colonists either died of starvation 
during an unlucky winter or returned to the more favorable islands 
from which they had come. It is of course possible that after a 
few decades had elapsed and the ovibos had had a chance to be- 
come more numerous, a second migration might have come in to 
remain for a few years. 

We know that Melville Island has been seen by the Victoria 
Island Eskimos when they hunt on the north coast. No tradition 
survives there to tell of their ever having crossed over to Melville 
Island, but with its cliffs in plain sight there is no reason why a 
few adventurous families might not do so any time. They may 
easily do so in the near future, for in the course of our expedition 
one Victoria Island Eskimo accompanied us there and discovered 
for himself the abundance of the highly-valued polar cattle. 

On June 29th we came upon the only caribou seen on this trip 
along the Melville Island coast. It was a yearling and therefore 
thin, so we made no serious attempt to get it. That day also we 
saw the first owl since the precedmg 20th of February when we 
noticed one just north of Cape Kellett. We had noted in the fall 
of 1914 that the owls which were very numerous in the summer 
became gradually fewer towards Christmas and seeing one in Feb- 
ruary really surprised us. So far as we know, their main food is 
the lemming and these must be hard to get in wmter time. Still, 
we occasionally see lemming tracks in any month of winter and 
it is doubtless these stragglers the owls live on. 

Watching the owls in their lemming hunts I have marveled at 
their intelligence but equally at their stupidity. An instance is a 
short autumn day when I sat for several hours on a hill in south- 
west Banks Island and studied through my field glasses the white 
foxes and owls all about. Within a circle of a few miles were sev- 
eral foxes, now hidden by hills or in ravines, now visible in the 
open, hunting lemmings. On knolls here and there sat owls watch- 
ing the foxes. 

There had been a four or six-inch fall of snow which lay as yet 
untouched by wind, level and fluffy. Under this snow, tunneling 
it and fondly believing themselves unobserved, the lemmings were 
everywhere. The foxes moved about at a leisurely, elastic 
trot. Every few minutes I could see one of them stop, cock his 
head on one side, and listen. Possibly the senses of sight and smell 
were also active, but certainly they gave primarily the impression 


of listening. After a moment or two of alert attention the fox 
gave a high leap in the air like a diver from a springboard and 
came down in the snow with nose and forepaws together. In half 
the cases the lemming was caught at that instant, in half the 
remainder he was caught a moment later, but in a few instances he 
escaped — probably into a hole in the frozen ground. If left un- 
disturbed, the fox would kill the lemming with a sharp nip or 
two, drop it on the snow, look at it contemplatively for a moment, 
pick it up again and bury it in the soft snow to trot off and — I 
have no doubt — forget all about it. For days and days the lem- 
ming catch would be far in excess of appetite, and before the fox 
became hungry a hundred miles might intervene. If these buried 
lemmings are ever found and eaten it is probably by a wolf or some 
other fox. 

But the fox rarely buried the lemming undisturbed. From a 
nearby knoll an owl was watching with eyes and interest as keen 
as mine. When the fox paused, alert for a sound beneath the snow, 
an owl on a nearby hill half-turned and part-crouched for flight; 
while yet the fox was on its springboard leap and dive through the 
air the owl's broad wings were spreading; and before the fox had 
buried its kill the owl was upon him. This must have been the 
thousand and first experience of the sort for the fox but it acted as 
if completely surprised. No doubt its attention had been so fo- 
cussed on the business of securing the lemming that owls were tempo- 
rarily forgotten. At the wing swish and approaching shadow the 
fox cringed as if in abject fear, but nevertheless evidently half 
realized that the object of the owl was robbery rather than mur- 
der, for with the very cringing and slinking motion of fear and 
flight the fox picked up the lemming (if it had been dropped). 
Then came a dash away, fast for a fox but slow as compared with 
the easy glide of the owl, at the end of a short second of which the 
owl was directly over the fox, reaching for it with its talons but 
never touching, for evidently discretion was part of its campaign. 
After two or three sharp doublings and vain attempts to get away 
from the owl the fox would turn on his pursuer and make a great 
leap in the air towards her. Apparently the owl's object was to 
make the fox snap at her, thus in excitement dropping the lemming 
from its mouth. In this I never saw the owl successful, for in 
every case watched by me the owl gave up worrying the fox after 
half an hour or so, but I was told by Eskimos that they had seen 
foxes drop their lemmings in snapping at the owls, whereupon 
the owl snatched the lemming from the snow and was up and 


away. Such outcomes now and then must account for the cheer- 
ful optimism with which the owls keep up their watching and 
worrying of the foxes. 

But this ingenuity of the owl is more than matched by her stu- 
pidity. Why doesn't she wait till the fox buries the lemming 
under four or five inches of fluffy snow and trots off? With a 
scratch or two of her claws in the snow the owl could now have the 
lemming. Just that much increase of intelligence would certainly 
make the owl's struggle for existence during the northern winter 
far simpler. As it is, it must be a severe struggle, which accounts 
for most of them going south during midwinter, if not before. It is 
only rare owls, like rare ravens, that spend the whole winter far 
north of the treeline. 

At the end of June on the middle of the west coast we found 
the season a great deal more backward than it had been in Banks 
Island just after our landing the year before. When we had 
landed at Norway Island on June 25th most of the land was free 
of snow with here and there a drift persisting in the lee of some hill. 
Now in Melville Island at the same season the spots of bare 
ground were scarcely bigger than the spots of snow on Banks 
Island. Still, the weather was so warm the last week of June that 
it was unpleasant for walking or any exercise, although we felt it 
about right for sitting around in idleness at camp time. It is prob- 
able that a week after we left Melville Island most of the snow was 

On my second expedition I spent the year 1910-1911 northeast 
of Bear Lake where cattle were still not extinct. At that time 
we always knew in what direction to go to get them but we had 
not the sportsman's desire for a trophy and they were not of any 
great scientific interest, for their pelts are more numerous in mu- 
seum collections than those of many northern animals. I had also 
a sentimental disinclination against being a party to the killing of 
the last survivors in our district. Accordingly, while I saw the 
traces of cattle and knew Indians who killed them that winter, and 
while a week's journey would easily have brought us into a country 
where we could have killed dozens if not hundreds, I had not up to 
the present killed polar cattle or even looked for them. 

We saw the first of them June 30th although their traces had 
been evident since we came near the coast. Their footprints were 
in the mud and great tags of their brown wool lying here and 
there on the snow or in the grass. I quote my diary: 


"June 30, Wednesday: Started (to hunt ahead) 10:30 P. M. 
and the sleds followed about 11 P. M. (June 29th). Camped about 
6 A. M. (June 30th) on the north shore of Marie Bay. Distance 
traveled about six miles. At about 1:30 A. M. I went to the 
top of a 400-foot hill half a mile inland to have a look at the bay, 
as the going was execrable— slush two to four inches above the bot- 
toms of the sled basket in many places. Saw from this hill two 
polar cattle. I have never wanted to lend a hand in the extermina- 
tion of these patriarchal remnants of a race, but we had only one 
meal of seal meat for the dogs, two meals for ourselves . . . besides 
blubber and other fat. I therefore had to shoot these poor fel- 
lows. They proved old bulls. We camped on the shore of the bay 
abreast of the hill and fetched the meat in two loads, sledding 
over bare ground half the way. Seals are difficult to get now, as 
one does not like to crawl snake-fashion through eight or ten inches 
of ice water." 

In a way it was lucky that these were very old bulls for other- 
wise I might have disbelieved entirely the story that they have 
an odor or a taste reminding one of the perfume of musk. I re- 
member quite well my mother's silver box of musk she inherited 
from her grandmother, with the odor still there after more than 
threescore years. This archaic perfume was therefore known to 
me, but I did not notice any musk odor about the animals when 
skinning them. Ole had shed most of his civilized tastes so far as 
meat was concerned, but he still retained a fondness for kidneys 
that Thomsen shared. These two saved the kidneys which we 
might otherwise have fed to the dogs, and boiled them with our 
first potful of meat. In the cooking we noticed an odor resembling 
musk, enough to be identified when coming from an animal named 
"musk-ox." The meat itself had a slight pungent flavor, although 
we agreed it was not a disagreeable flavor. But Thomsen and Ole 
reported that the kidneys were remarkably strong; I think they 
threw pieces of them away. I did not realize it at the time but 
later from repeated cookings of their beef where kidneys were never 
put in the pot, I feel certain that the odor and taste in this one 
instance must have come from the kidneys. 

In later years when we had to eat a good deal of ovibos beef, 
some Eskimo women in our parties claimed to be able to smell a 
peculiar odor about it but it was usually not noticeable to the 
Eskimo men nor, so far as I know, to any of the whites. 

From this time on as we proceeded south along the coast we 
saw between twenty and thirty cattle, although we never took 


pains to look for them. On one occasion we took several photo- 
graphs of two young bulls and a cow. They were about half a mile 
from camp and Thomsen and Ole went up within fifty yards of 
them to have a good look. The animals stopped feeding and kept 
their eyes continually on the two men as long as they were near 
but resumed their feeding when they left. Upon the report of the 
tameness of these three, Storkerson took a camera, went within 
about fifty yards and took about three pictures, later spoilt by water 
getting into the camera. Storkerson had used a 'Vest pocket" 
camera, and on his report of how near he had been I took a larger 
camera to try to get some better pictures. But our attentions 
were beginning to seem suspicious, for when I got within three 
hundred yards the animals became restless and when I was more 
than two hundred yards away they ran off. They ran for about a 
quarter of a mile and stopped on top of a knoll, and when I con- 
tinued to follow they ran a second time, and the third time they 
kept running till they were out of sight. 

Thus we got an initial lesson in the psychology of ovibos. Their 
minds seem to work remarkably slowly and it takes a long time 
to make them run. They make a defensive formation when any 
startling object appears to them. Farther their thinking does not 
seem to go until after five or ten minutes. Anybody who goes 
under cover to within two hundred yards and then runs up at top 
speed can get within any distance of a herd unless that particular 
herd is nervous from having been previously followed around and 
frightened. But if after running up you remain near them for five 
or ten minutes, there is about an even chance of one of two things 
happening: either they will scatter and begin to feed or they will 
stampede. At this time the ovibos were shedding their wool so 
profusely that upon side view their legs could not easily be seen 
and in some cases could not be seen at all for the wool that hung 
down to the ground and dragged along. 

Marie Bay, which the chart shows as less than five miles deep, 
appeared in the crossing to be fifteen or twenty miles deep. It 
seemed to have a fjord-like character and for five or six miles in- 
land a uniform width of three or four miles, and beyond that to 
continue for at least another ten miles. This discrepancy seemed 
curious to us at the time but it is not remarkable when we compare 
it with McClintock's record of his survey of this coast. Both his 
diary and his route show that he traveled about tangent to 
Cape De Bray and Sandy Point, a course that took him far out- 
side the mouth of the fjord which itself extends out from a shallow 


bay. This shows how Melville Island could be profitably resur- 
veyed, although it is better mapped than any other of the northern 
islands with which we had experience. The fact that it is com- 
paratively well surveyed and that we have always been in a great 
hurry when passing it has prevented us from any serious attempt 
to modify its coastline. 

In comparing the recent Admiralty charts with McClintock's 
original survey as published in the Admiralty Blue Books I have 
noted several differences, and in practically every case I have found 
that McClintock's original work corresponded with our observa- 
tions better than the alterations as published by the Admiralty. 
For instance, McClintock shows the trend of the coast from Cape 
De Bray towards Sandy Point to be more easterly than indicated 
on the Admiralty chart. Our observation is that it is even more 
easterly than shown by McClintock. In most cases of difference 
between McClintock's original maps of Melville Island and the 
more recent ones it is strange that any change has been made, for 
most of that coast has been untraversed by any one since his time. 



TOWARDS the end of June we began to be annoyed and de- 
layed by the rotting of our dog harness. I suppose there must 
be some rot-proof material or rot-resisting enough to last 
through a season, but we had none of it on the expedition. The best 
thing we ever tried is ordinary commercial horse harness leather. We 
never had much of this and relied on two things: first, the moosehide 
harness made by the North American Indians, practically inde- 
structible when kept dry. Through experience I know that a set 
of this will last for years under ordinary winter conditions. But 
these were no winter conditions, for our progress was much of the 
time something between wading and navigation. It was not pos- 
sible to travel over the land for, although there was snow in many 
places, there were little rivers coming down to the coast too deep 
and turbulent to be forded. It was not possible to leave the coast 
on approach to these rivers so as to make a detour around the 
mouth, because their warm water had made its way between 
the ice and the land to a considerable distance each way from it, 
forming an impassable moat that prevented us from getting out 
on the ice. In fact, it was only at points half-way between these 
rivers that it was possible to get from sea ice to shore, and we had 
to travel along a mile or two from land. The ice in Fitzwilliam 
Strait and later on in Kellett Strait was mostly of the type known 
as "paleocrystic"; that is, it was old ice where the rains and thaws 
of one or more summers had rounded the pressure ridges into oval 
hummocks. There was a little this-year's ice here and there, 
showing that the straits had been open or at least that the pack had 
been in motion the previous season. 

On the old ice there were left over from last year water courses 
which had deepened into channels, in some cases four or five feet 
deep. Where they were that deep we did not venture into them 
but the best we could usually do was to cross where they widened 
out into little lakes, the depth of water then being from a few 
inches to three feet. In the deeper places the dogs had to swim 



and the men had to keep their hands on the sledges to keep them 
from upsetting as they floated along behind the teams, buoyed up 
by empty tin cans kept near the bottoms of the loads for the 

But the worst thing was the effect upon harness that had now 
been wet for weeks. We always made an attempt to dry them but 
our stops were never long enough to provide a fair chance except 
when we were delayed by rain or snow, and then there was no 
question of drying. The harness, whether made of cotton webbing 
or of Indian smoke-tanned moosehide, would stand about two or 
three weeks of this, after which they became so rotten that they 
broke whenever the dogs made a particularly heavy pull. That 
meant that they broke at the most critical times. 

By the 3rd or 4th of July the harness had become so bad as to 
be almost unusable and we had to devote a day to making new 
harness out of the raw hides of recently killed seals. These would 
soon rot under the same conditions and they were exposed to the 
further danger of being eaten by the dogs, for there are few things 
more appetizing to a dog than fresh sealskin. In this we prac- 
tically agree, for if you have time to scald the hair off seals, as is 
done in butchering pigs, the skin becomes an excellent dish resem- 
bling pigs' feet. 

Another trouble was that the thaw had now been in progress 
long enough to convert most of the ice into what is known as 
"needle ice." Salt water ice so long as it remains salt does not 
divide into crystals on thawing, but fresh water ice or sea ice that 
has become fresh settles into crystals resembling hexagon or octagon 
lead pencils on end and with upward pointed tips sharper than the 
sharpest leads. Over these men and dogs alike have to walk, but we 
have the advantage of our feet being protected by boots soled with 
the hide of the bearded seal, so that one pair of boot soles will stand 
perhaps a hundred miles of walking over even this sort of ice, 
although boots shod with the skin of the common seal would not 
last more than one-fifth that distance. We protect the soles by 
using patches under the heel and the ball, expecting each patch to 
last a day or two. In this way we can make two or three pairs of 
boots do us a season. 

But the poor dogs have none but the natural protection of 
their feet at first. Four or five days of travel over needle ice will 
make the soles of their feet raw, and the time would soon come 
when they could not travel at all if we did not make boots for them. 

Lead Running Away from Land Showing Loose Ice Cake that Would 
Serve as Bridge or Ferry. 




Rocky Polar Coast — Summer. 

Sandy Polar Coast — Summer. 

-^^t <^1^ 

Sandy Poi>ar Coast— Spring— Showing Earth Heaped Up by Ice Pressure. 


It had been my intention at the beginning of this trip to bring 
along four or five hundred boots but some one had blundered and 
when we made a search of our loads we found less than two hun- 
dred. These were made of canvas and each would be good for one 
day. The boot is made without much shape to it, something like 
a mitten without a thumb. When a hole has been worn on one 
side we turn it around so that the dog walks on one side of the boot 
in the forenoon and on the other in the afternoon. It is a well- 
known fact that thirteen dogs have fifty-two feet, but I don't think 
any one realizes it fully who has not had the task of making boots 
for dogs day after day. It took only four days to wear out the 
ones we had with us. We were in a great hurry to get to Banks 
Island, so at first we used to sit up evenings to mend these boots, 
making a few additional new ones. But it soon became apparent 
that this was not practicable and for the last week or ten days 
we used to travel two days and then stop one day for making 
boots. It helped a little to make some of these of sealskin or of 
caribou skin so that they lasted a little longer, but here again there 
was the disadvantage that we had to watch the dogs to see that 
none of them ate their boots when we stopped. This was not 
because they were hungry but merely because their appetites were 

When we got towards the southwest corner of Melville Island 
our fat for food and fuel had run out, for the two old bulls were 
extremely lean. At this season it is not possible to get at a seal 
without crawling snake-fashion through much ice water. The dis- 
comfort is not the worst feature, for it is almost impossible to keep 
from making a splash now and then, and a splash will always put 
a seal on his guard. Some of the ice we have to crawl over has been 
undermined by little rivulets of water and even with the best of care 
we break through. I therefore had to try several seals before get- 
ting one. The sharp needle ice that I have described as so hard on 
the feet of the dogs was no less hard on my old clothes as I dragged 
myself forward, and they were almost as nearly worn out as I was 
chilled numb when finally I got within about 150 yards of the seal. 
I had been trying so long and the glare of the sun was so bright 
that I knew shooting for the head was hopeless and I tried a body 
shot. Luckily it not only went through near the heart but also broke 
the spine. However, I got the seal by the barest margin for after 
running as hard as I could he was just sliding into his hole when I 
got there. That is the trouble with a body shot — the seal is lying 


on an incline, and the blood from the wound gets under him (as 
previously explained) and acts like a lubricant, tending to make him 
slide forward into the water. 

On July 3rd we saw a thing unique in the experience of all of us 
— a seal that had been killed by a wolf. We saw the wolf eating 
something on the ice about half a mile from our course and I went 
over to see what it was. With usual intelligence, this wolf made 
off while I was more than a quarter of a mile away. From the po- 
sition of the seal's body and from the marks on the ice the wolf 
had caught him sleeping near his hole and had dragged him about 
fifteen yards. He had then killed him by biting him repeatedly in 
the throat, whereupon he had commenced eating. I have heard 
trappers on the mainland say that seal's blubber is poor bait for 
wolves and that they will not eat it. Possibly this is another of the 
common superstitions, for all this wolf had eaten was blubber. He 
had commenced on the back of the seal a little forward from the tail 
and had eaten about a square foot, perhaps six or eight pounds, of 
the fat but none of the lean except for the skin that was attached 
to the blubber. 

This recalls the food habits of the polar bears. Apparently they 
do not keep in close touch with the trend of modern dietetics, for 
they do not seem aware of the necessity for variety in their food. 
Or it is possible that they are overimpressed with the views of cer- 
tain dietitians and are afraid of an excess of protein. However that 
may be, they seem to confine themselves to fat when they can. I 
have seen the evidence of a polar bear eating nearly a whole seal — 
meat, bones, blubber and all — but these have been small seals and 
the bear must have been hungry. The ordinary thing, so far as my 
experience goes, is that if a bear kills a good-sized seal he goes about 
it just like our wolf, only a good deal more rapidly, and he strips 
the entire carcass, or nearly the whole of it, of fat and then goes off, 
leaving the meat and blood for the foxes. 

This practice of bears has led to the belief among Eskimos that 
a bear has the ability to strip the blubber off a seal along with the 
skin in the manner in which an Eskimo skins a fox. It is an opera- 
tion for which English has no good descriptive term unless we bor- 
row it from the furriers, who call it "to case" a skin. It is as if you 
were to remove a stocking by turning the upper -part back on itself 
without first pushing it down towards the ankle, and then pulling it 
off in such a way that the stocking is turned entirely inside out. 

Those who are familiar with the well-known "fact" (and who of 
us is not?) that more fat is needed in the diet where the weather is 


cold, will doubtless explain in that way this peculiar food habit 
of the polar bear. Here naturally arises a subject on which I want 
to have my say — the great need for fat in an arctic diet. 

I am not sure whether I learned this from my parents or from the 
school geographies. At any rate, I knew it up to the time I was 
twenty-seven when I first went north to the Eskimos. I had read 
much about their fondness for blubber and I expected to marvel at 
seeing them eating with a spoon some palatable food such as butter, 
or to be horrified at seeing them drinking train oil. I did see them 
eat butter with a spoon. They seemed to look upon a piece of 
it as a sort of dessert as we do upon suet pudding. We never eat 
butter with a spoon unless after mixing it with sugar and changing 
the name into "hard sauce." But in my whole polar experience I 
have only on two occasions seen an Eskimo drink seal oil. One was 
the time we were starving on Horton River in 1909 and had nothing 
but seal oil for food. There were seven or eight of us and the rest 
used to soak the oil up in something to make a kind of salad, but 
one old man used to take his oil "straight." He used to drink half 
a teacupful in the morning and half a teacupful at night, and the 
rest of the Eskimos marveled how he could do it. 

The only other place known to me where seal oil is drunk is on 
the "Sandspit" at Nome, Alaska, when the tourists come to town. 
It is an ordinary tourist stunt to walk out to the Sandspit and say 
to the first Eskimo, "Here, Johnny, I'll give you a dollar if you'll 
let me see you drink some oil." The victim I saw took a small 
sip and tried hard not to make a face and my tourist friends thought 
they had seen one of the wonders of the North. 

My experience with diet in the North is that you get hungry 
sooner if you are cold but it makes little difference just what food 
you eat to satisfy the hunger. On ships and at whaling stations 
or at the barracks of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police at 
Herschel Island there is no greater percentage of fat in the diet than 
where similar groups are gathered in another climate. If men are 
badly dressed or if their houses are cold they may eat with rather 
better appetites than would be the case farther south, but what they 
eat is a matter of choice or individual preference. The Police eat a 
great deal of bacon and so do the Hudson's Bay men, but that is 
largely because it is considered a standard ration and is regularly 
furnished from outside. 

There was a time when fat was a much more important element 
than it is now in the diet of Europeans. This was before the time 
of sugar. Four hundred years ago ordinary sugar was unknown in 


Europe and the amount eaten in the form of honey or sweet fruits 
was negligible when compared with the present-day huge consump- 
tion. Three hundred years ago sugar was the luxury of kings and 
two hundred years ago it was a rarity in the diet of the ordinary 
man. Even within our own time the per capita consumption of 
sugar has increased enormously. And this article of food which 
some people imagine to be a prime necessity and which others even 
think to be essential to health, is really a newcomer in the diet even 
with us. But as sugar has increased in favor, fat has lost caste. 
The relation between the two has always been reciprocal — the more 
sugar the less fat. 

If it were true that there is special need for fat in the diet of 
the northern people it ought to follow that there is less need for it in 
the tropics, and this is the common view. But it is well known in 
Australia that in the early days before commerce attained great 
proportions and before sugar and jams and the like became an im- 
portant item in the diet, the "boundary riders" or sheep herders in 
sub-tropical Australia used to select for killing the fattest sheep. 
They would eat the fattest meat and if too much fat tried out they 
would eat the melted grease or the tallow. But as commerce in- 
creased and sugar began to come in they ate less and less of the fat 
mutton until now you will see a sheep herder in the same climate 
trim off the fat from his meat and leave it on the plate. 

My friend Carl Akeley hunts in tropical Africa. There is very 
little sugar in the regular diet of the negroes he employs as carriers 
and attendants. He has seen at the killing of a hippopotamus (al- 
though I have never seen it at the killing of a seal or a whale) 
the whole assembled crowd of natives go wild with joy in an orgy 
of fat-eating. When the hippopotamus is killed they cut off the fat 
in quivering strips and eat it until they are ill. So it may be nec- 
essary to seek another explanation than the standard one of the 
need for fat in cold climates to explain the polar bear's peculiar 
habit of stripping the fat off a seal, somewhat as a small boy licks 
the jam and butter off a slice of bread. 

At the southwest corner of Melville Island we saw the first polar 
bear track since our landing at the southwest corner of Prince Pat- 
rick Island. As I have remarked elsewhere, polar bears are very 
rare animals north of 75° N. latitude in the western part of the 
Canadian arctic, although they seem to be numerous enough in sim- 
ilar latitudes farther east. Just before seeing the bear tracks we 


had found a rookery of some large gulls, probably Barrow gulls, and 
I tried to get some eggs, but they were too high up in a cliff. 

We were struggling steadily southward and I began to fear that 
we would not get to Cape Kellett much ahead of the whaling ships, 
if any were to come this season. By something like an inspiration 
I made the guess in my diary that the first whaler would probably 
arrive on the 10th of August. To make ready for this possibility I 
began writing letters on the back pages of the diary, for I did not 
see how we could possibly get to Kellett much before the 10th of 
August and I wanted to have some mail ready. I also began my re- 
port to the Government, writing in the evenings while the men were 
cooking and sometimes when they were making dog boots. 

We expected to make a crossing to the west side of Mercy Bay, 
Banks Island, from Cape Russell, but the cliffs are precipitous at 
this point and there is deep water inshore, so that a shore lead pre- 
vented a landing until we had gone five miles east beyond the Cape. 
Here we stopped for a day to repair harness, make dog boots and 
prepare for the crossing, and incidentally we clambered about the 
cliffs and found different layers of fossiliferous rock, useful in arriv- 
ing at the geologic age of the strata in the vicinity. 

Food animals might well be scarce on the way across Melville 
Strait. But the ice was sure to be rough, and for the safety of our 
sleds and to prevent the harness from breaking too often we wanted 
to be as light as possible. Accordingly we started on July 8th, 
for what we expected would be a four days' crossing, with food 
not quite enough for the four days. 

That day and the next we saw neither seals nor bears. The ice 
was very badly cut up and sometimes the dogs had to swim. I 
quote two diary entries: "Sunday, July 11th: 

"Started 7:50 A. M., camped on account of heavy rain at 2:15 
P. M. Distance 12 miles. 

" 'It never rains but it pours' is true in more senses than one 
of our situation this evening — short rations and heavy rain on an 
ice field are a disagreeable combination. 

"Saw a bear track — fresh. 

"Monday, July 12th — A thick fog with variable light airs made 
travel impossible until the afternoon. We were ready to start be- 
fore six in the morning but were delayed by the fog till 2:30 P. M. 
Camped about 12:15 A. M. July 13th, distance 14 miles. 

"We saw a seal at 6:30 and I shot him stone dead at about 100 
yards. I foolishly delayed to shoot a second time 'to make sure 
of him.' I then ran as fast as I could but the blood from the wound 


thawed the ice too fast and he slid in when I was ten yards off. 
Camped on seeing two more seals but before I got near them the 
dogs started barking at something, which scared them and they dis- 

July 13th we were still six or eight miles from land when we 
stopped to eat the last of our food. It is a bit exaggerated to say, 
as the diary did above, that we were on short rations. Rather we 
were eating things that were not particularly agreeable. Our last 
lunch was a piece of sealskin with a little blubber attached. We 
enjoyed it, although we could think of things we might have pre- 

After about eight hours of wading through water and scrambling 
across wet ice hummocks we finally camped within two hundred 
.yards of the shore, separated from the land by a shore lead of that 
width. This lead was full of seals. We expected them to sink, for 
the water was so fresh that you could almost drink it because of 
the river water that was coming off the land. But we were hungry 
and, after all, the laws of nature might not work, so I shot about 
a dozen seals before I made up my mind that the laws really were 
working. By that time the men had converted the sledge into a 
boat and Thomsen and I paddled ashore while Storkerson went in 
pursuit of other seals basking on the ice to the west. 

Thomsen and I went in different directions, and shortly after 
landing he killed a hare. He saw then two caribou, whereupon he 
set off in pursuit of me and at his signs I turned back, although I 
had myself seen three old bulls in a different direction. Thomsen's 
caribou were young and lean but the lunch of sealskin made me 
incline to the view that a bird in the hand was worth two in the 
bush, so I went after and shot them. While Thomsen was doing 
the skinning I went in search of the bulls but they were not seen 
again. When we returned to the coast laden with caribou meat 
we found that "It never rains but it pours" was as much in order 
as it had been two days earlier although in a different sense, for 
Storkerson had killed a big seal. 

It speaks well for the arctic lands that our landing this year 
should have been as propitious as last. In 1914 we had landed with 
half a meal of food and I had secured six caribou before sleeping. 
This time we landed with no food at all and had two caribou, a 
hare and a seal within six hours. 



THE landing was made on the east side of Mercy Bay because 
that way the route was shorter. According to the maps 
Mercy Bay ought to be only some ten or fifteen degrees west 
of south from Cape Russell, and we had made a course so as to land 
on the west side when we should have taken a course twenty or 
thirty degrees west of south. Cape Russell is either placed too far 
west on the maps or Mercy Bay too far east. We later came to the 
conclusion that the trouble is with Mercy Bay. July 15th we crossed 
the bay and landed and camped about a mile from the monument 
erected in 1853 by McClure. We intended to land exactly at 
the monument but were prevented by very bad conditions of mud 
and water. 

Mercy Bay is one of the historic places of the North. It was dis- 
covered by McClure in the Investigator the fall of 1851. The pre- 
vious winter had been spent in Prince of Wales Straits near the 
Princess Royal Islands. After a vain attempt in the spring to get 
north through the straits into Melville Sound the Investigator had 
proceeded south around Nelson Head, up the west coast of Banks 
Island and east along the north coast. It was especially on the 
north coast that she got in close touch with the ice, being repeatedly 
in extreme danger between the heavy pack and the precipitous cliffs. 
These dangers had so impressed themselves on the ship's company 
that when they came to a bay to which they could escape from the 
open coast, they named it "the Bay of God's Mercy." It was free 
of ice then and promised well as a winter harbor, but the following 
summer the ice never left it and they were compelled to spend a 
second winter. The amount of game secured was only enough to 
give a little variety to the diet, the crew had already been for 
a considerable time on short rations, and plans had been made for 
a retreat by most of them to the mainland. This retreat would 
almost certainly have ended like the Franklin retreat farther south, 
indeed with greater cause. But just in time a message came from 
Melville Island saying that Kellett and McClintock were wintering 



at Bridport Inlet. This was not an accident but resulted from the 
fact that the previous spring McClure had sent a message to Mel- 
ville Island to be deposited at Parry's Rock, Winter Harbor, telling 
the location of his ship, and Kellett's party had found it. 

After consultation the Investigator was abandoned, most of her 
stores and gear being previously placed in a depot on shore. The 
crew marched safely over the ice and reached England as passen- 
gers on other ships. McClure was thus not only the first to dis- 
cover the Northwest Passage (October, 1850) but the first to make 
it in the sense that he and his men traversed the entire distance 
although their ship did not. These were the first men to make 
a complete circuit of the western hemisphere, for they had come west 
across the Atlantic, past the south end of South America, north 
through the Pacific and then east through the devious channels be- 
tween the islands, and thus home. 

When McClure was in Banks Island he came in no contact with 
Eskimos and it seems improbable that they knew while he was 
there of his wintering in Mercy Bay. The spring of 1911 I had from 
some old men in Prince Albert Sound, Victoria Island, an account 
of how the Eskimos discovered the abandoned ship and the depot 
probably two or three years after McClure left them. The food, 
clothing and the like were of no value to the Eskimos, but there 
were two classes of articles that were to them beyond price — the 
iron and other metal work, and the soft wood. 

Familiar as I was with Eskimo customs, I was surprised when 
my informants made this distinction between the soft and the hard 
wood. They explained that the hard wood was almost as difficult to 
make anything out of as caribou antlers and not nearly so durable. 
In other words, they saw no use for hard wood except to replace 
bone or horn, and bone or horn was better than hard wood. But 
the soft wood was a superior variety of the driftwood which they 
were familiar with and very useful. What they did was to take 
barrels, no matter what they contained, and break them up with the 
object of using the hoops. The staves being of hard wood were 
no more valuable than the food or rum contained in the barrels. 
Similarly, boxes containing clothing were opened, the clothes thrown 
away and the boxes made up into arrow shafts and the like. 

When the Eskimos discovered the Investigator the news soon 
spread east and south and Mercy Bay for a long time became a 
Mecca to the Eskimos. But eventually, between the rusting of the 
iron and the pillaging of the Eskimos, the depot was completely 


rifled. Before this time the Investigator had sunk or else drifted 
away, my informants did not know which. One year she had still 
been on the beach and the next she was gone without a trace. A 
man whom I judged to be under thirty had been a boy of eight or 
ten when the last party had thought it worth their while to go to 
Mercy Bay.* 

In view of the fact that Mercy Bay had for two winters been the 
headquarters of a great polar expedition we were surprised to find 
comparatively little correspondence between the map and the land. 
The bay is not unlike itself on the chart, but there are islands in it 
that are not indicated on the map, while the conspicuous sandspit 
that is indicated at Providence Point does not now exist. But the 
remarkable thing was that just west of Mercy Bay where the map 
indicated a nearly straight coastline there is another bay almost 
as conspicuous. The land on both sides is high, almost mountainous, 
the bay is three or four miles wide and eight or ten miles deep. 
In it is the mouth of far the largest river in Banks Island; a river 
which, as we later learned, drains as large a part of it as any two 
or three other rivers put together. 

Thinking that McClure's winter quarters had been correctly lo- 
cated, partly because we knew that one of the men on his staff bore 
the title of astronomer, we were particular to get good observations 
at the place. We did secure fair ones despite unfavorable weather. 

It was here one of our two chronometers failed us. At first we 
did not know which it was. That is the trouble with having only 
two and is the reason why one should carry three or more, for then 
the one that differs from the other two is recognized to be at fault. 
In our case the one given me by O'Neill was supposed to be losing 
fourteen seconds and the new one should have been gaining eight 
seconds, making a difference of twenty-two seconds per day, with the 
new one gaining. We compared them daily and had found their 
rate reasonably constant so far, but at Mercy Bay the new chronom- 
eter began to gain less and less and finally actually lost. It was 
a good many days later, however, before it stopped altogether. 

While we were waiting for observations we took the boat tar- 
paulin, now about worn out, and cut it up to make pack bags 
for the dogs. One team was composed of big dogs which, because 
of great strength and long legs, were able to carry from twenty to 
forty pounds a distance of ten miles per day ; for short distances the 
strongest could carry fifty or sixty pounds. But the other team 
* See "My Life With the Eskimo," Chapters XVII and XVIII. 


vere small, about the ordinary Eskimo size. They were consequently 
weak, so that they could not carry more than from fifteen to thirty 
pounds, and so short-legged that they dragged in the water whatever 
they carried. We accordingly made a sled for these dogs to pull, 
out of the front halves of our pair of skis. 

The five days we were in camp at Mercy Bay we supposed that 
McClure's ship and depot had been near his monument and it sur- 
prised us to find no remains there beyond half an armful of broken 
barrel staves and the bent and rusted bottom of one small tin can. 
On July 20th, our observations and preparations finished, we started 
south, and discovered that the depot must have been about a mile 
south of the monument. Here was an oval pile of coal, perhaps 
six or eight tons. At first sight it looked very much like a mound 
of dark earth, heavily overgrown with grass. Lying about were 
hundreds and perhaps thousands of barrel staves, broken or whole. 
A few of these had been split but bore no other sign of having been 
worked up. Neither did we find any indication of Eskimo work 
on any other piece of hard wood. There were endless quantities of 
adze chips and knife shavings, but all were from soft wood, thus 
confirming the story I had picked up in Prince Albert Sound of the 
Eskimos using the soft wood and disregarding the hard. These 
Eskimos had told me also that when they last visited Mercy Bay 
there were left only two or three pieces of iron so heavy that they 
did not know how to utilize them. This also was confirmed by our 
finding only two pieces of iron, one an ice anchor and the other a 
grappling hook, both too heavy for working by any method known 
to the Eskimos. 

Of the tons of food carefully deposited by McClure and later 
thrown away by the Eskimos no sign remained except one brown 
heap, perhaps half a bushel. It was soft and had no odor, and I 
thought it might have been peas or flour, but Thomsen thought 
there was a slight resemblance to the odor of cheese from the in- 
terior of the heap. We found leather boots decayed until the leather 
broke like cardboard. But what interested me most was the degree 
of weathering of the oldest adze chips and shavings. This corre- 
sponded, it seemed to me, to the weathering of shavings found by 
us the previous year at the Eskimo campsites on the west coast 
of Banks Island, and meant that most of these campsites dated from 
the period just after the Investigator depot had been discovered, 
say 1855 to 1860. This confirmed the estimate previously made 
that few if any of the campsites we saw were over a hundred years 


old. This does not apply to the village site at Cape Kellett, which 
may easily be older by several centuries. All about the depot were 
scattered the campsites. Huge quantities of shavings showed the 
Eskimos' occupation while they were there and the bones of polar 
cattle indicated what they had lived on. 



FROM Mercy Bay we attempted to make a straight course for 
Kellett, but within seven or eight miles came to the river that 
enters the sea six miles west of the Bay and found it far too 
large for crossing. At first we did not realize the size of it, and de- 
scended into the valley and followed the winding course inland, ex- 
pecting every moment to come to a fording place. When we did come 
to gravel rapids where the river spreads out to two or three times its 
ordinary width we went down to it with confidence and were aston- 
ished to find that even here it was over six feet deep right close to the 
land. This showed the folly of following the bank of the river, which 
was difficult and caused delay, so we climbed out of the valley, trav- 
eling south a mile or two away from it, and attempting to save time 
by cutting across the bends. As usual, I walked a few miles ahead of 
the others, hunting. This now served the additional purpose of 
guiding the men, for by observing me on the sky line they coiild 
tell in advance where the bends of the river were and how to make 
short cuts. 

The second day out from Mercy Bay I killed three big bulls, 
which meant more than enough meat, but seal blubber had run 
out and we needed fat. With thirty or forty pounds of clear fat 
accumulated, cows or yearlings would now serve for a satisfactory 

It took us eight days and perhaps seventy-five miles of travel 
to get to a place where we could finally ford the river. Fortunately 
it led almost straight south and therefore not more than twenty or 
thirty degrees out of our road, and when it was just beginning to 
turn to the east we found a ford. The ford was about three feet 
deep with a width of eighty yards, and the current was so strong 
that it would have swept us away had we not carried heavy ballast 
on our shoulders. The unloaded dogs swam after us. We had to 
cross in three relays to get all our stuff over, and on the third cross- 
ing some of us were a little light. I think it was Storkerson who was 
nearly swept off his feet. When I felt myself in danger of floating 



off I turned back and picked up a stone weighing thirty or forty 
pounds and with this on my shoulder crossed safely. 

Soon we began to see moulting white geese and these increased 
in number as we proceeded south. When no nests were found we 
concluded that they were mostly or entirely males. Now and then 
a bird was visible that we had not seen farther north. The first 
golden plovers appeared July 27th and the same day blackheaded 
terns. The smaller gray tern we had seen July 15th at Mercy Bay. 
Although these were the first of either species we saw, we found 
later that both go up to Melville Island. 

On this overland journey Thomsen had to break himself of the 
salt habit and the tobacco habit. When we landed at Prince Pat- 
rick Island from the sea ice we had thrown away everything that 
we considered unnecessary — the primus stoves for which we no 
longer had kerosene, a few odds and ends and six pounds of salt. 
I do not know why we had taken so much in the first place, for 
Storkerson, Ole and I the previous year had found our meat tasted 
better after we quit using salt. Ole had been so convinced of this 
that during the winter he had used no salt at his trapping camp. 
I had reacquired the habit at the ship, for the cook seasoned the 
food in the ordinary way, and Storkerson had picked it up again 
at his own camp where his wife insisted on using salt. But we 
were ready to give it up and Thomsen was not, and as a special 
concession he had been allowed to bring along his own private salt 
can. He had now come to the bottom of it. 

It has usually been my custom, and will always be so hereafter, 
to require tobacco users to stop its use either before leaving the 
home camp or at the time of starting.* But on this trip I had 
allowed the carrying of tobacco. About the middle of the trip 
Storkerson voluntarily quit so as to give Thomsen enough to take 
him through. But Thomsen's use of it had been a little rapid and 
about the time we left Melville Island his real tobacco was gone. 
Thereafter he chewed pieces of cloth in which it had been carried, 
and when that was done, small pieces of his own pipe and later the 
pipes of Storkerson and Ole. We were not much beyond Mercy 
Bay when even these had given out, and I had the interesting 

* "I have always selected men for my parties who used neither tobacco nor 
spirits. . . . Tobacco is . . . objectionable in polar work. It affects the wind 
endurance of a man, particularly in low temperature, adds an extra and en- 
tirely unnecessary article to the outfit, vitiates the atmosphere of tent or 
igloo, and when the supply gives out, renders the user a nuisance to himself 
and to those about him." "Secrets of Polar Travel," by Robert E. Peary, 
New York, 1917, pp. 74-77. 


opportunity of watching a man who had to give up salt and tobacco 
at the same time. 

No Eskimo I ever saw was as fond of caribou marrow as Thom- 
sen was. When we killed the three fat bulls just after leav- 
ing Mercy Bay he ate so much that he was ill and his digestion was 
out of order for two or three days. At least this was my inter- 
pretation of it but he maintained that the trouble was the lack 
of salt. It took us twenty days to cross the island at an average 
rate of about ten miles per day, and towards the last Thomsen 
said that he no longer had much hankering for salt but still wanted 
tobacco badly. When we finally arrived at the base his first thought 
was to have a smoke, but he took no pains to add salt to his first 
meal cooked by Levi. When I asked him he replied that the food 
seemed a little too salty as it was. He had always used salt heav- 
ily, and under ordinary circumstances would have added a good 
deal of salt to dishes similarly seasoned. 

At other times I have had experience with men who have said 
that they found it harder to break the salt habit than the tobacco 
habit. In general the time of greatest hankering for salt is about 
two or three weeks after you have ceased to use it. If you con- 
tinue longing for it six or eight weeks after, you will find on trial 
that this longing has been artificial (or "psychological") in the 
sense that the taste of salt will not prove pleasant. I have known 
no one to welcome the taste of salt after being six months without 
it. When a white man has been a year without salt it becomes al- 
most as unpalatable to him as it is to the Eskimos or Indians who 
have never used it; with this difference, that the white man knows 
from experience he will come to like it again, but the native has 
the opinion that he never will. 

In dealing with Eskimos we have found that those who work 
on ships or who for any reason are compelled to eat salted food, 
acquire the salt habit about as quickly as they do the habit of 
tobacco smoking or that of eating some such strange food as bread. 
Sugar we found in Victoria Island to be peculiarly distasteful to the 
natives, and even children of no more than four or five objected 
violently to the taste of candy, sugar, sweet preserves, canned fruit 
and the like. Eskimo infants too young for formed tastes naturally 
take to sugar quite as readily as infant children among white people. 

As usual at this season we traveled at night. This had every 
advantage over day travel except that when we tried to get sextant 


observations, especially at noon, we frequently failed to do so 
through oversleeping. This emphasized the value of the alarm clock, 
an item of equipment that I have neglected to mention. There are 
few things we find more useful. We commonly camp at six or 
seven in the morning and take a time sight for longitude before 
going to sleep. We then set the alarm to ring at about 11:30, 
which gives ample time to dress, prepare the mercury artificial 
horizon, and get everything ready for the meridian transit. But 
now we had left our clock at Mercy Bay and unless we actually sat 
up to wait for the noon altitude we usually overslept and missed it. 

The Eskimo camps we saw on the journey were of the usual type, 
some of the tent rings of stone and others of sod, and the bones scat- 
tered about of cattle, geese and caribou, the last named being rare. 
Evidently cattle and moulting geese had been the main sources of 
food. Stone caches in which meat had been protected from wolves 
were more numerous than the campsites and in everything there 
was evidence of tremendous slaughter of ovibos. Sometimes we 
came to places where fifteen or twenty skeletons lay within the 
space of one or two hundred square yards with only such bones 
missing as wolves might be expected to devour or carry off. This 
showed that entire herds had been slaughtered without any appre- 
ciable percentage of the meat being used. The character of the 
wood shavings indicated that parts from the interior fittings of the 
Investigator had been carried all over the island before being made 
into implements. We saw no campsites that did not have some evi- 
dence that the campers had been at Mercy Bay. It is, however, 
possible that some campsites may have been used several times and 
that it was merely the last users who had Mercy Bay products 
with them. 

This was one of our delightful summer journeys. It was late 
enough in the season for most of the mosquitoes to be gone and it 
was only one or two evenings that they troubled us. We were too 
far east in Banks Island for the thick fogs that lie on the west coast 
whenever the wind blows off the western sea, although the clouds 
did come over and give us two or three rainy days. When the wind 
was from the east the temperature rose to about 80° in the shade 
some days. The caribou were fat and numerous, and although we 
continued to carry no more than two or three days' provisions 
we always found a fat bull before the dog packs were empty. The 
dogs carried most of the heavy things, the men part of the bedding, 
and towards the last the guns and field glasses only. Bedding is 
tolerably safe when the packs are heavily ballasted with meat or 


some such thing, in which case the bed skins can be tied in small 
bundles on top of the dogs' backs. 

One illustration will show a peculiar danger inherent in this 
travel. I had been hunting ahead and was approaching some cari- 
bou that were about a mile off our course. Both these caribou and 
I were in plain sight and the men should have seen us, but they 
did not see us and went right by. This exposed them to a danger 
from which I protected them ordinarily, that of coming over a 
hill crest without warning into close quarters with caribou. 
- That is just what they did. Storkerson knew we needed meat 
that evening and instead of looking after the dogs he commenced 
blazing away at the caribou. He had fired two excited shots, both 
without hitting, when one of the other men shouted to him to catch 
the dogs. It was too late then. Out of the thirteen dogs Thomsen 
and Ole were able to get hold of only four or five and the rest rushed 
in full pursuit of the caribou. It happened that the packs of some 
of them were heavily ballasted with stone, the meat ballast being 
gone, and the smaller dogs were unable to run very fast. Some of 
the bigger ones, however, even with their thirty or forty pounds, 
were soon out of sight a mile or more away, following the herd. 
They happened to run in my direction and I was able to head them 
off. Only one dog escaped me. 

This was the middle of the day and we should have been able to 
travel another four or five miles, but we had to camp and search for 
this dog. The greatest danger was that his pack might come off 
in such a way as to drag on the ground while still fast to his neck. 
Some dogs will bite themselves loose but this particular dog had 
never been known to do that, and I was afraid that if his pack came 
off he might be tethered by it until he starved to death. Luckily we 
found the pack, for he had been able to clear himself after he shed 
it. But it was hours afterwards when the dog himself came back. 

As I tell it, this does not sound like a dangerous adventure. But 
I have heard of many cases where the consequences were serious. 
I know an Alaska Eskimo who with his wife and family was hunting 
about six days' journey inland, when all of his dogs ran off with 
their packs after a herd of caribou. The packs had been so light 
and so well strapped that the dogs were able to run fast and far. 
The Eskimo camped for two days hoping for the dogs to come back. 
He then retreated to the coast, living on berries and roots all the 
way, for the dogs had carried off all his ammunition. He and his 
family barely escaped with their lives. The dogs were never heard 
of again and doubtless starved to death. 


There are dogs that know how to find their way home. But in 
the sense of a permanent dwelling place the Eskimo dog has no 
home, for the camp is always moving. It is rarely that a dog when 
once lost finds his way back. If he is recovered by the owner it is 
usually either through accident or because the dog finds another 
camp and is eventually returned by people who recognize him and 
are able to tell where he belongs. 

A good story to illustrate this point can be cited from the Mik- 
kelsen-LeflEingwell Expedition of which I was a member. When they 
were starting out for their ice journey they camped three or four 
miles west of the winter base, and during the night one of their dogs 
ran away. They thought he had run home. It is impossible to say 
what the dog's own idea was; possibly he went in pursuit of a polar 
bear. He appears to have gone right past his own home and past 
many Eskimo camps for he was picked up a week or so later on 
the verge of starvation at a camp forty or fifty miles to the east. 
The arrival of this dog under those particular circumstances gave 
rise to a rumor that the whole ice exploring party had perished and 
that the dog had come in off the ocean ice, the sole survivor. This 
is not an exceptional but a typical story of what happens to dogs 
in the North that for one reason or another get separated from their 
human companions. 

On this journey we had one more example of how easy it is to 
misjudge size when the thing judged is at an unknown distance. 
We had been seeing nothing but cows and other lean caribou for 
two or three days and were nearly out of food. If we saw no bull 
this day we would have to kill anything we could get. I had fallen 
behind a quarter of a mile instead of being about two miles ahead, 
and when the men came to the top of a hill I saw them drop down 
and start crawling towards me, the dogs following. This meant that 
they had come suddenly in sight of game on the other side. It must 
be a bull, otherwise they would not have taken such pains to con- 
ceal themselves. Sure enough, Storkerson and the others told me 
when I caught up that the biggest bull they had ever seen was right 
on the other side of the hill. When I went to the top of the hill the 
animal had probably moved off, for now it was about half a mile 
away. I looked at it through the glasses and saw it was a young 
calf. I had already told the men to make camp, so I went ahead 
and killed it. It was so small that one man could easily carry it on 
his shoulders. 

The only sure way of judging caribou is by some physical pe- 
culiarity other than size. The age and sex can be told by the color, 


by the shape of the horns and by the manner of carrying the head 
even when still. But the best way is to tell by a combination of 
these characters and especially the walking or running gait. An 
Eskimo or other experienced hunter can tell the sex and age, and 
by inference the size, of an animal as far as he can see it if it is 
moving. But by mere apparent size no one can tell a big animal 
from a small one when there is nothing by which to judge distance. 

August 7th, when we were thirty or forty miles northeast of the 
home base, I saw with the glasses a row of sod monuments of the 
kind used by Eskimos when driving caribou into an ambush. These 
might, of course, be old; but they looked very black and so we turned 
out of our course to investigate. Much to our surprise we came in 
sight of an inhabited Eskimo camp of the type so familiar to me 
from Coronation Gulf — stones set on edge for the drying of meat, 
and a small caribou skin tent with the hair side out. 

The family belonged to the Minto Inlet group. It was a man 
named Kullak, with his wife Neriyok, their daughter Titalik of 
about ten years (as we could tell by the fact that her face had just 
been tattooed) and the boy Herona, perhaps six years old. They 
told us that in the spring they had been encamped on the ice in 
Prince of Wales Straits when Wilkins, Crawford and Natkusiak 
passed that way, going towards Coronation Gulf. This gave wel- 
come news that Wilkins had made good progress that far and the 
reasonable assurance that he had reached our mainland base before 
the breakup of the ice. Wilkins had given them information as to 
the location of our Cape Kellett base, and three families had come 
over to visit us for trading purposes and to spend the summer living 
on moulting geese. 

They inquired eagerly whether we had seen any cattle and when 
we said that we had not, either this year or the year before, they 
gave it as their opinion that all of them had now moved away from 
Banks Island. That is always the way with the Eskimos and the 
northern Indians. They can never conceive of any animals being 
exterminated, and when none are any longer found in any district 
the explanation given is that they have moved away, usually be- 
cause some taboo has been broken which has given great offense to 
the animals and has induced them to abandon the locality. Kullak 
said that three or four years before when he had been on south- 
eastern Banks Island polar bear hunting, some cattle had come 
down to the coast and had been killed, and he had heard of other 
people killing them in that vicinity since. This spring, however, 












The Women Carry Anything Fragile Wrapped up in Clothing. 

Summer Travel with Pack Dogs. Copper Eskimos. 

A Summer Cache, Copper Eskimos 



A Summer Camp on the Prairie, Copper Eskimos. 


he had come through that very district without seeing any signs, 
\yhich had disappointed him greatly. 

The other two families of Kullak's party were a little farther 
north but they all intended to visit us at Kellett later in the year. 
They told me great stories of the wonders they had seen at Kellett 
and of the kindness and hospitality of our people, but they also 
marveled at their lack of intelligence in certain lines. They told as 
an extraordinary thing that our people used to go long distances 
from camp with guns to get a few geese. They had, they said, vol- 
unteered to show them how to get geese and had gone a short dis- 
tance and driven a flock of moulting geese down to the camp where 
they had been killed. Captain Bernard later told us that they had 
gone about five miles and driven about five hundred geese like a 
flock of sheep right down to the house. 

Kullak gave it as his opinion that our people had been living on 
very inferior food and had been almost starving until he and his 
party showed them how to get geese. Having found the party 
without meat he could not conceive that the other food which they 
were eating instead was anything but an emergency ration. His 
own people never eat roots or berries in any quantity unless they 
are starving and seldom even taste them, and his inference was, 
therefore, eminently natural. 

As we were about to leave Kullak's camp he came to me with a 
daintily made pair of white sealskin slippers which he wanted to 
give me. When I asked him the reason he said that his wife ex- 
pected the birth of a baby in a few days and he wanted me to see to 
it that she would have easy delivery and that the child should be 
a boy. 

This was one of the least pleasant incidents that ever befell me 
among the Eskimos. I saw every uncomfortable possibility. Kul- 
lak had not the slightest doubt that I could by magical means con- 
trol the birth both as to its safety and the sex of the child. If the 
childbirth turned out difficult or if the sex was other than male, 
there would be no explaining to him that anything but ill-will on my 
part was at the bottom of it. On the other hand, if I refused the 
present he would assume my ill-will from that moment and would 
equally blame me for whatever went wrong. Accordingly, I could 
do nothing but accept the slippers and promise that everything would 
be according to his desires. 

As soon as we were away I explained the situation to my com- 
panions who saw nothing serious in it. But when we got to Kellett 


where Storkerson and Thomsen had a chance t-o talk with their 
wives they began to see what was involved. Both Mrs. Storkerson 
and Mrs. Thomsen believed that Kullak would certainly look upon 
me as a murderer if either his wife or the child were to die and 
that he would undoubtedly be greatly displeased, though both were 
to live, if the sex turned out to be female. Mrs. Thomsen, who 
was the more old-fashioned of the two, was even herself of the opin- 
ion that I could control the sex of the child if I wanted to, and that 
I should have no excuse if I did not. 

Apart from the occasion of the slippers, the visit to this Eskimo 
family had relieved our minds. We now felt sure Wilkins had not 
been prevented by the early breakup of the ice from reaching the 
base of the southern section of the expedition. The Star might be 
expected at Kellett any daj'. We also knew that everything was 
going on well at the base camp. As the Eskimo report was that our 
people were short of meat except for the geese, I shot four caribou 
about twelve miles northeast of the base and asked the men to skin 
them and to bring home their dog packs loaded with meat, leaving 
all our other belongings at the deer kill. We would later send back 
from the camp to fetch them. 

Then I hurried on and arrived at the Kellett base camp on 
August 9th, one day ahead of the estimate we had made in Mel- 
ville Island. Levi was there alone. I give here my diary entry 
summarizing the information which he gave me on my arrival: 

"Monday, August 9: XEWS: All has gone well in general. 
Nine Eskimos were around for several days the latter part of July 
and gave us several hundred geese. Levi and Bernard together 
killed one caribou and Bernard two caribou and one bear. They 
had also secured numbers of hares, ducks and ptarmigan. They 
once set a fish net but a seal carried it off. A new sod house has 
been built one hundred yards west of the old one and there we 
intend to winter. They (Captain Bernard and Levi) had concluded 
(because of our being, in their estimation overdue) that if we were 
not dead we were on Prince Patrick Island unable to cross and might 
come home after the ice formed in the fall, but not before. Con- 
siderable driftwood has been found on the beach and piled up near 
Cape Kellett. Bernard has made a wagon and has gone with Mrs. 
Storkerson and Mrs. Thomsen to fetch our dor^- (from Storkerson's 
trapping camp thirty miles north). A considerable ethnological 
collection has been made by purchase from the Eskimos. All our 
provisions are in good order and there is enough, except of con- 
densed sled rations, for our real needs if no (whaling j ship comes. 


If one comes, I shall have to buy vegetables, milk, coffee and but- 
ter to keep the men in good humor." 

Nothing further of interest was noted during the next few days 
except that my party were mildly ill because of the change of 
diet. When you go off a mixed diet to a diet of meat alone, you 
never feel any worse