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G81 Greely - 


True ts ler of 
-Artrtrc heroitsin— in 

^he New -vorld. 



This book is DUE on the last 
date stamped below 

JAN 5 TO? 



JAN 3 193l> 
JAN 2 8 1937 

f JAN 2 6 193i^ 

• «*^ JUN lis 1961 



JAN 6 1987 





THE BOY SCODT and Other Stories for Boys 
STORIES FOR BOYS By Richard Harding Davis 

HANS BRINKER. or. The Silver Skates 

By Mary Mapes Dodge 


WORLD By Adolphus W. Greely 

THE COURT OF KING ARTHUR By William Henry Frost 




BOYS OF ST. TIMOTHY'S By Arthur Stanwood Pier 


BLACK ARROW By Robert Louis Stevenson 


By Jules Vern« 

IN THE WASP'S NEST By Cyrus Townsend Brady 



THE CONSCRIPT OF 1813 By Erckmann-Chatrian 




JACK HALL, or. The School Days of an American Boy 

By Robert Grant 





By Katharine Holland Brown 

SARAH CREWE, or. What Happened at Miss Minchin's 

By Frances Hodgson Burnett 


DR. Kane's men hauling their boat over rough ice. 

From a stetcli by Dr. Kane. 










CoPYttlCHT, I0I2, BY 


Printed in the United States of America 

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• 1 • ( 

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From the dawn of history great deeds and heroic 
actions have ever fed the flame of noble thought. 
Horace tells us that 

By Homer taught the modern poet sings 
In epic strains of heroes, wars and kings. 

The peace-aspiring twentieth century tends toward 

phases of heroism apart from either wars or kings, 

and so the heroic strains of the "True Tales" appear 

V in the unwarHke environment of uncommercial explo- 

X rations. 

One object of this volume is to recall in part the 

geographic evolution of North America and of its 

adjacent isles. The heroic-loving American youth is 

^ not always familiar with the deeds of daring, the de- 

3 votion to duty, and the self-abnegation which have 

<>, so often illumined the stirring annals of exploration 

in arctic America. 

Notable exemplars of heroic conduct have already 
been inscribed on the polar scroll of immortals, among 
whom are Franklin and McClintock, of England; Kane, 
of America; Rae, of Scotland; and Mylius-Erichsen, of 
Denmark. Less known to the world are the names 
Bronlund, Egerton and Rawson, Holm, Hegemann, 


vi Preface 

Jarvis and Bertholf, Kalutunah, Parr, Petitot, Pirn, 
Richardson, Ross, Schwatka and Gilder, Sonntag, 
Staffe, Tyson and Woon, whose deeds appear herein. 
As to the representative women. Lady Jane Franklin 
is faintly associated in men's minds with arctic hero- 
ism, while Merkut, the Inuit, has been only mentioned 
incidentally. Yet all these minor actors have dis- 
played similar qualities of courage and of self-sacrifice 
which are scarcely less striking than those shown in the 
lives of others who are recognized as arctic heroes. 

The ' True Tales" are neither figments of the fancy 
nor embellished exaggerations of ordinary occurrences. 
They are exact accounts of unusual episodes of arctic 
service, drawn from official relations and other abso- 
lutely accurate sources. Some of these heroic actions 
involve dramatic situations, which offer strong temp- 
tations for thrilling and picturesque enlargements. 
The writer has sedulously avoided such methods, pre- 
ferring to follow the course quaintly and delightfully 
set forth by the unsurpassed French essayist of the 
sixteenth century. 

Montaigne says: "For I make others to relate (not 
after mine own fantasy, but as it best falleth out) 
what I cannot so well express, either through unskill 
of language or want of judgment. I number not my 
borrowings, but I weigh them. And if I would have 
made their number to prevail I would have had twice 
as many. They are all, or almost all, of so famous 
and ancient names that methinks they sufficiently 
name themselves without me." 

Preface vii 

The "Tale" of Merkut, the daughter of Shung-hu, is 
the only entirely original sketch. The main incident 
therein has been drawn from an unpublished arctic 
journal that has been in the writer's possession for 
a quarter of a century. This character — a primitive 
woman, an unspoiled child of the stone age — is not 
alone of human interest but of special historic value. 
For her lovely heroic life indicates that the men and 
women of ages many thousands of years remote were 
very like in character and in nature to those of the 
present period. 

A. W. Greely. 

Washington, D. C, August, 1912. 



The Loyalty of Philip Staffe to Henry Hud- 
son I 

Franklin's Crossing of the Barren Grounds 13 

The Retreat of Ross from the Victory . . 37 

The Discovery of the Northwest Passage . 55 

The Timely Sledge Journey of Bedford Pim 71 

Kane's Rescue of His Freezing Shipmates . 91 

How WooN Won Promotion 105 

The ANGpKOK Kalutunah and the Starving 

Whites 119 

Dr. Rae and the Franklin Mystery . . . 137 

Sonntag's Fatal Sledge Journey 155 

The Heroic Devotion of Lady Jane Franklin 169 

The Marvellous Ice-Drift of Captain Tyson 187 

The Saving of Petersen 213 

Life on AN East Greenland Ice-Pack . . . 231 




Parr's Lonely March from the Great Frozen 

Sea 251 

Relief of American Whalers at Point Bar- 
row 269 

The Missionary's Arctic Trail 293 

Schwatka's Summer Search 311 

The Inuit Survivors of the Stone Age . . 329 

The Fidelity of Eskimo Bronlund .... 347 

The Wifely Heroism of Mertuk, the Daugh- 
ter of Shung-Hu 367 


Dr. Kane's Men Hauling Their Boat Over Rough 

Ice Frontispiece 

From a sketch by Dr. Kane. 


Henry Hudson's Last Voyage 4 

From the painting by the Hon. John Collier. 

**We Were Nearly Carried Off, Boat and All, 

Many Times during This Dreadful Night" 208 

From Tyson's Arctic Experiences. 

A Group of the Eskimo Inuits 334 



The Arctic Regions of the New World ... 2 

Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait 5 

Barren Grounds of Northwestern Canada . . 16 

Boothia Peninsula and North Somerset ... 41 

Franklin's Route on Northwest Passage ... 58 

Route of Pim's Sledge Journey 75 

Smith Sound and West Greenland 95 

Boothia and Melville Peninsulas 141 

King William Land 177 

Robeson Channel and Lady Franklin Bay . . 217 

Southeastern Greenland 235 

Great Frozen Sea and Robeson Channel . . . 255 

Northwestern Alaska 273 

Liverpool Bay Region 297 

Amdrup and Hazen Lands, Greenland . . . . 351 






















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"You, Philip Staffe, the only one who chose 
Freely to share with us the shallop's fate, 
Rather than travel in the hell-bound ship — 
Too good an English sailor to desert 
Your crippled comrades." 

— Van Dyke. 

ON the walls of the great Tate Galler}' in London 
are many famous pictures, but few draw more 
attention from the masses or excite a livelier 
human interest among the travelled than does "The 
Last Voj^age of Henry Hudson." While the artist 
dwells most on the courage of Henry Hudson, he re- 
calls the loyalty of Philip StafFe and thus unites high 
human qualities ever admired. 

Consider that in barely four years Hudson made 
search for both the northeast and northwest passages, 
laid the foundations for the settlement of New York, 
opened up Hudson Ba}', and in a north-polar voyage 
reached the then farthest north — a world record that 
was unsurpassed for nearly two centuries. Pew ex- 
plorers in career, in success, and in world influence have 
equalled Hudson, and among those few are Columbus, 
Magellan, Vasco da Gama, and Livingston. 

Thus Hudson's life was not merely an adventurous 
tale to be told, whether in the golden words of a great 

True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

chronicle or in magic colors through the brush of a 
great artist. It appeals to the imagination and so im- 
presses succeeding generations throughout the passing 

For such reasons the materialistic twentieth century 
acclaimed loudly the fame of this unknown man — 
mysterious in his humanity though great as a navigator. 
So in 1909 the deeds and Hfe of Henry Hudson were 
commemorated by the most wonderful celebration of 
the western hemisphere, whether judged by its two 
miUions of spectators, its unsurpassed electric displays 
with six hundred thousand Hghts, or its parade of 
great war-ships from eight admiring nations. 

Great were his deeds; but what was the manner of 
this man who won that greatest love from Philip StafFe, 
who in stress lay down life for his master? There was 
religious duty done, for Purchas tells that "Anno, 1607, 
April the nineteenth, at Saint Ethelburge, in Bishops- 
gate Street, did communicate these persons, seamen, 
purposing to go to sea in four days after, to discover a 
passage by the north pole to Japan and China. First, 
Henry Hudson, master. . . . Twelfthly, John Hudson, 
a boy." Hence we have faith that Hudson was sound 
and true. 

The "Last Voyage" was in the Discovery, fifty-five 
tons only, during which Hudson, in search of the north- 
west passage, explored and wintered in Hudson Bay. 
The journal of Abacuck Prickett, the fullest known, 
gives a human touch to the voyage. He tells of a bear, 
"which from one ice-floe to another came toward us, 

From the painting by the Hon. John Collier. 

The Loyalty of Philip Staff e 

till she was ready to come aboard the ship. But when 
she saw us look at her, she cast her head between her 



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Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait. 

hind legs, and then dived under the ice, and so from 
piece to piece, till she was out of our reach." 

Some strange-appearing Indian caches were found, of 
which he relates: "We saw some round hills of stone. 

True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

like to grass cocks, which at first I took to be the work 
of some Christian. We went unto them, turned off the 
uppermost stone, and found them hollow within, and 
full of fowls hanged by their necks." Later he adds: 
*'We were desirous to know how the savages killed 
their fowl, which was thus: They take a long pole with 
a snare or (noose) at the end, which they put about the 
fowl's neck, and so pluck them down. " 

Hudson unwisely decided to remain in the bay 
through the winter and put the Discovery into quarters 
in James Bay, an unfortunate though possibly inevita- 
ble anchorage. Knowing as v/e do the terrible cold of 
the winters in the Hudson Bay region, it is certain 
that the illy provided crew must have suffered exces- 
sively during the winter. Besides, the ship vv^as pro- 
visioned only for six months and must be absent 
nearly a year. Sensible of the situation, Hudson en- 
couraged systematic hunting and promised a reward 
for every one who "killed either beast, or fish, or fowl. " 
The surrounding forests and barren hills v/ere scoured 
for reindeer-moss or any other vegetable matter that 
could be eaten, while the activity of the hunters was 
such that in three winter months they obtained more 
than twelve hundred ptarmigan. Nevertheless, they 
were in straits for food despite efforts at sea and on 

They had sailed a few days only on their homeward 
voyage when the discontent and insubordination, en- 
gendered the preceding winter, had swollen into mutiny. 
Alleging that there had been unfairness in the distribu- 

The Loyalty of Philip Staffe 

tion of food, Henn^ Greene, a dissipated }'outh who 
owed his position to Hudson's kindness, incited his 
fellows to depose Hudson and cast him adrift. That 
this was a mere suspicion is clear from the cruel and 
inhuman treatment of their sick and helpless shipm.ates, 
who also suffered Hudson's fate. 

Prickett relates that Hudson was brought bound 
from his cabin, and "Then was the shallop hauled up 
to the ship's side, and the poor, sick, and lame men were 
called on to get them out of their cabins into the shal- 
lop." Two of the seamen, Lodlo and Bute, railed at 
the mutineers and were at once ordered into the boat. 

Philip Staffe, the former carpenter, now mate, took 
a decided stand against the mutineers, but they de- 
cided that he should remain on the ship owing to his 
value as a skilled workman. He heroically refused to 
share their lot, but would go with the master, saying, 
"As for himself, he would not stay in the ship unless 
they would force him." 

The private log of Prickett, though favoring always 
the mutineers with whom he returned to England, 
clearly shows that Philip Staffe was a man of parts al- 
though unable to either read or write. His high char- 
acter and unfailing loyalty appear from his decision. 
He was steadfast in encouraging those inclined to de- 
spair, and also discouraged grumbling discontent which 
was so prevalent in the ship. He was one of the men 
sent to select the location of winter quarters on the 
desolate shores of James Bay. Faithful to his sense of 
duty, he knew how and when to stand for his dignity 

8 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

and rights. He displayed spirit and resolution when 
Hudson, in untimely season and in an abusive manner, 
ordered him in a fit of anger to build a house under un- 
suitable conditions ashore. StafFe asserted his rights 
as a ship's carpenter, and declined to compromise him- 
self ashore. 

His quick eye and prompt acts mdicated his fitness 
for a ship's ofllicer. He first saw and gave warning, 
unheeded, of a ledge of rocks on which the Discovery 
grounded. Again in a crisis, by watchful care and quick 
actix)n, he saved the ship's cable by cutting it when the 
main anchor was lost. But in critical matters he stood 
fast by the choleric Hudson, who recognized his merit 
and fideHty by making him mate when obliged to make 
a change. This caused feeling, as Prickett records. 
" For that the master (Hudson) loved him and made him 
mate, whereat they (the crew) did grudge, because he 
could neither read nor write." 

Even in the last extremity StafFe kept his head, ex- 
erted his personal influence with the mutineers for the 
good of the eight men who were to be cast adrift with 
the master. Declining the proferred chance of per- 
sonal safety, he asked the mutineers to give means of 
prolonging hfe in the wild. He thus secured his tools, 
pikes, a pot, some meal, a musket with powder and shot. 
Then he quietly went down into the boat. Wilson, a 
mutineer, testified that "PhiHp Staff^e might have staid 
still in the ship, but he would voluntarily go into the 
shallop for love of the master (Hudson)." 

Rather than cast in his life with mutineers, thus in- 

The Loyalty of Philip Staffe 

suring present comfort with prolonged life, this plain, 
illiterate English sailor stood fast by his commander, 
and faced a lingering death while caring for his sick and 
helpless comrades in a desolate, far-off land. Death 
with unstained honor among his distressed shipmates 
was to Philip Staffe preferable to a life of shame and 
dishonor among the mutineers of the Discovery. Surely 
he belongs to those described by the Bishop of Exeter: 

"Men who trample self beneath them, 
Men who make their country wreathe them." 

The heroic lo3'"alty of Philip Staffe was fittingly em- 
balmed in quaint historic prose by the incomparable 
English chronicler of the principal voyages of famous 
navigators. Purchas, in "His Pilgrimage," relates: "But 
see what sincerity can do in the most desperate trials. 
One Philip Staffe, an Ipswich man, who, according to 
his name, had been a principal staff and stay to the 
weaker and more enfeebled courages of his companions 
in the whole action, lightening and unlightening their 
drooping darkened spirits, with sparks from his own 
resolution; their best purveyor, with his piece on shore, 
and both a skilful carpenter and lusty mariner on board; 
when he could by no persuasions, seasoned with tears, 
divert them from their devilish designs, notwithstand- 
ing they entreated him to stay with them, yet chose 
rather to commit himself to God's mercy in the forlorn 
shallop than with such villains to accept of likelier 
hopes. " 

The mutineers, having deposed and marooned the 

10 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

great navigator Hudson, looked forward to a home- 
ward voyage of plenty and of comfort. But under the 
rash and untrained directions of Henry Greene, William 
Wilson, and Robert Juet, the wretched, luckless seamen 
were in turn harried by hostile savages and distressed 
by deadly famine. 

Prickett relates that a party landed near Cape Diggs, 
at the mouth of Hudson Strait, to barter with the 
natives for provisions, and adds: "I cast up my head, 
and saw a savage with a knife in his hands, who stroke 
at my breast over my head: I cast up my right arm to 
save my breast, he wounded my arm and stroke me in 
the body under the right pap. He stroke a second 
blow, which I met with my left hand, and then he 
stroke me in the right thigh, and had like to cut oflp my 
little finger of the left hand. I sought for somewhat 
wherewith to strike him (not remembering my dagger 
at my side), but looking down I saw it, and therewith 
stroke him into the body and the throat. 

"Whiles I was thus assaulted in the boat, our men 
were set upon on the shore. John Thomas and Will- 
iam Wilson had their bowels cut, and Michael Perse 
and Henry Greene, being mortally wounded, came tum- 
bling into the boat together. . . . 

"The savages betook them to their bows and arrows, 
v/hich they sent amongst us, wherewith Henry Greene 
was slain outright, and Michael Perse received many 
wounds, and so did the rest. In turning the boat I re- 
ceived a cruel wound in my back with an arrow. But 
there died there that day William Wilson, swearing 

The Loyalty of Philip Staffe ii 

and cursing in most fearful manner. Michael Perse 
lived two days and then died." 

Of their final sufferings Prickett records: "Towards 
Ireland we now stood, with prosperous winds for many 
days together. Then was all our meal spent, and our 
fowl [birds from Hudson Bay] restie [rusty?] and dry; 
but, being no remed}-, v/e were content with salt broth 
for dinner and the half-fowl for supper. Now went our 
candles to wrack, and Bennet, our cook, made a mess of 
meat of the bones of the fowl, frying them with candle 
grease. Our vinegar was shared, and to every man a 
pound of candles delivered for a week, as a great 
dainty. . . . 

"Our men became so faint that they could not stand 
at the helm, but were fain to sit. Then Robert Juet 
died for mere want, and all our men were in despair, 
. . . and our last fowl were in the steep tub. . . . 
Now in this extremity it pleased God to give us sight 
of land." 

As to Hudson, with loyal Staffe and their sick com- 
rades, the record runs: "They stood out of the ice, the 
shallop being fast to the stern, and so they cut her head 
fast. . . . We saw not the shallop, or ever after." Thus 
perished Henry Hudson, the man who laid the founda- 
tions of the metropolis of the western hemisphere, who 
indirectly enriched the world by hundreds of millions 
of dollars by giving to it the fisheries of Spitzbergen 
and the fur trade of Hudson Bay. To the day of his 
death he followed the noble rule of life set forth in his 
own words: "To achieve what they have undertaken. 

12 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

or else to give reason wherefore it will not be. " In 
geography and in navigation, in history and in romance, 
his name and his deeds stand forever recorded. 

In the Homeric centuries Hudson might well have 
been deified, and even in this age he has become in a 
manner mythological among the sea-rovers as graphi- 
cally depicted by Kipling: 

"And North amid the hummocks, 

A biscuit-toss below, 
We met the fearful shallop 

That frighted whalers know: 
For down a cruel ice-lane, 

That opened as he sped, 
We saw dead Henry Hudson 

Steer North by West his dead.** 





"One who never turned his back, 
But marched breast forward, 
Never doubted clouds would break." 

— Browning. 

TRANGE as it may now seem, a century since the 
entire northern coasts of North America were 
wholly unknown, save at two isolated and widely 
separated points — the mouth of the Coppermine and 
the delta of the Mackenzie. The mouth of the Copper- 
mine was a seriousl}' doubted geographical point, as 
Hearne's discovery thereof in 1771 was made without 
astronomical observations; though he did reach the 
sea we now know that he placed the mouth of the 
Coppermine nearly two hundred and fifty miles too 
far to the north. Mackenzie's journey to the delta of 
the great river that bears his name was accepted as 

In the renewed efforts of Great Britain to discover 
the northwest passage and outline the continental 
coasts of North America, it was deemed important to 
supplement the efforts being made by Parry at sea 
with a land expedition. For this purpose it selected 
neither a civilian nor a soldier, but a sailor known to 
the world in history' as a famous arctic explorer — Sir 


True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

John Franklin — who was to attain enduring fame at 
the price of his life. 

Franklin had served as signal officer with Nelson at 
Trafalgar, was wounded while engaged under Packen- 
ham at the battle of New Orleans, and had commanded 
an arctic ship under Buchan in the Spitzbergen seas. 


Barren Grounds of Northwestern Canada. 

The vicissitudes of Franklin and his companions while 
on exploring duty in Canada, especially while crossing 
the barren grounds, are told in this tale. 

A dangerous voyage by ship through Hudson Straits 
brought Franklin and his companions, Dr. Richardson, 
Midshipmen Hood and Back, and Seaman Hepburn to 
York Factory, Hudson Bay, at the end of August, 1819. 

Franklin on the Barren Grounds 17 

Contrary to the advice of the local agents, he started 
northward, and after a hazardous journey in the open- 
ing winter — involving a trip of seven hundred miles 
of marches, canoeing, and portages — reached Cumber- 
land House. 

With unreasonable ambition this indomitable man 
of iron pushed northward in mid-winter with Back and 
Hepburn, on a journey to Fort Chipewyan, Athabasca 
Lake, of eight hundred and fifty-seven miles, during 
which the whole party barely failed of destruction. 
While dogs hauled the food and camp gear, the men 
travelling on snow-shoes were pushed to keep up with 
the dogs. Being mangeurs de lard (novices or tender- 
feet), they suffered intolerable pain in their swollen 
feet, besides suffering horribly from the blizzards and 
extreme cold, the temperature at times falling to ninety 
degrees below the freezing-point. 

The sledges were of the Hudson Bay pattern, differ- 
ing from those used elsewhere. They are made of two 
or three boards, the front curving upward, fastened 
by transverse cleats above. They are so thin that a 
heavily laden sledge undulates with the irregularities 
of the snow. Less than two feet wide as a rule, they 
are about nine feet long, and have around the edges a 
lacing by which the load is secured. 

By a journey of fifteen hundred and twenty miles 
Franklin verified Hearne's discovery of the Coppermine, 
though finding its latitude and longitude very far out, 
and later he built and wintered at Fort Enterprise. 
It is interesting to note that the only complaint that 

1 8 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

he makes of his summer journey were the insect pescs 
— the bull-dog fly that carries off a bit of flesh at each 
attack, the irritating sand-fly, and the mosquito. Of 
the latter he says: "They swarmed under our blankets, 
goring us with their envenomed trunks and steeping 
our clothes in blood. The wound is infinitely painful, 
and when multiplied an hundred-fold for many succes- 
sive days becomes an evil of such magnitude that cold, 
famine, and every other concomitant of an inhospitable 
climate mxust yield pre-eminence to it. The mosquito, 
irritating to madness, drives the buffalo to the plains 
and the reindeer to the sea-shore. " 

In the summer of 1821 Frankhn descended the 
Coppermine River, and in a canoe voyage of five 
hundred and fifty miles to the eastward discovered 
the waters and bordering lands of Bathurst Inlet, 
Coronation Gulf, and as far as Dease Inlet. The very 
day that he was forced by failing food to turn back. 
Captain Parry, R.N., in the Fury, sailed out of Re- 
pulse Bay five hundred and forty miles to the east. 

With the utmost reluctance Franklin saw the neces- 
sity for a speedy return. It was now the 22d of August, 
the nights were fast lengthening, the deer were already 
migrating, and the air was full of honking wild geese 
flying in long lines to the south. Both canoes were 
badl}'- damaged, one having fifteen timbers broken. 
The other was so racked and warped that repairs were 
impracticable, the birch bark being in danger of sepa- 
rating from the gunwales at any severe shock. 

One man had frozen his thighs, and the others, 

Franklin on the Barren Grounds 19 

shaken in mind and worn in body, unaccustomed to 
the sea, were in such a demoralized state that two of 
them threw away deer meat, sadly needed, to lighten 
the boats. Sudden cold set in with snow, a fierce bliz- 
zard blew up a high sea, and the inland pools froze 
over. Return by sea was clearly impossible, and the 
only chance of saving their lives was to ascend Hood 
River and reach Fort Enterprise by a land journey 
across the barren grounds, so dreaded and avoided by 
the Indians and the Eskimos. 

With the subsiding gale they put to sea along the 
coast, and in three days entered Hood River, though 
at times with utmost difficulty escaping foundering, as 
sa3's Franklin: "The waves were so high that the mast- 
head of our canoe was often hid from the other, though 
it was sailing within hail." 

Once landed on the river bank, the mercurial voya- 
geurs, unmindful of the difficult and dangerous march 
before them, were in most joyful mood. They spent 
a gay evening before a large camp-fire, bursting into 
song, reciting the novel perils of the sea now past, and 
exaggerating with quaint humor every little incident. 

With the vigor of famishing men they scoured the 
country for game, and nets were skilfully set under cas- 
cade falls, which yielded the first morning a dozen trout 
and white-fish. On these they made a delicious meal, 
seasoned by abundant berries, for in this country there 
remain on the bushes throughout the winter cranber- 
ries and red whortleberries. 

The voyageurs were quite worn out poling their boats 

True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

up the rapids of Hood River. At times it was even need- 
ful to take out the loads and, wading knee-deep in the 
ice-cold waters, drag the boats across the many shoals. 
One day Franklin was dismayed, though the men were 
quite indifferent, at coming to impassable rapids. They 
proved to be the lower section of a series of wonder- 
ful cascades which could be passed neither by trav- 
ersing nor by portage. For the distance of a mile the 
river was enclosed by solid, perpendicular walls of sand- 
stone, shutting the stream into a canyon that was in 
places only a few yards wide. In this single mile the 
stream fell two hundred and fifty feet, forming two high 
falls and a number of successive rapids. A survey of 
the upper river proved its unnavigability even had 
a portage been possible. The crossing of the barren 
grounds was thus lengthened far beyond Franklin's 

Franklin, meantime, determining by astronomical ob- 
servations the location of his camp on Hood River, in- 
formed the men that they were only one hundred and 
fift}^ miles from Point Lake, which was opposite Fort 
Enterprise, their starting-point the previous spring. 
The voyageurs received this news with great joy, think- 
ing it to be a short journey, as they had had no experi- 
ence with the barren region. Franklin was not so cheer- 
ful, as accounts of the desolation from various sources 
had made him alive to the certain hardships and possi- 
ble dangers of the march. He decided to omit no pre- 
caution that would relieve or obviate the hardships. 

Besides the five Englishmen, there were fifteen voya- 

Franklin on the Barren Grounds 21 

geurs, of whom two were Eskimo hunters, two inter- 
preters, an Itahan, an Iroquois Indian, and nine Cana- 
dian half-breeds. All were men inured to hard service 
and familiar with frontier hfe. 

The large boats were taken apart, and from this 
material were built two small portable canoes which 
were fit to carry three men across any stream that 
might be discovered in this trackless and unexplored 
desert. Such books, clothing, supplies, and equipment 
as were not absolutely necessary for the journey were 
cached so as to reduce the loads to be carried in the 
men's packs. The tanned skins that had been brought 
along for the purpose of replacin;^ worn-out moccasins 
were equally divided, and strong extra foot-gear was 
made up with great care. Each one was given two pairs 
of flannel socks and other warm clothing, for freezing 
weather had come to stay. One tent was taken for 
the men and another for the officers. 

On the last day of August the party started in Indian 
file, each man carrying ninet}'- pounds, and the officers 
according to their strength. The luggage consisted 
of their little stock of pemmican, tents, ammunition, 
fishing-nets, hatchets, instruments, extra clothing, 
sleeping and cooking gear. Each officer had a gun, his 
field journals, instruments, etc., and two men were 
told off daily to carry the cumbersome and hated 
canoe. They were so heavily laden that they made only 
a mile an hour, including frequent rests. The voya- 
geurs complained from the first at taking two canoes, 
and were but half convinced when the raging Hood 

22 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

River was speedily crossed by lashing the two canoes 

Their important vegetable food, berries, failed a few 
miles from the river, and as very little game was seen 
the}'^ were obliged to eat the last of their pemmican on 
September 4. As a bhzzard sprang up the next morn- 
ing, the party was storm-bound for two days — passed 
without food or fire, their usual fuel, moss, failing, as it 
was covered with snow and ice. The temperature fell 
to twenty degrees and the wet tents and damp blankets 
were frozen in solid masses. On breaking camp Frank- 
lin fainted from exhaustion, cold, and hunger. Dr. 
Richardson revived him, against his protest, with a bit 
of portable soup which, with a little arrow-root for sick- 
ness, was the only remaining food. 

The snow was now a foot deep and travel lay across 
swamps where the new, thin ice constantly broke, 
plunging the wretched men up to their knees in ice- 
cold water. To add to their misfortunes, Benoit, to 
Franklin's distress, fell and broke the larger of the 
canoes into pieces; worst of all, he was suspected of 
doing so maliciously, having threatened to destroy the 
canoe whenever it should be his turn to carry it. Frank- 
lin chose to ignore this mutinous conduct and resource- 
fully utilized the accident. Halting the march and 
causing a fire to be made of the birch bark and the tim- 
bers, he ordered the men to cook and distribute the 
last of the portable soup and the arrow-root. Though 
a scanty meal, it cheered them all up, being the first 
food after three days of fasting. 

Franklin on the Barren Grounds 23 

After a march of two days along the river bank, they 
struck across the barren grounds, taking a direct com- 
pass course for Point Lake. The country was already 
covered with snow and high winds also impeded their 
progress. In many places the ground was found to 
have on its surface numberless small, rolling stones, 
which often caused the heavily burdened voyageurs to 
stumble and fall, so that much damage was done to 
loads, especially to the frail canoe. As the only foot- 
gear consisted of moccasins made of soft, pliant moose- 
skin, the men soon suffered great pain from frequent 
stone-bruises, which delayed the march as the cripples 
could only limp along. 

The barren grounds soon justified their name, for, 
though an occasional animal was seen and killed, the 
men more often went hungry. The deep snow and the 
level country obliged Franklin to adopt special methods 
to avoid wandering from the direct compass route, and 
the party travelled in single file, Indian fashion. The 
voyageurs took turns breaking the path through the 
snow, and to this leader was indicated a distant object 
toward which he travelled as directly as possible. Mid- 
shipman Hood followed far enough in the rear to be 
able to correct the course of the trail-breaker, to whom 
were pointed out from time to time new objects. This 
method of travel was followed during the whole journej^ 
meeting with great success. 

In time they reached a hill}^ region, most barren to 
the eye but where most fortunatel}^ were found on the 
large rocks edible lichens of the genus gyrophora, v/hich 

24 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

were locally known to the voyageurs as tripe de roche 
(rock-tripe). Ten partridges had been shot during 
the day's march, half a bird to a man, and with the 
abundant lichens a palatable mess was made over a fire 
of bits of the arctic willow dug up from beneath the 
snow. Franklin that night, which was unusually cold, 
adopted the plan, now common among arctic sledge- 
men, of sleeping with his wet socks and moccasins un- 
der him, thus by the heat of the body drying them in 
part, and above all preventing them from freezing hard. 

Coming to a rapid-flowing river, they were obliged 
to follow it up to find a possible crossing. They were 
fortunate to find a grove of small willows, which en- 
abled them to make a fire and thus apply gum to the 
very much damaged canoe. Though the operation was 
a very ticklish one, three of the voyageurs under Saint 
Germain, the interpreter, managed the canoe with such 
dexterity as to ferry over one passenger at a time, caus- 
ing him to lie flat in the canoe, a most uncomfortable 
situation owing to the cold water that steadily seeped 
into the boat. 

Starvation meals on an occasional grouse, with the 
usual tripe de roche, caused great rejoicing when, after 
long stalking, the hunters killed a musk-cow. The 
ravenous condition of the voyageurs was evident from 
Franklin's statement that "the contents of its stomach 
were devoured on the spot and the raw intestines, which 
were next attacked, were pronounced by the most del- 
icate of us to be excellent. This was the sixth day 
since we had had a good meal; the tripe de roche, even 

Franklin on the Barren Grounds 

when we got enough, only served to allay hunger a 
short time." 

Suffering continual privations from hunger, they 
reached Rum Lake, where the supper for twenty men 
was a single partridge with some excellent berries. 
There was still trips de roche to be had, but "this un- 
palatable weed was now quite nauseous to the whole 
party, and in several cases it produced bowel com- 
plaints. " 

Franklin considered that the safety of the men could 
now be insured through the lake fishing, as most of the 
voyageurs were experts with the net from having long 
lived at points where they depended on fish for their 
food. His consternation almost gave way to despair 
when he discovered the fatal improvidence of the voya- 
geurs, who, to lessen their burdens by a few pounds, had 
thrown away the fishing-nets and burned the floats. 
"They knew [says Franklin] we had brought them to 
procure subsistence for the party, when the animals 
should fail, and we could scarcely believe the fact of 
their having deprived themselves of this resource," 
which eventually caused the death of the majority of 
the party. 

Franklin at once lightened the loads of his sadly 
weakened men by abandoning everything save astro- 
nomical instruments, without which he could not de- 
termine correctly their route. Under these disheart- 
ening circumstances, the captain's heart was cheered 
beyond measure by an act of heroic generosity on the 
part of one of his starving men. As the}' were start- 

26 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

ing on the march Perrault came forward and gave to 
€ach officer a bit of meat that he had saved from his 
own allowance. Franklin says: **It was received with 
great thankfulness, and such an act of self-denial and 
kindness, being entirely unexpected in a Canadian 
voyageur, filled our eyes with tears. " 

A short time after, Credit, one of the hunters, came 
in with the grateful news that he had killed a deer. 

The same day there was a striking display of cour- 
age, skill, and endurance on the part of one of the 
men indicative of the mettle of these uncultured voy- 
ageurs. In crossing a river the first boat-load con- 
sisted of Saint Germain, Solomon Belanger, and Frank- 
lin. Driven by a strong current to the edge of a danger- 
ous rapid, Beranger lost his balance and upset the canoe 
in the rapid. All held fast to the frail craft and were 
carried to a point where they touched a rock and gained 
their footing, although up to their waists in the stream. 
Emptying the canoe of water, Belanger held the boat 
steady whilst Saint Germain placed Franklin in it and 
embarked himself in a dexterous manner. As it was 
impossible to get Belanger in the boat, they started 
down the river and after another submersion reached 
the opposite shore. 

Belanger's position was one of extreme danger and 
his sufferings were extreme. He v/as immersed to his 
waist in water near the freezing-point, and, worse yet, 
his upper body, clothed with wet garments, was exposed 
to a high wind of a temperature not much above zero. 
Two voyageurs tried vainly in turn to reach him with 

Franklin on the Barren Grounds 27 

the canoe, but the current was too strong. A quick- 
witted voyageur caused the shngs to be stripped from 
the men's packs and sent out the hne toward Belanger, 
but just as he was about to catch it the hne broke and 
the shngs were carried away. Fortunately there was 
at hand a small, strong cord attached to a fishing-net. 
When Belanger's strength was about gone the canoe 
reached him with this cord and he was dragged quite 
senseless to the shore. Dr. Richardson had him 
stripped instantly, wrapped him up in dry blankets, 
and two men taking off their clothes aided by their 
bodil}^ heat in bringing the sufferer to consciousness 
an hour or so later. 

Meantime the distracted Frankhn was watching this 
desperate struggle from the farther bank, where with 
drenched and freezing clothes he was without musket, 
blankets, hatchet, or any means of making a fire. If 
this betossed canoe was lost the intrepid commander 
and all the men would have perished. It is to be noted, 
as characteristic of the man, that in his journal Franklin 
makes no mention of his sufferings, but dwells on his 
anxiety for the safetv of Belanger, while deploring also 
the loss of his field journal and the scientific records. 

The loss of all their pack-slings in rescuing Belanger 
somewhat delayed their march, but with the skill and 
resourcefulness gained by life in the wilds, the voya- 
geurs made quite serviceable substitute slings from 
their clothing and sleeping-gear. 

Conditions grew harder from day to day, and soon 
the only endurable situation was on the march, for 

28 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

then they were at least warm. The usual joy of the 
trapper's life was gone — the evening camp with its 
hours of quiet rest, its blazing fire, the full pipe, the 
good meal, and the tales of personal prowess or advent- 
ure. Now, with either no supper or a scanty bit of 
food, the camp was a place of gloom and discomfort. 
Of the routine Franklin writes: "The first operation 
after camping was to thaw out our frozen shoes, if a 
fire could be made, and put on dry ones. Each wrote 
his daily notes and evening prayers were read. Supper 
if any was eaten generally in the dark. Then to bed, 
where a cheerful conversation was kept up until our 
blankets were thawed by the heat of our bodies and we 
were warm enough to go to sleep. Many nights there 
was not enough fire to dry our shoes; we durst not 
venture to pull them off lest they should freeze so 
hard as to be unfit to put on in the morning." 

Game so utterly failed that the hunters rarely brought 
in anything but a partridge. Often they were days 
without food, and at times, faint and exhausted, the 
men could scarcely stagger through the deep snow. 
Midshipman Hood became so weak that Dr. Richard- 
son had to replace him as the second man in the march- 
ing file, who kept the path-breaking leader straight on 
the compass course. The voyageurs were in such a 
state of frenzy that they would have thrown away 
their packs and deserted Franklin, but they were unable 
to decide on a course that would insure their safe 
arrival at Fort Enterprise. 

Now and then there were gleams of encouragement — * 

Franklin on the Barren Grounds 29 

a deer or a few ptarmigan; and once they thought they 
had a treasure-trove in a large plot of iceland moss. 
Though nutritious when boiled, it was so acrid and 
bitter that only a few could eat more than a mouthful 
or two. 

After six days of cloudy weather, Franklin got the 
sun and found by observation that he was six miles 
south of the place where he was to strike Point Lake, 
the error being due to their ignorance of the local de- 
viation of the compass by which they had laid out their 
route. When the course was changed the suspicious 
voyageurs thought that they were lost, and gave little 
credit to Franklin's assurances that they were within 
sixty miles of Fort Enterprise. Dr. Richardson was 
now so weak that he had to abandon his beloved plants 
and precious mineral specimens. 

Their misfortunes culminated when the remaining 
canoe was badly broken, and the men, despite entreaties 
and commands, refused to carry it farther. Franklin 
says: "My anguish was beyond my power to describe 
it. The men seemed to have lost all hope, and all 
arguments failed to stimulate them to the least exer- 

When Lieutenant Back and the Eskimo hunters 
started ahead to search for game, the Canadians burst 
into a rage, alleged an intended desertion, threw down 
their packs, and announced that it was now to be every 
one for himself. Partly by entreaties and partly by 
threats, for the officers were all armed (and in view of 
the fact that Franklin sent the fleetest runner of the 

30 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

party to recall the hunters), the voyageurs finally con- 
sented to hold together as a party. 

Death by starvation appeared inevitable, but with 
his commanding presence and heroic courage the cap- 
tain was able to instil into the men some of his own 
spirit of hope and effort. As they were now on the 
summer pasturage grounds of large game, they were 
fortunate enough to find here and there scattered horns 
and bones of reindeer — refuse abandoned even by the 
wolves. These were eagerly gathered up, and after 
being made friable by fire were ravenously devoured 
to prolong life, as were scraps of leather and the rem- 
nants of their worn-out moose-skin moccasins. 

September 26 brought them, in the last stages of 
life, to the banks of the Coppermine, within forty miles 
of their destination. The misguided voyageurs then 
declared themselves safe, as for once they were warm 
and full of food, for the hunters had killed five deer and 
they came across a willow grove which gave them a 
glorious camp-fire. But the seeds of disloyalty and 
selfishness now blossomed into demoralization. After 
gorging on their own meat two of the voyageurs stole 
part of the meat set aside for the officers. 

The question of crossing the Coppermine, a broad 
stream full of rapids, was now one of life or death. 
With remorse nearly bordering on desperation, the 
Canadians now saw that the despised and abandoned 
canoe was their real ark of safety. Following the banks 
for miles, no ford could be found despite the closest 
search. Franklin fixed on two plans for crossing. 

Franklin on the Barren Grounds 31 

either by a raft of willows, which grew in quantities 
near by, or by a canvas boat to be made by stretching 
over a willow framework parts of tents still in hand. 
The voyageurs arrogantly scouted both expedients, but 
after wasting three precious days wrangling they built 
a willow raft. When done its buoyancy was so slight 
that only one man could be supported by it. It was 
thought, however, that a crossing could be made by 
getting a line across the river by which the raft could 
be pulled to and fro. As an incitement to exertion, 
Franklin offered to the voyageur who should take a 
line across the sum of three hundred livres (sixty dol- 
lars), a large amount for any of these men. Two of the 
strongest men failed in their efforts to work the raft 
across, the stream being rapid and one hundred and 
thirty yards across. The single paddle, brought by 
Richardson all these weary miles from the sea-shore, 
was too feeble, and two tent-poles lashed together were 
not long enough to reach bottom a short distance from 
the shore. Repeated failures demoralized the voya- 
geurs, who cried out with common accord that they 
were lost. 

Dr. Richardson now felt that the time had come to 
venture his life for the safety of the party, and so 
offered to swim across the Coppermine with a line by 
which the raft could be hauled over. As he stripped 
his gaunt frame looked rather like a skeleton than 
a living man. At the sight the Canadians all cried 
out at once, **Ah! que nous sommes maigres!" ("Oh! 
how thin we are!"). As the doctor was entering the 

32 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

river he stepped on a dagger which had been carelessly 
left on the ground. It cut him to the bone, but he did 
not draw back for a second. Pain was nothing to the 
lives of his comrades. 

With the hne fastened around his waist, he plunged 
into the stream. Before he reached the middle of the 
river his arms were so benumbed by the cold water, 
which was only six degrees above the freezing-point, 
that he could no longer use them in swimming. Some 
of the men cried out that he was gone, but the doctor 
was not at the end of his resources, and turning on his 
back he swam on in that way. His comrades watched 
him with renewed anxiety. Could he succeed or must 
he fail? Were they to be saved or not.? The swim- 
mer's progress became slower and slower, but still he 
moved on. When almost within reaching distance of 
the other bank his legs failed also, and to the intense 
alarm of the Canadians he sank. The voyageurs in- 
stantly hauled on the line, which brought him to the 
surface, and he was drawn to the shore in an uncon- 
scious and almost lifeless condition. He was rubbed 
dry, his limbs chafed, and, still unconscious, was rolled 
up in blankets and placed before a very hot fire. In 
their zeal the men nearly caused the death of the doc- 
tor, for he was put so near the fire that the intense heat 
scorched his left side so badly that it remained deprived 
of most sensation for several months. Fortunately he 
regained consciousness in time to give some slight 
directions about his proper treatment. 

Apart from the failure of Richardson to cross the 

Franklin on the Barren Grounds 33 

river, the spirits of the party were more cast clown by 
the loss of Junius, the best hunter of the party. Taking 
the field as usual, the Eskimo failed to return, and no 
traces could be found of him. 

As a final resort they adopted a plan first advanced 
by Franklin, and the ingenious interpreter, Saint Ger- 
main, offered to make a canvas boat by stretching 
across a willow framework the painted, water-proof 
canvas in which the bedding was wrapped. Mean- 
while the general body of the voyageurs was in such 
depths of indifference that they even preferred to go 
without food rather than to make the least exertion, 
and they refused to pick the tripe de roche on which the 
party now existed. Franklin records that "the sense 
of hunger was no longer felt by any of us, yet we were 
scarcely able to converse on any other subject than the 
pleasures of eating. " 

Finally the canoe was finished on October 4, and, 
proving water-tight, the whole party was ferried safely 
across, one at a time. The week lost by ignoring 
Franklin's orders proved the destruction of the party 
as a whole. 

This was not the view of the voyageurs, who were 
now as joyful that they were within forty miles of the 
station as they had been downcast the day before 
crossing, when one of them stole a partridge given 
Hood, whose stomach refused the lichens. Of this 
mercurial change Franklin says: "Their spirits im- 
mediately revived, each shook the officers by the 
hand, declared the worst of their difficulties over, 

34 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

and did not doubt reaching Fort Enterprise in a 
few da)^s." 

Franklin at once sent Back with three men ahead for 
assistance from Fort Enterprise, as previous arrange- 
ments had been made with a Hudson Bay agent to 
supply the station with provisions and to have Indians 
there as hunters. 

The rear guard following slowly found no food save 
lichens, and so began to eat their shoes and bits of their 
bedding robes. On the third march two voyageurs fell 
exhausted on the trail, and despite the encouraging 
efforts of their comrades thus perished. To give aid to 
the failing men, to relieve the packs from the weight of 
the tent, and to enable Franklin to go ahead unencum- 
bered by the weakest. Dr. Richardson asked that he be 
left with Hood and Hepburn at such place as fuel and 
tripe de roche were plentiful, which was done, relief to 
be sent to them from the station as soon as possible. 
Of this Franklin says: "Distressed beyond descrip- 
tion at leaving them in such a dangerous situation, I 
long combated their proposal, and reluctantly acceded 
when they strenuously urged that this step afforded 
the only chance of safety for the party. After we had 
united in thanksgiving and prayers to Almight}" God, I 
separated from my companions deeply afflicted. Dr. 
Richardson was influenced in his resolution to remain 
by the desire which influenced his character of devoting 
himself to the succor of the weak and Hepburn by the 
zealous attachment toward his officers." 

The nine other voyageurs given their choice went for- 

Franklin on the Barren Grounds 35 

ward with Frankhn, but Michel Teroahaute, the Iro- 
quois Indian, and two Canadians returned next day to 
Richardson's camp. 

On his arrival at Fort Enterprise on October 14, 
Franklin for the first time lost heart, the station being 
unprovisioned and desolate. A note from the indefat- 
igable Back told that he was seeking aid from roving 
Indians or at the nearest Hudson Bay post. 

Franklin says: "It would be impossible to describe 
our sensations after discovering how we had been neg- 
lected. The whole party shed tears, not for our own 
fate, but for that of our friends in the rear, whose lives 
depended entirely on our sending immediate rehef. " 

On October 29 Richardson came in with the horrible 
news that two voyageurs had died on the trail, that the 
Iroquois Indian, Michel, had murdered Hood, and that 
in self-defence he had been obliged to shoot Michel. 

Pending the relief of the party, which was on Novem- 
ber 7, the members existed on Labrador tea (an in- 
fusion from a plant thus used by the Indians), on 
lichens, and the refuse of deer killed the year before. 
The deerskins gathered up in the neighborhood were 
singed of their hair and then roasted, while the horns 
and bones were either roasted or used in soup. Two of 
the Canadians died on this diet. Of a partridge shot 
and divided into six portions Franklin says: "I and 
my companions ravenously devoured our shares, as it 
was the first morsel of flesh any of us had tasted for 
thirty-one days." 

The praiseworthy conduct of Franklin and of his 

36 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

companions in prosecuting the work of outlining the 
arctic coasts of North America is not to be measured 
alone by the fortitude and courage shown in crossing 
the barren grounds. An unusual sense of duty, akin to 
heroism, could alone have inspired Franklin and Rich- 
ardson to attempt the exploration under the adverse 
conditions then prevailing in that country. A war- 
fare, practically of extermination, was then in progress 
between the Hudson Bay Company and the North- 
western Company. This struggle, under the instiga- 
tion of misguided agents, aroused the worst passions of 
both half-breeds and of Indians, who were demoralized 
by the distribution of spirits. By diversions of hunters 
many people were starved, while others were murdered 
outright. Franklin's sad experiences in the public ser- 
vice at Fort Enterprise were duplicated by the star- 
vation and deaths of innocent people at other remote 
points through commercial cupidity or rivalry. 

Disastrous and lamentable as was the outcome of 
the journey across the barren lands, it indicated in a 
striking manner the superior staying powers of the Eng- 
lish as pitted against the hardy voyageurs — Canadians, 
Eskimos, Indians, and half-breeds. Five of the fifteen 
voyageurs perished and one of the English. Doubt- 
less the latter survived largely through their powers of 
will, acts of energy and of heroic devotion to the in- 
terests of the party — one and all. 




" For there is none of you so mean and base 
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes." 

— Shakespeare. 

J^MONG the many notable voyages in search of 
/"^^ the northwest passage, although less spectac- 
ular in phases of adventurous exploration than 
some others, there is none which deserves more care- 
ful examination than that of Sir John Ross in the Vic- 
tory. Not only did this vo3'age make most important 
contributions to the various branches of science, but 
it was unequalled for its duration and unsurpassed in 
variety of experiences. It w^as fitted out as a private 
expedition, largel}^ at the expense of Felix Booth, sheriff 
of London, was absent from 1829 to 1833, and was 
the first arctic expedition to use steam as a motive 

Sailing in the small paddle-wheel steamer Fictory, 
Ross passed through Baffin Ba}^ into Lancaster Sound, 
whence he shaped his course to the south. Discovering 
the eastern shores of North Somerset and of Boothia, 
he put his ship into winter quarters at Felix Harbor, 
which became his base of operations. Rarely have such 
valuable explorations been made without disaster or 
even serious hardships. Boothia was found to be the 
most northerly apex of the continent of North America, 


40 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

while to its west King William Land and other extended 
areas were discovered. 

Of surpassing interest and importance was the mag- 
netic work done by James Clark Ross, a nephew of Sir 
John. Many persons do not realize that the place to 
which constantly points the north end of the needle of 
the magnetic compass is not the north geographic pole. 
The locality to which the compass turns is, in fact, 
nearly fourteen hundred miles to the south of the north 
pole. With this expedition in 1830, James Clark Ross 
by his many observations proved that the north mag- 
netic pole, to which the needle of the compass points, 
was then very near Cape Adelaide, in 70° 05' north 
latitude, 96° 44' west longitude.* 

The adventures of the crew in their retreat from 
Boothia Land by boat and sledge are recorded in this 

Captain Ross failing to free his ship from the ice the 
second summer, it was clear to him that the Victory 
must be abandoned the coming spring. It was true 
salmon were so abundant in the lakes of Boothia that 
five thousand were caught in one fishing trip, which 
netted six tons of dressed fish, but bread and salt meat, 
the usual and favorite food of the crew, were so short 
that it had become necessary to reduce the daily issues. 
Fuel was so reduced that none remained save for cook- 
ing, and the deck had to be strewn with a thick coating 


While the north magnetic pole constantly changes its position, yet 
such movements are very slow, and while at present its exact situation is 
not known, its locality is quite near this. 

The Retreat of Ross from the Victory 41 

of gravel, for warmth, before the usual covering of snow 
was spread over the ship. Creatures of habit, the sea- 
men now showed signs of depression bordering on dis- 
content if not of despair. 

There were two routes of retreat open to Ross, one 
being toward the south, attractive as being warmer 

Boothia Peninsula and North Somerset. 

and possibly more ice-free. He chose, however, the 
way to the north, which, desolate as it might be, was 
known to him both as to its food supplies and also as 
to the chances of meeting a ship. Every year the dar- 
ing Scotch whalers were fishing in Lancaster Sound, 
and at Fury Beach, on the line by which he would 
travel, were large quantities of food, boats, and other 

42 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

needful articles — landed from the wreck of Parry's 
ship Fury in 1825. 

Ross did not plan his abandonment of the Victory 
any too early, for in January Seaman Dixon died and 
his mate Buck lost his eyesight from epilepsy. Signs 
of the dreaded arctic horror, scurvy, were not lacking, 
as the foolish seamen were averse to the antiscorbutic 
lime juice and refused to take the fresh salmon-oil or- 
dered by the doctor. Ross was also affected, his old 
wounds breaking out afresh, reminders of the day 
when as a lieutenant he had aided in cutting out a 
Spanish ship under the batteries of Bilbao. 

Knov/ing that the Victory would be plundered by the 
natives after its abandonment, Ross provided for a 
possible contingency of falling back on her for another 
winter, and so constructed a cave inshore in which 
were cached scientific instruments, ship's logs, accounts, 
ammunition, etc. Sledge-building began in January, 
and the dismantling of the ship proceeded as fast as 
the weakness of the crew permitted. 

It was impossible to reach the open water of Prince 
Regent Inlet without establishing advance depots of 
provisions and of boats, as the conditions at Fury 
Beach were unknown. Floe-travel was so bad, and the 
loads hauled by the enfeebled men so small, that it 
took the entire month of April to move a distance of 
thirty miles two boats and food for five weeks, while 
open v/ater was not to be expected within three hundred 

On May 29, 1832, the British colors were hoisted. 

The Retreat of Ross from the Victory 43 

nailed to the mast, duly saluted, and the Victory aban- 
doned. With the true mihtary spirit Ross was the last 
to quit his ship, his first experience in forty-two years' 
service in thirty-six ships. 

The prospects were dismal enough, with heavily 
laden sledges moving less than a mile an hour, while 
the party were encumbered by helpless men : these were 
moved with comfort b}' rigging up overhead canvas 
canopies for the sledge on which a man could be car- 
ried in his sleeping-bag. 

The midsummer month of June opened with the sea 
ice stretching like solid marble as far north as the eye 
could reach. The change from forecastle to tent, from 
warm hammocks and hot meals to frozen blankets and 
lukewarm food, told severely on the worn-out sledgemen 
whose thirst even could be but rarely quenched until 
later the snow of the land began to melt. Now and 
then a lucky hunter killed a hare, or later a duck, still 
in its snowy winter coat, which gave an ounce or two 
of fresh meat to flavor the canned-meat stew. 

Six days out the seamen, demoralized at their slow 
progress, sent a delegation asking the captain to aban- 
don boats and food so that travelling light they might 
the earlier reach the Fury Beach depot. Ross with 
firmness reprimanded the spokesman and ordered the 
men to take up the line of march. He knew that food 
could not be thus wasted without imperilling the fate 
of the party, and that boats were absolutely essential. 
While striving to the utmost with the crew, coming a 
week later to a safe place he cached both boats, and 

44 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

taking all the food sent his nephew ahead to learn 
whether the boats at Fury Beach were serviceable. 
After a journey in which young Ross displayed his 
usual heroic energy and ability, he brought the glad 
news that although a violent gale had carried off the 
three boats and seriously damaged one, yet he had 
secured all so that the boats of the Victory could be 
left behind. 

July I brought the party to Fury Beach, where de- 
spite orders and cautions some of the hungry seamen 
gorged themselves sick. But the ice was still solid. 
Ross therefore built a house of canvas stretched over 
a wooden frame, and named the habitation Somerset 
House, as it was on North Somerset Land. Work was 
pushed on the boats, which were in bad shape, and as 
they were of mahogany they were sure to lack the fine 
flotation qualities of those left behind. Ross fitted his 
two boats with mutton sails, while the nephew put in 

Fortunately the food at Fury Beach had escaped the 
ravages of arctic animals, though the clever sharp- 
nosed foxes had scented the tallow candles, gnawed 
holes through the boxes, and made way with them all. 

Everything was arranged for a long sea trip, each 
boat being loaded with food for sixty days and had as- 
signed thereto an officer and seven seamen. The ice 
opening suddenly and unexpectedly, they started north 
on August I, moving by oar-power, as the water lanes 
were too narrow and irregular for the use of sails. On 
the water once more, the crew thought their retreat 

The Retreat of Ross from the Victory 45 

secure. They had hardly gone eight miles before they 
were driven to shore by the moving pack, and were 
barely able to draw up their boats when the floes drove 
violently against the rocks, throwing up great pressure- 
ridges of heavy ice and nearly destroying the boats. 
The men had scarcely begun to congratulate themselves 
on their escape from death in the pack when they real- 
ized that they were under conditions of great peril. 
They found themselves on a rocky beach, only a few 
yards in width, which was a talus of loose, rolling rocks 
at the base of perpendicular cliffs nearly five hundred 
feet high. As the ice which cemented the disintegrat- 
ing upper cliffs melted, the least wind loosened stones, 
which fell in numbers around them, one heavy rock 
striking a boat's mast. Unable to escape by land, 
hemmed in by the closely crowding pack, they passed 
nine days unable to protect themselves, and fearing 
death at any moment from some of the falling stones, 
which at times came in showers. They were tantalized 
by the presence of numerous foxes and flocks of game 
birds, but they did not dare to fire at them, fearing that 
the concussion from the firing would increase the num- 
ber of the falling rocks. 

With barely room for their tents under the disin- 
tegrating precipice, with decreasing food, in freezing 
weather, without fuel, and with the short summer go- 
ing day by da}^ they suffered agonies of mind and of 
body. Fortunately the ice opened a trifle to the south- 
ward so that they were able to launch the lightest 
boat, which went back to Fury Beach and obtained 

46 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

food for three weeks. Driven ashore by the ice-pack on 
its return, the crew from Fury Beach managed with 
difficulty to rejoin the main party on foot. In this as 
in other instances they had very great difficulty in 
hauling up their heavy mahogany boats, it being possi- 
ble to handle the heaviest only by tackle. 

Through the opening ice they made very slow prog- 
ress, being often driven to shore. Most rarely did 
anything laughable occur, but one experience gave rise 
to much fun. One morning the cook was up early to 
celebrate a departure from their usually simple meal. 
The day before the hunters had killed three hares, and 
the cook now intended to make a toothsome sea-pie, for 
which he was celebrated among the men. Half-awake, 
he groped around for his foot-gear, but could find only 
one boot. Rubbing his eyes and looking around him, 
he was astonished to see a white fox near the door of the 
tent calmly gnawing at the missing boot. Seizing the 
nearest loose article, he threw it at the animal, expect- 
ing that he would drop the boot. The half-famished 
fox had no mind to lose his breakfast, and holding fast 
to the boot fled up the hill, to the disgust of the cook 
and to the amusement of his comrades. To add to the 
fun they named the place Boot Bight, though some said 
that there was more than one bite in the lost boot. 

A strong gale opening the sea, they improved the oc- 
casion by crossing Batty Bay, when the heavy mahog- 
any boat of Ross was nearly swamped. She took in so 
much water that the crew were wet up to their knees, and 
it required lively work and good seamanship to save her. 

ihe Retreat of Ross from the Victory 47 

After more than seven weeks of such terrible strug- 
gles with the ice, the three boats reached the junction 
of Prince Regent Inlet and Lancaster Sound, only to 
find the sea covered with continuous, impenetrable ice- 
floes. Ross cached his instruments, records, specimens, 
etc., for the following year, so as to return light to 
Somerset House. 

There were objections to returning south on the part 
of some of the crew, who suggested that under the com- 
mand of young Ross (and apparently with his approval) 
the stronger members should "take a certain amount of 
provisions from each boat and attempt to obtain a 
passage over the ice." This meant not only the divi- 
sion of the party, but almost certainly would have re- 
sulted in the death of all. For the crossing party, of 
the strongest men, would have reached a barren land, 
while the sick and helpless would have perished in try- 
ing to return alone to Somerset House (Fury Beach). 
Ross wisely held fast to this opinion, and the return trip 

The delay caused by differences of opinion nearly 
proved fatal, owing to the rapidly forming new ice 
through which the boats were only moved by rolling 
them. The illy clad men now suffered terribly from 
the cold, as the temperature was often at zero or below. 
It was so horrible to sleep in the open, crowded boats 
that they sought the shore whenever possible. Gen- 
erally there was neither time nor was there fit snow to 
put up a snow-hut, and then the men followed another 
plan to lessen their terrible sufferings and sleepless 

48 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

nights. Each of the seamen had a single blanket, 
which had been turned into a sack-shaped sleeping- 
bag so that their feet should not become exposed and 
freeze while they were asleep. Each of the three messes 
dug a trench, in a convenient snow-drift, long enough 
and wide enough to hold the seven sleeping-bags when 
arranged close together. Thrown over and covering 
the trench was a canvas sail or tent, and the canvas was 
then overlaid with thick layers of snow, which thus 
prevented any of the heat of the men from escaping. 
Very carefully brushing off any particles of snow on 
their outer garments, the men carefully wormed them- 
selves into their sleeping-bags, and by huddling to- 
gether were generally able to gain such collective heat 
as made it possible for them to drop off to sleep. 

Whenever practicable they supplemented their now 
reduced rations by the hunt, but got little except 
foxes and hares. The audacity of the white arctic 
foxes was always striking and at times amusing. Once 
a thievish fox crept slyly into a tent where the men were 
quietly awaiting the return cf a comrade for whose con- 
venience a candle was kept Hghted. The candle smelt 
and looked good to Master Fox, who evidently had 
never seen such a thing as fire before. Running up to 
the candle, he boldly snapped at it, when his whiskers 
were so sorely singed that he departed in hot haste. All 
laughed and thought that was the end of the affair. 
But a few minutes later, discomfited but not discour- 
aged. Master Fox, with his scorched head-fur, appeared 
again in the tent. He had learned his lesson, for avoid- 

The Retreat of Ross from the Victory 49 

ing the candle he snapped up the sou'wester of the 
engineer and made off with it though a watching sailor 
threw a candlestick at him. 

The weather soon became most bitterly cold, and as 
they sailed or rowed toward Fury Beach the sea-water 
often froze as it fell in driblets on their garments. 
Food was reduced a third, as Ross knew that a return 
in boats was now doubtful. A gale drove them to a 
wretched spot, a rocky beach six feet wide beneath 
frowning chffs many hundreds of feet high. Their 
food was now cut off one-half, and the daily hunt 
brought little — a few foxes and sea-gulls, with an oc- 
casional duck from the southward-flying flocks. 

Near Batty Bay they were caught in the ice-pack two 
miles from land and their fate was for a time doubtful. 
Only by almost superhuman efforts did they effect their 
release. The cargo was carried ashore by hand, and by 
using the masts as rollers under the hulls of the boats — 
though often discouraged by their breaking through 
the new, thin ice — they managed at last to get the boats 
safe on shore. It might be thought that three years of 
arctic service would have taught the men prudence, but 
here one of the sailors in zero weather rolled a bread- 
cask along the shore with bare hands, which caused him 
to lose the tips of his fingers and obliged other men to 
do his duty. 

It was now necessar}^ to make the rest of the journey 
to Fury Beach overland. Fortunately there were some 
empty bread-casks out of which the carpenter made 
shift to build three sledges. The party left everything 

50 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

behind for the journey of the next spring, taking only 
tentage, food, needful tools, and instruments. The way 
lay along the base of precipitous cliffs, with deep drifts 
of loose snow on the one hand, and on the other rough 
ridges of heavy ice pushed up from the sea. Hard as 
were the conditions of travel for the worn-out seamen, 
they were much worse for the crippled mate, Taylor, 
who could not walk with his crutches, and who suffered 
agony by frequent falls from the overturning sled on 
which he had to be hauled. The first day broke one 
sledge, and with zero temperatures the spirits of the 
men were most gloomy. Being obliged to make double 
trips to carry their baggage, some of the sailors com- 
plained when told off to return for the crippled mate. 
Ross shamed them into quiet by telling them how 
much better was their case to be able to haul a ship- 
mate than was that of the wretched mate depend- 
ent on others for life and comfort. 

How closely the party was pressed by fate is shown 
by their eating the last morsel of their food the day 
they reached Somerset House. As they approached a 
white fox fled from the house, but though dirty, cold, 
hungry, and exhausted, they were happy to reach this 
desolate spot which they now called home. 

Apart from the death of the carpenter, the winter 
passed without any distressing events, though some of 
the men failed somewhat in strength. It was a matter 
of rejoicing that in the early spring they obtained fresh 
meat by killing two bears. The carcass of one of them 
was set up as a deco}^, and one of the seamen stuck a 

The Retreat of Ross from the Victory 51 

piece of iron hoop into it as a tail. Soon frozen solid, 
it attracted another bear, who rushed at it and after cap- 
sizing it was killed by a volley from sailors lying in wait. 

Careful plans were made for the summer campaign. 
Stoves were reduced to one-fourth of their original 
weight and sledges were shod from ice-saws. The 
three sledges were fitted with four uprights, with a can- 
vas mat hauled out to each corner. On this upper mat 
the sick and helpless men were laid in their sleeping- 
bags, and thus could make with comparative comfort 
any sledge journeys that might be necessary. It was 
deemed advisable to provide for travel either by land or 
by sea. 

The ice of Prince Regent Inlet held fast far into the 
summer, and at times there stole into the minds of even 
the most hopeful and courageous a fear lest it should 
not break up at all. Birds and game were fairly plenti- 
ful, far more so than in the preceding year, but all hope, 
care, and interest centred in the coming boat journey. 
No one could look forward to the possibility of passing 
a fifth year in the arctic regions without most dismal 
forebodings as to the sufferings and fatalities that must 
result therefrom. The highest cliffs that commanded 
a view of the inlet to the north were occupied by eager 
watchers of the ice horizon. Day after day and week 
after week passed without the faintest signs of water 
spots, which mark the disintegrating pack and give 
hopes of its coming disruption. Would the pack ever 
break? Could that vast, unbroken extent of ice ever 
waste away so that boats could pass? A thousand 

52 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

times this or similar questions were asked, and no an- 
swer came. 

Midsummer was far past when, by one of those 
sudden and almost instantaneous changes of which the 
polar pack is possible, a favorable wind and fortunate 
current dissipated the ice-covering of the inlet, and 
alongshore, stretching far to the north, an ice-free 
channel appeared. 

With the utmost haste the boats were loaded, the 
selected stores having long been ready, and with hearts 
full of hope they started toward the north. Ross and 
his officers fully realized that this was their sole and 
final chance of life, and that failure to reach the 
whalers of Barrow Strait or Baffin Bay meant ultimate 
death by starvation. 

Amid the alternations during their voyage, of open 
water, of the dangerous navigation of various ice 
streams, and of the tantahzing land delays, when the 
violent insetting pack drove them to the cliff-bounded 
beaches of North Somerset, even the feeblest worked 
with desperate energy, for all knew that their lives 
depended on concerted, persistent, intelligent action. 

The ice conditions improved as they worked to the 
north end of Prince Regent Inlet, and finally the pack 
was so disrupted and wasted that they crossed to Baffin 
Land without difficulty. 

Skirting the northern coast of that desolate land, 
they sailed to the eastward, hoping almost against hope 
to see a friendly sail, for the season was passing and the 
nights had begun to lengthen rapidly. 

The Retreat of Ross from the Victory 53 

On the morning of August 25, 1833, their feeh'ngs 
were raised to an intense pitch of excitement by the 
sight of a sail, which failed to detect in turn the forlorn 
castaways. Though some fell into deep despair as 
the ship stood away, the more rational men felt as- 
sured of their final safety, since whalers were actually 
in the strait. A few hours later they were fortunate 
enough to fall in with and to be picked up by the whaler 
Isabella^ a remarkable incident from the fact that she 
was the arctic ship which Sir John Ross had commanded 
in his expedition of 181 8 to Baffin Bay. 

When Ross answered the hail from the astonished 
captain of the Isabella^ it was a unique and startling 
greeting that he received. For when answering that 
he was Captain John Ross, the captain of the whaler 
blurted out, "Why, Captain Ross has been dead two 
years," which was indeed the general belief. 

After investigating the affairs of the expedition, a 
committee of Parliament reported "that a great public 
service had been performed [with] deeds of daring en- 
terprise and patient endurance of hardships." They 
added that Captain John Ross "had the merit of main- 
taining both health and discipline in a remarkable de- 
gree . . . under circumstances the most trying to which 
British seamen were perhaps ever subjected." 

Through daily duty well done, by fidelity to work in 
hand, and by unfailing courage in dire extremities, Sir 
John Ross and his expeditionary force won their coun- 
try's praise for heroic conduct. 





" He came not. Conjecture's cheek grew pale. 
Year after year, in no propitious gale 
His banner held its homeward way, 
And Science saddened at her martyr's stay." 

— Anon. 

FEW persons realize the accompaniments of the 
prolonged search by England for the northwest 
passage, whether in its wealth of venturesome 
daring, in its development of the greatest maritime 
nation of the world, or in its material contributions to 
the wealth of the nations. Through three and a half 
centuries the British Government never lost sight of it, 
from the voyage of Sebastian Cabot, in 1498, to the 
completion of the discovery by Franklin in 1846-7. It 
became a part of the maritime life of England when Sir 
Martin Frobisher brought to bear on the search "all 
the most eminent interests of England — political and 
aristocratic, scientific and commercial. " To the search 
are due the fur-trade of Hudson Bay, the discovery of 
continental America, the cod-fishery of Newfoundland, 
and the whale-fishery of Baffin Bay. For the discovery 
of the northwest passage various parliaments ofi^ered a 
reward of twenty thousand pounds sterling. 

An enterprise that so vitally aff^ected the maritime 
policy of England, and in which the historic explorer, 



True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Henry Hudson, and the great navigator, James Cook, 
met their deaths, involved many heroic adventures, 
among which none has engaged more attention than 

Franklin's route on the northwest passage. 

the fateful voj'age of Sir John Franklin and his men, by 
which the problem was solved. 

Among the many notable and interesting paintings 
in the Tate Gallery, one of the famous collections of 
pictures in London, is one by Sir John Millais, entitled 
"The Northwest Passage." A young girl is reading tales 
of arctic travel and of bold adventure to her listening 
father, whose tightly closed right hand she affection- 

The Northwest Passage 59 

ately fondles as the thrilling story reaches its cli- 
max. On the table is an outspread map of North Amer- 
ica, consulted often by the attentive readers, whereon 
blank spaces denote regions as yet unknown to man. 
The tale done, the old, grizzled, weather-beaten sailor, 
whose clinched hands and fixed eyes betray his strong 
emotion, cries out: "It can be done, and England 
should do it!" Few pictures, in title and in subject, 
have more forcibly portrayed that pride of achieve- 
ment which is the glory of Britain. 

The tale of the northwest passage in its last phase of 
discovery cannot anywhere be found in a distinct and 
connected form. As a record of man's heroic endeavor 
and of successful accomplishment at the cost of life 
itself, it should be retold from time to time. For it 
vividly illustrates an eagerness for adventurous daring 
for honor's sake that seems to be growing rarer and 
rarer under the influences of a luxurious and material- 
istic centur}'. 

When in 1845 the British Government decided to 
send out an expedition for the northwest passage, all 
thoughts turned to Franklin. Notable among the naval 
giants of his day through deeds done at sea and on land, 
in battle and on civic duty, he was an honored type of 
the brave and able captains of the royal navy. Fol- 
lowing the glorious day of Trafalgar came six years of 
arctic service — whose arduous demands appear in the 
sketch, "Crossing the Barren Grounds" — followed by 
seven years of duty as governor of Tasmania. But 
these exacting duties had not tamed the adventurous 

6o True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

spirit of this heroic EngHshman. Deeming it a high 
honor, he would not ask for the command of this squad- 
ron, for the expedition was a notable public enterprise 
whereon England should send its ablest commander. 

When tendered the command the public awaited 
eagerly for his reply. He was in his sixtieth year, and 
through forty-one degrees of longitude — from 107° W. 
to 148° W. — he had traced the coast of North America, 
thus outlining far the greater extent of the passage. 
But his arctic work had been done under such conditions 
of hardship and at such eminent peril of Hfe as would 
have deterred most men from ever again accepting such 
hazardous duty save under imperative orders. 

Franklin's manly character stood forth in his answer: 
"No service is dearer to my heart than the completion 
of the survey of the northern coast of North America 
and the accomplishment of the northwest passage. " 

Going with him on this dangerous duty were other 
heroic souls, officers and men, old in polar service, de- 
fiantly familiar with its perils and scornful of its hard- 
ships. Among these were Crozier and Gore, who, the 
first in five and the last in two voyages, had sailed into 
both the ice-packs of northern seas and among the 
wondrous ice islands of the antarctic world. 

Sailing May 26, 1845, with one hundred and twenty- 
nine souls in the Erebus and the Terror, Franklin's ships 
were last seen by Captain Dennett, of the whaler Prmce 
of Wales, on July 26, 1845. Then moored to an iceberg, 
they awaited an opening in the middle pack through 
which to cross Baffin Bay and enter Lancaster Sound. 

The Northwest Passage 6i 

Franklin's orders directed that from Cape Walker, 
Barrow Strait, he should "endeavor to penetrate to the 
southward and to the westward, in a course as direct 
to Bering Strait as the position and extent of the ice, 
or the existence of the land at present unknown, may 

His progress to the west being barred by heav}'- ice, 
he sailed up the open channel to the west of Cornwallis 
Land, reaching ']']'^ N., the nearest approach to the 
north pole in the western hemisphere that had been 
reached in three centuries, and exceeded alone by 
Baffin in 1616, who sailed forty-five miles nearer. 
Returning to the southward, the squadron went into 
winter quarters at Beechey Island, 74° 42' N., 91° 
32' W. 

Knowing the virtue of labor, the captain set up an 
observatory on shore, built a workshop for sledge- 
making and for repairs, and surely must have tested the 
strength and spirit of his crews by journeys of explora- 
tion to the north and to the east. It is more than prob- 
able that the energy and experiences of this master of 
arctic exploration sent the flag of England far to the 
north of Wellington Channel. 

Affairs looked dark the next spring, for three of the 
men had died, while the main floe of the straits was hold- 
ing fast later than usual. As summer came on care 
was given to the making of a little garden, while the 
seaman's sense of order was seen in the decorative 
garden border made of scores of empty meat-cans in 
lieu of more fitting material. 

62 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

They had built a canvas-covered stone hut, made 
wind-proof by having its cracks calked, sailor-fashion, 
by bunches of long, reddish mosses. This was the 
sleeping or rest room of the magnetic and other scien- 
tific observers, who cooked their simple meals in a stone 
fireplace built to the leeward of the main hut. Here 
with hunter's skill were roasted and served the sweet- 
meated arctic grouse savored with wild sorrel and 
scurvy grass from the near-b}' ravines.* 

Looking with eager eyes for all things new, as must 
those who sailed with Franklin, they saw strange sights 
— unknown forms of nature to non-arctic sailors. In 
the days of melting snow, during the quick-coming, 
swift-flying polar spring, among all things white and 
colorless, they must have been struck by the high colors 
of the man}' little fresh-water pools whose vivid greens 
and brilliant reds catch and please an eye wearied and 
dulled by the sombre arctic landscape. Around the 
edge of these tiny ponds form thick coatings of bright- 
green, thread-like algae (fresh-water plants somewhat 
Hke kelp or sea-weed). The stones at the bottom of the 
centre of the pools were incrusted by the red snow plant 
whose rich colors gave a sense of life to the near-by 

In such haste Franklin put to sea that the customary 
rule was not observed of building a cairn in a promi- 

* These details as to the life of the squadron are drawn from various 
accounts of the hut, fireplace, pools, vegetation, bird-remains, and other 
domestic refuse discovered by the officers and men under Ommaney and 
Penny in August, 1850. Three graves with head-boards were found, but 
no trace or scrap of record or journal of any kind. They were the first 
traces discovered of Franklin's movements. 

The Northwest Passage 63 

nent place and of placing therein a record of operations 
to date. Doubtless the sea opened suddenly by one 
of those offshore winds which bring ice-free water as by 
magic. But they must have left the land for the open 
sea with the free joy of the sailor, not knowing that fate 
had been kinder to the three comrades who rested 
under the arctic sky in the quiet island graves than to 
those who with brave hearts and high hopes sailed ever 
onward and onward. 

Soon Franklin sighted Cape Walker, whence he 
should sail to the west and south as conditions of the 
land and the ice might permit. From the record re- 
covered from the cairn at Point Victory, he seems to 
have been forced to go south through Peel Sound into 
Franklin Strait, where we know that both the flag-ship 
Erebus and the Terror were beset in the floe-ice of the 
open sea and were frozen up in the winter pack twelve 
miles north-northwest of King William Land. This 
besetment, on September 12, 1846, must have been a 
grievous blow to Franklin, who was now practically as- 
sured of the existence of the northwest passage along the 
continental coast of North America. He was directly 
to the north of and only eighty-four miles distant 
from Cape Herschel, King William Land, which in 
1839 had been discovered and visited by that success- 
ful explorer, Thomas Simpson, one of the most active 
of the many energetic agents of the Hudson Bay 

The polar winter, tedious and dreary at any time, 
must have been of fearful and almost unendurable 

64 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

length to those eager, ambitious men who, helpless 
and idle in their ice-held ships, knew that they had sub- 
stantially finished the search which for two hundred 
and forty-nine years had engaged the heart and hand of 
the best of the marine talent of England. The winter 
passed, oh! how slowly, but it ended, and with the wel- 
come sun and warmer air of coming spring there was a 
cheerful sense of thankfulness that death had passed 
by and left their circle unbroken and that "all were 

A man of Franklin's type did not let the squadron re- 
main idle, and it is certain that the shores of Victoria 
and Boothia Peninsula were explored and the magnetic 
pole visited and definitely relocated. 

The only sledge-party of which there exists a record 
is that which left the ships on May 24, 1847, consisting 
of Lieutenant Graham Gore, Mate Des Voeux, and six 
men. Its small crew, led by a junior officer, indicates 
that its objects were subordinate to those pursued by 
other parties. Most probably it was a hunting-party 
in pursuit of the game of King William Land, which 
now was a matter of grave urgency to Franklin. The 
excessive number of empty meat-cans at Beechey 
Island is beHeved to be due to the inferior character of 
the meat which led to much being condemned. The 

* The primary importance of concerted and co-operative action in explora- 
tions covering such a broad field was strikingly illustrated by the situation 
at this time. While Franklin and his men were facing disaster and death in 
their ice-bound ships to the west of Boothia Felix Land, that distinguished 
arctic traveller, John Rae, was exploring Boothia Peninsula. On April 
18, 1847, he was less than one hundred and fifty miles from his sorely 
distressed countrymen. 

The Northwest Passage 65 

large number of deaths which quite immediately fol- 
lowed Gore's journey may well have been associated 
with the coming of scurvy from malnutrition. 

At all events, Gore reached Point Victory, King Will- 
iam Land, on May 28, and there built a cairn and de- 
posited the one of the two only records of Franklin's 
squadron of any kind that have been found.* It set 
forth Franklin's discoveries around Cornwallis Land, 
the wintering at Beechey Island, and the besetment 
and wintering in the pack of the Erebus and Terror in 
70° 05' N., 98° 23' VV. It ended with the encouraging 
statement that all were well and Sir John Franklin 
in command. 

From the Crozier record, to be mentioned later, it is 
known that evil days followed immediately the favor- 
able conditions set forth by Gore. Sir John Franklin 
was spared the agony of watching his men and officers 
perish one by one of exhaustion and starvation, for 
the record tells us that he died on the ice-beset Erebus, 
June II, 1847, fourteen days after the erection of the 
Point Victory cairn. Death was now busy with the 
squadron, and within the next eleven months seven 
officers, including Gore, and twelve seamen perished, 
probably from scurvy. 

Frankhn's last days must have been made happy by 
the certainty that his labors had not been in vain, since 
it was clearly evident that he had practically finished 
the two labors dearest to his heart — "the completion 

* The full text of this record will be found in the sketch entitled "The 
Devotion of Lady Jane Franklin." 

66 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

of the survey of the northern coasts of North America 
and the accomphshment of the northwest passage." 
The drift of the ships to the southwest with the main 
pack carried them to within sixty-five miles of Cape 
Herschel, and the chart taken by FrankHn showed a 
distance of only fifty-five miles of unknown lands to 
connect the discoveries of Ross with those of Dease 
and Simpson. Doubtless the evidence of the drift had 
been supplemented by an exact survey of the coast by 
sledge. It is incredible to assume that the energetic 
Franklin allowed his men to remain inert for eight 
months within a score of miles of unknown lands. 

The ice holding the ships fast until the spring of 1848, 
it was necessary for Captain F. R. M. Crozier, now in 
command, to abandon them, as they were provisioned 
only until July. It was evident that the only chance 
of life was to reach the Hudson Bay posts, via Back 
(Great Fish) River, two hundred and fifty miles dis- 
tant. While it would not be possible to haul enough 
food for the whole party, they had good reasons to be- 
lieve that they could live in part on the country. Simp- 
son had reported large game as plentiful along the south 
coast of the island, while Back spoke of thousands of 
fish at the river's mouth. 

Arrangements for the retreat were made by landing 
on April 22, 1848, on King William Land abundant 
supplies of bedding, tentage, provisions, clothing, am- 
munition, etc., and a large camp was there established. 
Sledges were strengthened and boats fitted thereon 
with which to ascend Back River and if necessary to 

The Northwest Passage 67 

cross Simpson Strait. Great haste was made, for they 
were ready to start south on April .25, 1848, on which 
date the record of Gore vras supplemented b}^ another 
signed by Crozier and his second in command, Captain 
James Fitzjames. It recorded that Gore had returned 
to the Erebus from his sledge journey in June, 1847, 
and was now dead, as well as twenty others. It added: 
"Sir John Franklin died on the nth of June, 1847. 
The officers and crew, consisting of 105 souls, . . . 
start on to-morrow, 26th, for Back's Fish River." * 

Struggling south along the west coast of King 
William Land, their progress was slow owing to illness, 
impaired strength, and their very heavy, unsuitable 
field equipment. Doubtless some one fell out of the 
sledge-traces daily, and doubtless, with the spirit of 
heroic Britons, they acclaimed with cheers their final 
success when they had dragged their heavy boat to the 
north side of Simpson Strait and thus actually filled in 
the last gap in the northwest passage. 

Their provisions ran low and Lieutenant John Irving 
went back to the ship for other supplies, but his heroic 
zeal was superior to his strength. He was buried on 
the beach in full uniform, encased in a canvas shroud. f 
Of his party one at least reached the ship, and died on 
board of the Erebus or Terror, which, according to the 
reports of the Eskimos, sank later off the west coast of 
Adelaide Peninsula. Two others of this detachment 
evidently endeavored to rejoin the main part}-, but 

* For full text, see sketch "The Heroic Devotion of Lady Jane Franklin." 
t Many of these details are from Gilder's "Schwatka's Search," a re- 
markable expedition by these young Americans. 

68 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

died in an abandoned boat. With hope and patience 
they waited for the coming of game that would save 
their lives, and alongside their skeletons thirty years 
later were found, standing, their muskets loaded and 
cocked for instant use. 

Graves and skeletons, boats and tents, clothing and 
camp-gear silently tell the tragic tale of that awful 
march, which has been traced from Point Victory to 
Montreal Island through the heroic researches of Hob- 
son and McClintock, of Hall, Schwatka, and Gilder. 

No weaklings were they, but as true men they strove 
with courage and energy to the very end. At least one 
brave man died on the march, and his skeleton lying 
on its face verified the truth of the terse tribute of the 
Eskimo woman who said to McCHntock: "They fell 
down and died as they walked. " 

One boat's crew perished on the west coast of Ade- 
laide Peninsula, and another entered the mouth of 
Back River, to die one knows not how or where. The 
skeleton found farthest to the south is, perchance, that 
of the last survivor, possibly Surgeon Stanley of the 
ErehuSy as "Mr Stanley" was found carved on a stick 
found on Montreal Island in 1855. 

Of the last survivor, MacGahan, in Northern 
Lights," thus surmises: "One sees this man all alone in 
that terrible world, gazing around him, the sole living 
thing in that dark, frozen universe. There is no hope 
for him — none. His clothing is covered with frozen 
snow, his face is lean and haggard. He takes out his 
note-book and scrawls a few lines, as he has done every 

The Northwest Passage 69 

day. A drowsy torpor is crawling over his senses. It 
will be sweet to sleep, untroubled by dreams of void 
and hunger. Through a rift in the clouds glares a red 
flash of light, like an angry, blood-shot eye. He turns 
and meets the sinister sunbeams with a steady eye, 
in which a fiery gleam is reflected, as though bidding 
defiance. As they glare at each other, this man and 
this spectre, the curtain is drawn and all is dark." 

This we know, that with loyalty and solidarity these 
heroic men kept fast in their path of daily duty, fac- 
ing unflinchingly cold and disease, exhaustion and star- 
vation, and, as has been truly said, they thus "forged 
the last link of the northwest passage with their lives." 

Rightly are the loftiest strains of the poet's songs 
invoked by steadfast fortitude and by the spirit of 
high endeavor rather than by physical acts of intrinsic 
value. So for more than a generation, as a reminder 
of heroic worth, the students of Oxford University have 
year by year turned into classic latin verse the memo- 
rial lines of the poet-laureate. Avoiding mention of 
the northwest passage, Tennyson raised to Franklin's 
"memory a monument more lasting than brass" when 
he penned these enduring lines: 

*' Not here, not here. The White North has thy bones. 
But thou, heroic sailor-soul, 
Art sailing on a happier voyage, 
Now toward no earthly pole." 



" Huddled on deck, one-half that hardy crew 
Lie shrunk and withered in the biting sky, 
With filmy stare and lips of livid hue, 

And sapless limbs that stiffen as they lie; 
While the dire pest-scourge of the frozen zone 
Rots through the vein and gnaws the knotted bone." 


FOR more than three centuries England made fre- 
quent and fruitless attempts by sea and by land 
to discover the northwest passage, and in 1818 
the British Parliament offered a reward of twenty 
thousand pounds sterling for its passage by explorers. 
Although it is now known that the ill-fated expedition 
under Sir John Franklin first discovered the passage 
in 1846-7, the first persons to make the journey over a 
new and more northerlj^ route, between 1849 and 1853, 
were the crew of her ]VIajest3^'s ship Investigator, com- 
manded by Captain Robert Le Mesurier M'Clure, R.N. 
It is a curious and notable fact that the making of 
the passage was, as one may saj'-, a matter of luck or of 
accident. There occurred in connection with this jour- 
ney a series of adventures that had marvellous results, 
not only in the saving of the lives of the crew of the 
Investigatory but also in raising them to the pinnacle of 
fame and some of them to a state of fortune. M'Clure 's 


74 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

ship was not sent forth on a voyage of geographic ex- 
ploration, but on a mission of mercy for the discovery 
and reHef of the Frankhn arctic squadron which had 
been missing since 1845, The Pacific searching squad- 
ron for this purpose, commanded by Captain Robert 
CoIHnson, R.N., consisted of the two ships Enterprise 
and Investigatory which parted company in Magellan 
Strait under orders to meet at Cape Lisburne, Bering 
Strait. Captain M'Clure arrived first, and after a very 
brief delay pushed on without waiting for his com- 
mander. The two ships never met again. 

Discovering Banks Land, which the Eskimo called 
''The Land of the White Bear," M'Clure followed 
Prince of Wales Strait to its northern entrance, where 
he anchored his ship to a floe and wintered in the open 
pack in default of a harbor. Retracing his course to 
the south the following summer, he circumnavigated 
Banks Land under marvellous ice conditions of great 
danger, escaping as by miracle, the Investigator be- 
ing so near the sheer, precipitous crags of the west 
coast that her yards could touch the cliffs, while to the 
seaward she was cradled in crashing, uprearing floes 
which close to her bows were higher than the foreyard. 
After reaching Banks Strait the ship grounded one 
night and M'Clure unfortunately decided to winter 
there, in Mercy Bay, where she was frozen in and 
abandoned two years later. 

This sketch sets forth the desperate extremities to 
which M'CIure and his crew were reduced, and describes 
the timely heroism of Lieutenant Bedford Pim, R.N., 

The Journey of Bedford Pirn 


in making the sledge journey which wrought such 
marvellous changes in the fate and fortunes of the 
ice-imprisoned men. 

On September 23, 1851, the Investigator was frozen in 
for the winter in the ice of Mercy Bay, on the north 

Route of Pirn's sledge journey. 

coast of Banks Land. It was her second arctic winter, 
and the hardships inseparable from prolonged polar 
service were soon felt. The crew were at once placed 
on two-thirds allowance, a restricted diet that kept 
them always hungry. Soon they felt the shadowy pres- 

76 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

ence of the twin arctic evils, famine and cold, which 
came with the forming ice and the advancing winter. 
Through the open hatchways the down-flowing polar 
cold turned into hoar-frost the moisture of the relatively 
warm air of the cabins and of the bunks. Water froze 
in the glasses and frost particles welded into stiffness 
the blankets, bedding, and hammocks of the seamen. 
Later even the ink froze in the wells, while the exposed 
head of every metal bolt or nail was covered with a 
glistening coat of ice. 

Shoreward the outlook was as desolate as conditions 
were gloomy on shipboard. For at first the ice-bound 
shores of Mercy Bay seemed utterly barren of life in 
any form. But one day came with joy and thankfulness 
the report that a sharp-ej^ed boatswain had seen several 
deer skirting the snowy hill-tops to the southwestward. 

Now all was activity and bustle, since this phase of 
useful effort had come to increase their chance of life. 
Should they fail to release the ship the coming summer, 
death by famine sorely threatened. So they pursued 
the chase daily with the utmost energy and for a time 
with marked success. Not only did the hunters meet 
with the timid deer and the stolid musk-ox — their main 
reliance for meat — but here and there they found the 
snowy polar hare, the cunning arctic fox, and too often, 
alas! the ravenous wolf — the dreaded pirate of the north. 

Regular hunting-parties were told off, consisting of 
the best shots and most active men. To save long 
journeys to and from the ice-beset ship, tents were 
erected at convenient places and stored with food and 

The Journey of Bedford Pirn 77 

needful conveniences. Owing to the usual darkness, 
the safe, sane rule was laid down that no hunter should 
venture alone out of sight of either tent or ship, of some 
member of a field party, or of a prominent landmark. 

One day an eager seaman, rushing forward to get 
within gun-shot of a fleeting musk-ox, when outdis- 
tanced by the animal found that he was out of sight of 
his comrades and could find no familiar landmark by 
which to guide him back to ship or tent. Night com- 
ing on, he was in sad plight in the darkness, illy clad 
for long exposure, lost and alone. Now and then he 
fired a shot, but his straining ears heard no responsive 
signal from his shipmates. After tramping to and fro 
for several hours, he was so worn out that he sat down 
to regain his strength, but he soon found that his cloth- 
ing, wet with the sweat of travel, had frozen stiff. To 
save himself from death by freezing, he began walking 
slowly about, keeping to a restricted circle so that he 
should not wander farther from his anxious comrades. 

While tramping to and fro his Hstening ear, eager 
for any sound of hfe, detected a slight rusthng noise. 
Turning quickly he saw close behind him the form of a 
beast, which loomed large in the faint light of the rising 
moon. He had neither need to reason nor time to draw 
on his fancy as to the character of his unwelcome pur- 
suer, for a weird resounding howl called forth at once an 
answering chorus. A ravenous wolf had marked the 
hunter as his prey and was calling his gaunt and cruel 
comrades to the bloody, looked-for feast. 

The tales of the forecastle had been filled with grew- 

yS True Tales of Arctic Fleroism 

some details of the ravages of wolves, so that the sea- 
man was doubly horrified to find a band of polar pirates 
on his trail. Though knowing his frightful plight, he 
faced expectant death with courage and composure, 
putting on a bold front. Shortly the wolves followed 
their customary tactics, so successful in killing reindeer 
or musk-oxen. Forming a circle around the hunter, 
a wolf would jump quickly toward the man's back, 
the animal alertly withdrawing as he was faced. Again 
several would make a sudden and united plunge toward 
their intended victim — coming from separate directions. 
Greatly alarmed at this concerted attack, the seaman 
fired at the nearest wolf. When the band, alarmed at 
the bright flame and loud noise from the musket — un- 
known to the arctic wolf — fled a short distance the sea- 
man at once ascended a small knoll where he would be 
better placed for defence. From this point of vantage 
he waged successful warfare by timely shots at individ- 
ual attacking wolves. 

But the time came when he had fired every shot in his 
locker, and then the band fell back a little way and 
seemed to be deliberating as to what should be done 
next. Expecting another concerted attack, the sea- 
man took his hunting-knife in one hand so that he could 
stab any single wolf, and grasped his musket firmly in 
the free hand so as to use it as a club. 

While in this fearful state he was intensely relieved 
by seeing the whole pack rush madly away. Though 
the hunter never knew for a certainty, his relief was 
doubtless due either to the coming of a polar bear, 

The Journey of Bedford Pirn 79 

feared by the wolves, or to the scenting of an attractive 
musk-ox. With anxious heart he awaited the coming 
dayHght, when he was able to locate himself and rejoin 
the comrades who were in wild search for him. 

This was not an isolated case of the boldness and 
tenacity of the wolves, who were a constant menace 
not only to the hunters personally — who kept well to- 
gether after this experience — but to the game resources 
of the country. On another occasion three men started 
out to bring to the ship the carcass of a deer which had 
been killed the day before. The boatswain walking 
in advance reached the deep ravine in which he had 
cached the deer, only to find a pack of five large, gaunt 
wolves rapidly devouring the carcass. As he went for- 
ward he expected that the animals would leave, but 
none stirred at his approach, their famished condition 
seeming to banish fear of man. Though he shouted at 
the top of his voice and brandished his musket, three 
of the wolves fell back only a few yards, when they 
squatted on their haunches and kept their sharp eyes 
fixed on him. The two other wolves paid no attention 
to the hunter, but continued to devour ravenously the 
dismembered animal. The boatswain seized a hind leg 
of the deer, but Master Wolf, not at all disconcerted, 
held fast to the other end in which his sharp teeth were 
deeply fixed. The other wolves now set up a snarling 
chorus of encouragement to their fellow and of defiance 
to the intruder at their feast. However, the undis- 
mayed sailor, holding fast with one hand to the deer's 
hind leg, brandished his musket vigorously with the 

8o True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

other and yelled at the top of his voice to his comrades 
coming over the hill. He did not wish to use his pre- 
cious ammunition on the wolves, as the supply was now 
so small as to forbid its waste. The daring animal at 
last dropped his end of the deer, but stood fast within 
a yard or two, ready to renew his attack at a favor- 
able opportunity. The hunter cautiously gathered up, 
piece by piece, the remnants of his fat game, the pack 
all the time howling and snarling and even making 
dashes at the brave seaman who was robbing them of 
their dinner. 

Meanwhile the Eskimo interpreter, Mr. Miertsching, 
a Moravian missionary of German birth, came up in a 
state of excitement which turned to fear at the scene. 
His long service in Labrador had made him familiar 
with the audacity and prowess of the wolf, and he 
viewed uneasily the menacing attitude of the five 
w^olves, who plainly intended to attempt the recovery 
of the deer meat. It was not until two other armed men 
came up that the wolves took to the hills, howling de- 

It was the rule of the ship that a hunter should 
have the head and the heart of any animal he killed, 
thus to encourage the activity and success of the 
hunters. Though there were less than twenty pounds 
saved from the deer, a generous portion went to the 
gallant seaman who had fought off so successful!}' the 
predatory gang. 

With the opening summer of 1852 affairs were most 
critical, as the ship remained fast in the ice, with no signs 

The Journey of Bedford Pim 8i 

of relief. In July Surgeon Alexander Armstrong urged 
that the allowance of food be increased, as the year of 
short rations had caused scurvy among one-third of the 
crew. As all fresh meat was then gone, M'Clure re- 
fused to make larger food issues. 

At this critical juncture, Woon, a sergeant of marines, 
shot two musk-oxen under rather thrilling and unusual 
circumstances. While hunting, the sergeant discovered 
two musk-oxen lying down, one of them evidently 
asleep. Creeping quietly toward them, taking advan- 
tage of such cover as the nature of the ground afforded, 
he was within nearly a hundred yards when the alarmed 
oxen scrambled to their feet. Firing at the larger 
ox, he wounded him, but not fatally. The musk-ox 
charged him, stopping within about forty yards. A 
second shot only caused the animal to shake his black 
mane and toss his horns in a threatening manner. 
Meanwhile the second ox ran forward, as though to 
help his comrade, and was in turn wounded by a shot 
from the now alarmed hunter. The second animal 
then rushed toward the sergeant in a thoroughly en- 
raged attitude, and though much smaller than his com- 
panion advanced with much more courage than had the 
first. With his last ball the hunter fired at the larger 
animal, as being more important to the larder, who, 
shot through the brain, fell dead in his tracks. 

Hastily loading his musket with a part of his remain- 
ing powder, the sergeant was forced to use the screw of 
his ramrod as a missile, with which he pierced the neck 
of the steadily advancing musk-ox. As this still failed 

82 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

to check the advance the hunter withdrew slowly, re- 
loading his gun with his single remaining missile, the 
ramrod of the musket. By this time the thoroughly 
enraged animal was within a few feet of the sergeant 
when the last shot was fired. The ramrod passed di- 
agonally through the body of the ox, making a raking 
wound from which the animal fell dead at the very 
feet of the anxious hunter. The larger musk-ox, with 
its shaggy mane, curly horns, menacing air, and formi- 
dable appearance, was quite a monster. Its huge head 
and massive horns made up one hundred and thirty 
pounds of its full weight of seven hundred and sixty- 
seven pounds. 

During the brief arctic summer, under the surgeon's 
orders, the valleys were searched for sorrel and scurvy 
grass, which contributed to the improved physical 
health of the men. It was not possible, however, to 
dispel the mental dejection that affected all of the crew 
as the summer passed without such changes in the ice 
as would permit the Investigator to be moved. All 
knew that the ship's provisions were inadequate for 
another year, which must now be faced. If game 
was not killed in much larger quantities, it would be 
necessary to face death by starvation, unless some un- 
foreseen and providential relief should come to them. 

After long deliberation M'Clure made known his 
plans to the assembled crew on September 9, 1852. In 
April twenty-eight men and officers would be sent east- 
ward with sledges to Beechey Island, five hundred 
and fifty miles distant. At that point they would take 

The Journey of Bedford Pirn 83 

a boat and stores there cached and endeavor to reach 
the Danish settlements on the west coast of Greenland. 
Nine other men would endeavor to reach the Hudson 
Bay posts via the Mackenzie River, taking up en route 
the cache of provisions deposited by the Investigator on 
Prince Royal Islands in 1850. Thirty of the healthiest 
of the crew would remain with the ship for the fourth 
arctic winter, awaiting rehef from the British Admiralty 
in 1854. 

Of necessity the daily allowances were again reduced, 
so that the amount of food issued was six ounces of 
meat, ten of flour, and two and one-half of canned 
vegetables. Surgeon Armstrong records that "the feel- 
ing was now one of absolute hunger, the cravings of 
which were ever present. " 

The ration was generally eaten by the officers at a 
single meal, and to insure exact fairness, and to remove 
any ground for complaint, the mess adopted the rule 
that turn about should be taken in the disagreeable 
duty of making the daily issue. The officer of the day 
arranged the food in as many portions as there were 
persons. Then, in an order fixed by lot, each officer 
inspected the various piles of food and chose that which 
most pleased him. The officer making the division for 
the day took the lot left. 

It is to be presumed that the men suffered even more 
than the officers on these starvation rations. Certainly 
they were unable to restrain their feehngs as w^ell as 
did the officers, and on October 4, 1853, occurred an 
act doubtless unprecedented in the royal nav}'. Suf- 

84 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

fering from prolonged cravings of hunger, made more 
acute by the late reduction of food and by the severe 
winter cold, the ship's crew assembled on the quarter- 
deck in a body and asked Captain M'Clure for more 
food, which he refused to grant. 

By hunting, which duty now fell almost entirely on 
the officers, a few ounces of fresh meat — deer, field-mice, 
or even wolf — were now and then added to their meagre 
meals. The fortunate hunter, besides his game per- 
quisites of head and heart, also enjoyed other privileges 
that almost always brought him back to the ship in 
a condition that made him a frightful spectacle from 
blood and dirt. When he killed a deer or other animal, 
the first act of the hunter was to put his lips to the mor- 
tal wound and take therefrom a draught of fresh, warm 
blood that ebbed from the dying animal. In taste and 
in effect this blood was found to be very like a warm 
uncooked egg. As water for washing was precious and 
rarely to be had, owing to lack of fuel, and then in small 
amounts, the ghastly spectacle that a man presented 
when the blood of an animal was glued over his face, 
and was frozen into the accumulated grime of weeks 
without washing, may be better imagined than de- 

The awful cold in which lived and hunted these half- 
starved men taxed to the utmost their impaired powers 
of endurance. For two days in January the tempera- 
ture was ninety-one degrees below the freezing-point, 
and the average for that month was four degrees be- 
low that of frozen mercury. 

The Journey of Bedford Pirn 85 

The pall of gloom and despair that had come with 
the winter darkness, from the frightful cold, and from 
increasing sickness was somewhat broken on March 15, 
1853, when the weakest half of the crew was told off in 
parties to make the spring retreat with sledges. To 
put them in condition for the field M'CIure gave them 
full rations. It was strange to note how closely the}', 
eating once more heartily, were watched and to what 
extent the few ounces of extra food made them objects 
of envy to their healthier and stronger comrades, who 
were to stay by the ship another awful winter. 

The doctors, however, were under no delusion as to 
the ultimate outcome of the situation. The weaker 
members of the crew were to take the field and die like 
men, falling in the traces as the}^ dragged along the 
fatal sledge, as the surgeons Armstrong and Piers had 
reported in writing "the absolute unfitness of the men 
for the performance of this journey." 

Though Captain M'Clure, with the spirit of op- 
timism that belongs to a commander, endeavored to 
persuade himself to the contrary, it was evident to Dr. 
Armstrong that critical conditions had developed that 
threatened the extermination of the expeditionary force. 

The able and clear-sighted doctor realized that the 
sick were not simply suffering from physical exhaus- 
tion induced by the short rations of many months. 
He recognized with horror that far the greater number 
of the crew were slowly perishing from the dreaded 
and fatal arctic scourge — scurvy. The progress and 
prevalence of the disease were such that it was to be 

86 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

feared there would not remain after a few months 
enough well men to properly care for their sick com- 
rades. It was a living death that was being faced 
from day to day. 

But fate, inexorable and inexplicable, was doubly 
placing its veto on the feeble plans of man. Three of 
the men who were told off for the forlorn hope died 
within a fortnight, while thirty-three of the remaining 
thirtj'-six men were suffering from materially impaired 
health. Then came the relief from outside sources, 
which saved the expedition as a whole. 

Meanwhile, unknown to M*Clure, a searching squad- 
ron of five British ships, commanded by Captain Sir 
Edward Belcher, R.N., was wintering about two hun- 
dred miles to the eastward of the Investigator. Sledg- 
ing from one of these ships, the Resolute^ at Bridgeport 
Inlet, Melville Island, Lieutenant Mecham, in October, 
1852, had visited Winter Harbor, and on top of the 
famous sandstone rock had found the record there 
deposited by M'Clure in his visit to that point in 
April, 1852, six months earher, which stated that the 
Investigator was wintering in Mercy Bay. The fast- 
approaching darkness made the trip to Mercy Bay im- 
possible, even if the ship was yet there — most doubtful 
from the record. For M'Clure had added: "If we 
should not be again heard of . . . any attempt to 
succor would be to increase the evil. " 

Nevertheless, Captain Kellet, commanding the Res- 
olute, thought it wise to send a party to Mercy Bay the 
coming spring, not for M'Clure alone, but to seek at 

The Journey of Bedford Pirn 87 

that place and far beyond such news as was attainable 
about Collinson's squadron. For this duty was selected 
Lieutenant Bedford C. T. Pirn, R.N., a young officer of 
spirit and determination, who had volunteered for the 
journey. Kellet's advisers urged that he delay the 
departure until the end of March, with its longer days 
and warmer weather. Pim insisted on an early start, 
for it was a long journey. Collinson's squadron was 
provisioned only for that year and so would break out 
through the ice early from their more southerly ports. 
Providentially, Kellet hstened to Pirn's importunate 
pleas, as otherwise at least half of the crew of the 
Investigator would have perished. 

On March 10, 1853, Pim started on this journey of 
nearly two hundred miles, the first long sledge trip ever 
attempted in an arctic expedition at such an early date 
— twenty-five days in advance of any other sledge jour- 
ney from the Resolute that year. Pim with eight men 
hauled the man-sledge, while Dr. Domville with one 
man supported him with a dog-sledge of six animals. 
Eleven other men were to assist them for five days. 

Things went badly from the very beginning, and 
Kellet was half inclined to recall Pim. Under frightful 
conditions of weather and of ice travel one man fell sick 
and two sledges broke down. Fearing that he would be 
kept back, Pim wisely stayed in the field, sending back 
for other men and sledges. The first night out was 
quite unendurable, the temperature falling to seventy- 
six degrees below the freezing-point. Then followed 
violent bhzzards which storm-stayed the party for 

88 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

four days, during which the temperature inside their 
double tent fell to fifty-six degrees below freezing. One 
comfort to the young lieutenant was the presence of a 
veteran polar seaman, Hoile, who had learned all the 
tricks and secrets of handling gear and stores in the 
field during his campaigns under the famous arctic 
sledgeman Sir Leopold McQintock. But no skill could 
make men comfortable under such awful cold. For 
instance, the fur sleeping bags at the start had been 
dry, pliant, and cold-proof. Now the vapor from the 
men's bodies had dampened the bags which, frozen 
solid, would stand on end without falling, as though 
made of light sheet-iron. 

Marching onward, Pim's next trouble was with a 
food-cache, laid down by himself the previous autumn, 
which v,7ild animals — probably bears and wolves — had 
plundered in large part, though some of the thick metal 
coverings of the solidly frozen meats had escaped with 
rough marks of the teeth and claws. 

Pim took everything with jovial humor, and was 
entirely happy when he left the firm land of Melville 
Island to cross frozen Banks Strait to Mercy Bay, Banks 
Land. Bad as was travel along the ice-foot bordering 
the land, it was far worse in the strait. Domville offi- 
cially reported that their course "was beset with every 
difficulty, every variety of hummocks and deep snow 
barring our progress in all directions. Some of the 
ridges, too irregular for a loaded sledge, required port- 
ages to be made, a mode of proceeding almost equally 
difficult and dangerous to the limbs, from the men sink- 

The Journey of Bedford Pirn 89 

ing to the middle through the soft snow amongst the 
masses of forced-up hummocks. " 

Later there came some level stretches, and then Pirn 
hoisted a sail on the man-sledge to help it along. It 
nearly proved their ruin, for the sledge took charge 
on a steep, glassy hummock, knocked over the men, 
plunged into a deep crevasse, and broke a runner. Pirn 
did not hesitate an hour over the best thing to do. 
Leaving Domville to patch up the sledge and to re- 
turn and await him at the last depot, Pim started ahead 
with his six dogs and two men toward Alercy Bay. 
Sleepless nights of fearful cold, days of weary toil with 
sun-dazzled eyes, biting blasts of sharp blizzards, ex- 
hausting struggles through rubble ice — these one and 
all could neither quench the spirit nor bend the will of 
this forceful man. Ever faithful to the motto of his 
sledge flag, "Hope on: hope ever," he ceased not until 
the land was reached and success insured. 

Skirting the ice-foot of the northeastern coast of 
Banks Land, his heart came into his mouth as, round- 
ing a cape, he saw the dark spars of an ice-beset ship 
loom up against the sullen southern sky. Blistered and 
brazened, half snow-blinded, with face covered with 
accumulations of greasy soot, what wonder that this 
fur-clad figure was thought by the amazed M'Clure to 
be an Eskimo, a mistake aided by the wild gesticula- 
tions and loud, unintelligible shouts of a man whose 
face was as black as ebony. 

Of Pirn's coming Dr. Armstrong of the Investigator 
sa)s: "No words could express the feelings of heart- 

90 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

felt gladness which all experienced at this unlooked-for, 
this most providential arrival." 

Over the rough, winding trails of the arctic highway, 
Pirn had travelled four hundred and twenty-seven miles 
from ship to ship, and made a journey that will ever live 
in polar annals as fraught with vital interests beyond 
those of any other single sledge trip. 

Of Pirn's work a fellow-officer, McDougal, wrote: 
**Each member of our little community must have felt 
his heart glow to reflect that he formed one of the little 
band whose undertakings in the cause of humanity had 
been crowned with such success." 

Thus it happened that through the heroic energy and 
persistent efforts of Bedford Pim, the outcome of the 
voyage of the Investigator* was changed from that of 
certain disaster to one of astounding success. Save 
for this timely sledge journey, many of his sailor com- 
rades must have found unknown graves among the 
ice-crowned isles of the northern seas, and an awful 
tragedy would have marked the splendid annals of the 
Franklin search. 

* M'CIure abandoned the Investigator shortly after Pirn's sledge journey, 
and crossing the ice with his men joined Belcher's squadron. M'CIure and 
his crew thus made the northwest passage and received therefor the re- 
ward of ten thousand pounds sterling. Captain J. E. Bernier, who wintered 
at Melville Island in the Canadian steamer Arctic, 1908-9, says of the In- 
vestigator: "M'CIure anchored his vessel . . . t» be cast on a shoal, where, 
he said, she would last for ages. He was mistaken, as no sign was visible of 
the vessel when the officer of the Arctic visited Mercj Bay in 1908. " 



" Men in no particular approach so nearly to the gods 
as by giving safety to their fellow-men." — Cicero. 

IN 1853 the United States co-operated a second time 
in the search for Sir John FrankHn, and sent into 
Smith Sound an expedition fitted out through the 
liberaHty of Henry Grinnell and George Peabody. Doc- 
tor Elisha Kent Kane, United States Navy, commanded 
the expedition, and placed his brig Advance in win- 
ter quarters in Rensselaer Harbor, West Greenland, 
whence he planned by boats and sledges to "exam- 
ine the coast lines for vestiges of the lost (Frankhn's) 
party." This sketch relates particularly to Kane's per- 
sonal and heroic endeavors to save from death one of 
his own field parties. 

Among arctic explorers there is no more striking 
and interesting figure than that of Elisha Kent Kane, 
whose enthusiasm created and individuality dominated 
the search of 1853. Well-intended, his expedition was 
fallacious in plan, unsuitably equipped, inadequately 
supplied, and manned by inexperienced volunteers. 
It seemed doomed to utter and dismal failure, yet 
through the activities of the versatile leader its gen- 
eral results exceeded those of any other arctic expedi- 
tion of his generation. With a literary charm and a 


94 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

beauty of expression unexcelled by any other polar 
explorer, Kane revealed to the world the human rela- 
tions and racial qualities of the Etah Eskimo, told of 
the plant and animal life of that desolate region, re- 
corded the march of physical forces, and outlined the 
safe and practicable route whereby alone the north 
pole has been reached. But if his mind was imbued 
with a spirit of philosophy, and if his poetic vision saw 
first the beautiful, yet his sense of duty and strength 
of will inevitably involved his exposure to any and all 
privations that promised definite results. 

The autumnal journeys of 1853 had led to noth- 
ing promising in the neighborhood of the Advance, so 
throughout the winter he was busy in preparing for the 
spring sledge trips in order to search the northern 
coast line for the lost explorers. Thus planning and 
laboring he definitely recognizes the unfavorable situa- 
tion. *'The death of my dogs, fifty-seven in all, the 
rugged obstacles of the ice, and the intense cold (the 
temperature had fallen to one hundred degrees below 
the freezing-point) have obliged me to reorganize our 
whole equipment. We have had to discard ail our 
India-rubber fancy-work. Canvas shoemaking, fur- 
socking, sewing, carpentering are all going on. Pem- 
mican cases are thawing, buffalo robes drying, camp 
equipments are in the corners." He adds: "The 
scurvy spots that mottled our faces made it plain that 
we were all unfit for arduous travel on foot at the in- 
tense temperatures of the nominal spring. But I jelt 
that our work was unfinished." 

Smith Sound and West Greenland. 

96 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

The very start of the party, on March 19, 1854, ^^"'" 
dicated clearly that two errors, frequent in arctic work, 
had been committed — overloading and too early a 
start in periods of extreme cold. Kane had himself 
noticed that in extreme cold, say fifty degrees below 
free2ing,*'the ice or snow covering offers great resistance 
to the sledge-runners. The dry snow in its finely di- 
vided state resembles sand, and the runners creak as 
they pass over it." In a temperature of seventy-one 
degrees below freezing "we packed the sledge and 
strapped on the boat to see how she would drag. Eight 
men were scarcely able to move her. . . . Difficulties 
of draught must not interfere with my parties. " Erro- 
neously attributing the trouble to the thin runners of 
his Eskimo sledge, he changed it for one with broad- 
gauged sledge-runners, and then added two hundred 
pounds of pemmican to the load. 

The party started to the north in a temperature of 
seventy-five degrees below freezing, and even with 
extra men in the rue-raddies (canvas shoulder-belts 
for dragging the sledge) they were barely able to move 
the sledge forward over the smooth, level floes near 
the brig. 

When the sledgemen came to rough ice they promptly 
dumped both boat and pemmican, realizing the impos- 
sibility of hauHng them. Soon they came to high, 
uptilted ice-hummocks, separated by precipitous ice- 
chasms filled with drifting snow. It then became nec- 
essary to divide the load and so travel three times over 
the same road. 

Kane's Rescue of His Shipmates 97 

Meanwhile they seemed to be advancing over a sea 
of desolation whereon were utterly lacking the signs of 
life — few enough even there along the shore. From 
the snow-covered floes were entirely absent the tiny 
traces of the snowy ptarmigan, the weaving, wandering 
trails of the arctic fox, and the sprawling foot-marks of 
the polar bear. Once, indeed, they saw a short distance 
seaward a blow-hole, where lately a seal had come for 
needful air, as shown by the thin glassy ice-covering, 
unbroken for days. 

Suddenly the weather changed, the clear atmosphere 
giving way to a frosty fog, which shut out any distant 
views, and save for their compass bearings they did not 
know the direction of their march, nor indeed whether 
the frozen sea continued or that land, so desired, was 
near or far. 

The coming of a northeast blizzard caused fright- 
ful sufferings to these inexperienced arctic sledgemen. 
Neither wind or snow proof, the tent was speedily 
filled with the drifting, sand-like snow, which satu- 
rated the sleeping-gear and nearly stopped the cooking. 
Travel in such weather would have been dangerous for 
strong, active men, but Baker was too sick even to walk, 
and so the days were passed in endeavors to keep them- 
selves warm and bring about a state of comfort. Still 
they went on with courage the first fine day, though 
their progress was very slow, and there seemed to be 
no definite hope of reaching land where their depot 
of provisions could be cached. 

A second blizzard ended the advance of the worn- 

98 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

out, thoroughly discouraged men. When the weather 
cleared Brooks, the mate in charge, found further prog- 
ress hopeless. "The hummocks in front consist of 
pieces of ice from one to two feet thick, having sharp 
edges and piled up from ten to fifteen feet high. Single 
piles sometimes exceeded thirty feet in height, and at a 
distance have the appearance of icebergs. We failed 
to perceive a single opening in their chain. " His wise 
decision to return was all that saved any member of 
the party. 

Of the conditions under which the men slept, Sonntag, 
who was one of the sledgemen, says: "The evaporation 
from the bodies of the sleepers became condensed on the 
blanket-bags and buffalo-skins, which acquired a lining 
of ice as soon as the men emerged from them in the morn- 
ing, and when required for use at night these bedclothes 
were stiffly frozen. The labor of sledge-hauling was 
so excessive that, notwithstanding the severity of the 
cold, the men were often thrown into profuse perspira- 
tion, and this was soon followed by the clothes being 
frozen together so firmly that they were not thawed 
asunder until the men entered their sleeping-bags." 

Inspired by the fact they that were homeward bound, 
the men worked with desperate energy, and camped 
only when they were ready to drop with exhaustion. 
The last part of the march was through deep snow, 
which sifted into every crevice of the men's garments, 
and, melting there from the heat of the body, saturated 
their clothing. The most essential rules for the safety 
of arctic sledgemen are the careful brushing of all snow 

Kane's Rescue of His Shipmates 99 

from the garments before entering the tent and the 
replacing of the always damp foot-gear with dry socks. 
Exhausted and unadvised, most of the men sought ref- 
uge from the fearful cold by crawling unbrushed into 
their frozen sleeping-bags, without even removing their 
boots let alone their socks. That day of the march had 
been one of awful cold, the average temperature being 
more than seventy degrees below freezing, and the im- 
prudent sledgemen paid that night the exacting penalty 
of their rash ignorance. The following morning the 
situation was hopeless unless help could be had from 
the brig. The feet of four of the men were so badly 
frozen that they could not even walk, much less drag 
the sledge. It was impossible for the four well men to 
haul their four disabled shipmates to the AdvancCy 
thirty miles distant. 

At the call for volunteers for the dangerous journey, 
which must be made in one march, all four of the well 
men responded, and astronomer Sonntag, with two 
Danes, Ohlsen and Petersen, made the journey. Irish 
Tommy, as the crew called Seaman Hickey, rebelled at 
first because he was not accepted, but his generous 
heart reconciled him to remaining when it was pointed 
out that his qualities as cook and as handy-man made 
him the best person to care for his crippled ship- 

Kane tells the story of the rescue in language that 
cannot be improved. "We were at work cheerfully, 
sewing on moccasins by the blaze of our lamps, when, 
toward midnight, we heard steps and the next minute 

loo True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Sonntag, Ohlsen, and Petersen came into the cabin, 
swollen, haggard, and hardly able to speak. They had 
left their companions in the ice, risking their own 
lives to bring us the news. Brooks, Baker, Wilson, and 
Pierre were all lying frozen and disabled. Where .^ 
They could not tell — somewhere in and among the hum- 
mocks to the north and east; it was drifting heavily 
around them when they parted. " 

With impaired health, in feeble strength, ignoring 
the protests of his officers against such exposure, the 
heroic Kane waited not a moment, but decided to take 
the field and risk his life, if necessary, to rescue his 
crippled shipmates. 

Kane continues: "Rigging out the Little Willie sledge 
with a buffalo cover, a small tent, and a package of 
pemmican, Ohlsen (who seemed to have his faculties 
rather more at command than his associates) was 
strapped on in a fur bag, his legs wrapped in dog-skins 
and eider-down, and we were off. Our party consisted 
of myself and nine others. We carried only the clothes 
on our backs. The thermometer stood at seventy-eight 
degrees below the freezing-point. . . . 

"It was not until we had travelled sixteen hours that 
we began to lose our way. Our lost companions were 
somewhere in the area before us, within a radius of forty 
miles. For fifty hours without sleep, Ohlsen fell asleep 
as soon as we began to move, and now awoke with un- 
equivocal signs of mental disturbance. He had lost 
the bearings of the icebergs. I gave orders to abandon 
the sledge and disperse in search of foot-marks. We 

Kane's Rescue of His Shipmates loi 

raised our tent, gave each man a small allowance of 
pemmican to carry on his person, and poor Ohlsen, just 
able to keep his legs, was liberated. 

"The thermometer had fallen to eighty-one degrees 
below freezing, with the wind setting in sharply from 
the northwest. It was out of the question to halt; it 
required brisk exercise to keep us from freezing. I could 
not even melt ice for water, and any resort to snow for 
allaying thirst was followed by bloody lips and tongue; 
it burnt like caustic. 

"We moved on looking for traces as we went. When 
the men were ordered to spread themselves, to multi- 
ply the chances, they kept closing up continually. The 
strange manner in which we were affected I attribute 
as much to shattered nerves as to the cold. McGary 
and Bonsall, who had stood out our severest marches, 
were seized with trembling fits and short breath. In 
spite of all my efforts to keep up an example of sound 
bearing, I fainted twice on the snow. 

"We had been out eighteen hours when Hans, our 
Eskimo hunter, thought he saw a broad sledge-track 
which the drift had nearly effaced. We were some of us 
doubtful at first whether it was not one of those acci- 
dental rifts which the gales make in the surface snow. 
But as we traced it on to the deep snow among the hum- 
mocks we were led to footsteps. Following these with 
religious care, we at last came in sight of a small Amer- 
ican flag fluttering from a hummock, and lower down 
a little masonic banner hanging from a tent-pole hardly 
above the drift. It was the camp of our disabled com- 

I02 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

rades; we reached it after an unbroken march of twenty- 
one hours. 

"The httle tent was nearly covered with snow. I 
was not among the first to come up; but when I 
reached the tent-curtain the men were standing in 
single file on each side of it. With more kindness and 
delicacy of feeling than is often supposed to belong to 
sailors, but which is almost characteristic, they intim- 
ated their wish that I should go in alone, and I crawled 
in. Coming upon the darkness, as I heard before me 
the burst of welcome gladness that came from the four 
poor fellows stretched on their backs, and then for the 
first time the cheer outside, my weakness and my 
gratitude together almost overcame me. They had 
expected me! They were sure that I would come ! 

"We were now fifteen souls; the thermometer seventy- 
five degrees below the freezing-point. Our sole ac- 
commodation was a tent barely able to hold eight per- 
sons; more than half of our party were obliged to keep 
from freezing by walking outside while the others slept." 

For the return journey: "The sick, with their limbs 
sewed up carefully in reindeer-skins, were placed upon 
the bed of buffalo-robes, in a half-reclining posture; 
other skins and blankets were thrown above them, and 
the whole litter was lashed together so as to allow but 
a single opening opposite the mouth for breathing. 
This necessary work cost us a great deal of effort, but 
it was essential to the lives of the sufferers. After re- 
peating a short prayer we set out on our retreat. " 

The journey homeward was made under conditions 

Kane's Rescue of His Shipmates 103 

of almost insuperable difficulty and distress in which 
lack of sleep played a greater part than either cold or 
physical labor, severe as they both were. As the 
energy of the sledgemen failed the tent of the held party 
was pitched, and McGary left with orders to move for- 
ward after a sleep of four hours. 

Not sparing himself, Kane went on with one man and 
reached the half-way tent, to melt ice and pemmican, 
in time to save its destruction by a predatory polar bear. 
He says: "The tent was uninjured though the bear had 
overturned it, tossing the buffalo-robes and pemmican 
into the snow. All we recollect is that we had great 
difficulty in raising the tent. We crept into our rein- 
deer-bags without speaking, and for the next three 
hours slept on in a dreamy but intense slumber. When 
I awoke my long beard was a mass of ice, frozen fast 
to the buffalo-skin; Godfrey had to cut me out with his 

A few hours later the crippled party rejoined Kane 
and after refreshment went on toward the ship. Fort- 
unately the weather was fine and the cold less severe. 
Yet, says Kane, "Our halts multiplied, and we fell, 
half-sleeping, in the snow. Strange to say, it refreshed 
us. I ventured on the experiment, making Riley wake 
me at the end of three minutes. I felt so much bene- 
fited that I timed the men in the same way. They sat 
on the runners of the sledge, fell asleep instantly, and 
were forced to wakefulness when their three minutes 
were out." 

In an utterly exhausted, half-delirious condition, 

I04 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

they were met a few miles from the brig by a dog- 
sledge bringing restoratives. Of the outcome of the 
sledge journey out and back Kane says: "Ohlsen suf- 
fered some time from strabismus and blindness; two 
others underwent amputation of parts of the foot with- 
out unpleasant consequences; and two died in spite of 
all our efforts. 

"The rescue party had been out for seventy-two 
hours. We had halted in all eight hours, half of our 
number sleeping at a time. We travelled between 
eighty and ninety miles, most of the way dragging a 
heavy sledge. The mean temperature of the whole time 
was seventy-three degrees below freezing, including the 
warmest hours of the three days. We had no water 
except at our two halts, and were at no time able to 
intermit vigorous exercise without freezing. " 

Such remarkable and successful efforts to rescue their 
suffering shipmates cannot fail to excite the admiration 
of all, if merely as an astonishing instance of man's 
physical endurance. Yet on the whole such feelings 
are subordinate in the hearts of most men to a sense 
of reverence for the spirit that animated Kane and his 
fellows to sacrifice their personal comfort and venture 
their lives for the relief and safety of their disabled 



"Poor, reckless, rude, low-born, untaught, 
A heart with English instinct fraught, 
He only knows that not through him 
Shall England come to shame." 

— Doyle. 

THIS tale recites one of the many stirring experi- 
ences of the crew of her majesty's ship Investigatory 
which, after having been frozen fast in the ice- 
floes of Mercy Bay, Banks Land, for two years, was 
abandoned, June 3, 1853. Owing to lack of provisions, 
the men, living on two-thirds rations for twenty months, 
were obliged to keep the field for hunting purposes so 
as to avoid death by starvation. The incidents herein 
related occurred in connection with the chase. 

The sun had been entirely absent for ninety-four 
days, and the coldest period of the winter was at 
hand. Even at the warmest moment of the midwinter 
month, February, the temperature had barely risen to 
zero. At times the mercury froze solid, and the cold 
was so intense that even the ship herself seemed to 
suffer as much as the half-starved, ill-clad men. The 
metal bolts and rivets glared at one with their ice- 
covered ends, while the wooden tree-nails, timbers, and 
doors cracked continually under the twin action of frost 


io8 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

and contraction. And so since the New Year's coming 
the crew had shielded themselves as best they could 
from the utter darkness of the land and the frightful 
cold of the air. Even when it was possible hunting 
was unfruitful of results; the deer had migrated to 
the pastures of the milder south, while the hares and 
small game had huddled in crannies and nooks for 
shelter against the wind. 

But now a few hours of feeble twilight, steadily in- 
creasing in duration and in brightness, were marked 
by broad bands of life-giving light at mid-day in the 
southern sky. Though the longer days were those of 
sharper cold, yet hunger and want early drove the 
hunters from the ship. As soon as there was enough 
glimmering light to make it possible, the keen-eyed 
sportsmen started inland to find and follow the trails 
of such animals as might yet be in the country. At the 
same time they were charged to take the utmost care 
to make sharp note of prominent landmarks by which 
they could safely take up their return march to the 

The spring hunt may be said to have fairly opened 
ten days before the return of the long-absent sun, when 
a wretchedly gaunt reindeer was killed on January 
28, 1852. For days individual deer had been seen, evi- 
dently returned from the south, where their winter life 
must have been a constant struggle against starvation, 
judging from the slain animal. While the deer of the 
previous autumn were always In good flesh, there was 
in this case not a bit of fat on any rib. A collec- 

How Woon Won Promotion 109 

tion of mere skin and bones, this deer weighed less 
than ninety pounds, about the same as a large wolf 
or draught-dog. 

This early success stimulated to action the hungry 
hunters, who thenceforth let no day pass without 
ranging the distant hills for sign of deer or musk-ox, 
anxious for the hunter's perquisites — the longed-for 
head and heart of the game. 

On February 9 the day broke calm, clear, and unusu- 
ally bright; especially attractive because of an hour of 
sunlight, the sun having come above the horizon at mid- 
day four days earlier. Every man who could get per- 
mission was enticed into the field, and great was the 
furore when one party brought in a small deer, giv- 
ing promise of more from the hunters still in the open. 
With the passing hours one man after another reached 
the ship, while the slowly vanishing twilight became 
fainter and fainter. When the darkness of night had 
come and the officer of the deck had checked off the 
hunters, he reported to the captain that two men were 
\^et absent — Sergeant John Woon and Seaman Charles 
Anderson, both excellent men, active-bodied and dis- 
tinguished as hunters. 

V/oon was the non-commissioned officer in charge of 
the detachment of royal marines, whose standing and 
popularity were almost as high with the seamen as with 
his own corps. Dr. Armstrong says of him: "He 
proved himself invaluable, was always a ready volun- 
teer, most correct and soldier-like in conduct, ever con- 
tributed to the hilarity and cheerfulness of the crew, and 

I lo True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

was brave and intrepid on every occasion, which fully 
tested the man. " 

Whether on shipboard or on land, Woon never failed 
to do a lion's share of the work in hand, and was al- 
ways the first to cheer and help a tired comrade. An 
indefatigable and successful hunter, he was familiar 
with the white wolves that so menaced the safety of 
individuals. On one occasion, going for a deer shot 
that day, he killed at a distance of a hundred yards a 
gaunt wolf who was greedily devouring the precious 
carcass. This monster wolf, with a thick coat of pure, 
unstained white, weighed eighty pounds, was three feet 
four inches high and five feet ten inches in length. 

It was Sergeant Woon also who had distinguished 
himself in kilUng, under thrilling circumstances, two 
infuriated and charging musk-oxen, as elsewhere re- 
lated in the sketch, "Pim's Timely Sledge Journey." 
Altogether he was a man quite able to care for himself, 
though not coming to the ship with such a reputation 
for woodcraft, hunting skill, and physical activity as 
had Seaman Anderson. 

Able Seaman Charles Anderson was a man of power- 
ful build and great muscular strength, who had made 
himself a leader among the seamen by his success in 
athletic sports, in which he easily excelled any other 
man on the ship. A Canadian by birth, his color and 
his personality disclosed in his veins deep strains of 
Indian or other alien blood. Inured to the hardships 
and labors of a hunter's life in the Hudson Bay terri- 
tory, where he claimed to have been an employee, he 

How Woon Won Promotion iii 

displayed in his social relations the mercurial and 
attractive qualities which distinguish the French half- 
breeds, the famous coureurs de bois. 

At the evening meal there was more or less chaffing 
between the marines and the seamen as to where were 
Woon and Anderson and what success they were hav- 
ing in the field. With a trace of that special pride of 
corps which goes so far to make the various arms of 
the mihtary services so efficient, the seamen said that 
it was a pity that the absent men were not together so 
that Woon's safety might be better assured by the skill 
and strength of his friend Anderson. To these jests 
the royal marines answered, as was their wont, in kind, 
enlarging ludicrously by side remarks and flings on the 
reputed helplessness of sailors on land, especially on 

At eight o'clock that night affairs took a different 
turn, when it was known that M'Clure and the other 
officers felt serious alarm over the continued absence 
of two hunters who were said to be In the field apart. 
The fog had given place to a bright sky, with feeble 
light and rapidly falling temperature, so that disaster 
to one or both was thought to be probable. The pres- 
ence and boldness of the prowling bands of ravenous 
wolves in the immediate neighborhood of the ship was 
viewed as one of the greatest dangers to a single dis- 
abled man. 

To show the location of the ship and to guide the 
absentees to it in the darkness of the night, a mortar 
was first fired to attract the notice of the hunters, and 

112 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

then every ten or fifteen minutes a rocket was sent up, 
but with the closest attention no one could detect any- 
sound that at all resembled a human voice. Nothing 
could be heard save now and then the ominous howl- 
ing of wolves, doleful sounds to the anxious crew. 

After two disquieting hours of signals by mortar and 
rockets, with no responsive answers from the hunters. 
Captain M'Clure sent out three search-parties, each 
headed by an officer. Arranging a code of signals, 
both for recall to and for assistance from the ship, they 
set forth on an agreed plan in different directions, each 
party provided with rockets, blue light, food, wraps, 
and stimulants. In less than a quarter of an hour one 
of the searching-parties met Sergeant Woon coming to 
the ship for help. Summoning another squad to join 
them, they hastened under the direction of Sergeant 
Woon to the relief of Anderson, who was perishing of 
cold in a snow-drift a scant mile distant. 

It appears that Anderson, discovering a herd of deer, 
had pursued and wounded one of them, which fled 
inland away from the ship. Following fast after the 
wounded animal, without noting the winding direction 
of the trail, he at length not only lost the tracks of the 
deer but also found that the country was being covered 
by a Hght fog. Climbing the nearest hill-top, he was 
panic-stricken to find himself unable to note either 
the face of the bright southern sky, the hunters' usual 
method of finding their bearings, or to see any land- 
mark that was at all famiHar. He hurried from hill-top 
to hill-top, exhausting his strength, confusing his mind, 

How Woon Won Promotion 113 

and destroying his faith in his abihty to find his home- 
ward way. In utter despair he sat down in the snow 
and gave himself up for lost. 

Most fortunately Sergeant Woon had seen no game, 
and chancing to cross the trail of Anderson and of the 
escaping deer, he decided to follow it up and help the 
sailor bring in his game. With extreme astonishment he 
found Anderson in a state of utter helplessness, already 
benumbed and certain soon to perish either from wolves 
or by freezing. Cold, fear, and fatigue had caused the 
seaman to lose not alone his power of action and of de- 
cision, but had almost deprived him of the faculty of 
speech. He was in such a demoraHzed condition — 
half-deUrious, frightened, fatigued, and frosted — that 
he could not at first fully realize that his comrade had 
come to his assistance and that his ultimate safety was 
quite assured. 

His utter prostration was only known when Woon 
asked him to get up and go home, to which he feebly 
moaned out, "I am lost," and did not rise even when 
the sergeant curtly said: "Get up like a man and you 
are all right." Some time passed before either words 
of cheer or sharp words of order and abuse had any 
eflfect. His patience worn out at last, Woon seized him 
roughl}^, dragged him to his feet, gave him a shove ship- 
ward, and started him on the home trail, but in a few 
minutes the bewildered seaman fell down in the deep 
snow through which he was walking. Not only was his 
strength worn out to exhaustion, but to the intense 
horror of Woon he was no sooner put on his feet than 

114 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

he fell down in a convulsive fit, while blood gushed freely 
from his mouth and nostrils. 

The appalHng conditions would have shaken any man 
less courageous than this heroic sergeant. The}^ were 
many miles from the Investigator, the weather was turn- 
ing cold with the vanishing fog, and the feeble twilight 
— it was now about two o'clock in the afternoon — was 
giving way to coming darkness. If he went to the ship 
for aid, Anderson would surely perish before it could be 
obtained. In the hours of travel to and fro the seaman 
would either freeze solidly or meet a horrible alterna- 
tive fate from the not-far-distant wolves, whose dismal 
bowlings already seemed a funeral dirge to their helpless 

The audacity and strength of these starving, raven- 
ous animals had been a constant source of anxiety and 
alarm to all the hunters. Especially had the forecastle 
talk run on one gigantic brute, standing nearly four feet 
high at the shoulder, leaving a foot-print as big as that 
of a reindeer, who was thought to be the recognized 
leader of a marauding band from whose ravages no 
slaughtered game was free. 

If the seaman could not be left, neither could he be 
carried, for Anderson was one of the largest and heaviest 
men of the crew, while the marine was one of the small- 
est and hghtest. At last the thought came to Woon 
that he could drag the seaman in to the ship. Not dar- 
ing, for fear of the wolves, to quit his gun, he slung both 
muskets across his shoulders, and clasping Anderson's 
arms around his neck started to drag him in this manner 

How Woon Won Promotion 115 

through miles of snow to the ship. Such a task was of 
the most herculean and exhausting character. The only 
relief that he had was when the trail brought him to the 
top of a hill or the edge of a ravine. Stopping and lay- 
ing Anderson on the snow, he rolled him down the hill- 
side to the bottom, in this way giving himself a rest and 
at the same time stirring the dormant blood and break- 
ing the lethargic sleep of the steadily freezing seaman. 
In fact this rough treatment was the saving of Ander- 
son, as a fresh wind had sprung up with the tempera- 
ture fifty-seven degrees below the freezing-point. 

For ten long hours this heroic sergeant struggled on, 
while the situation seemed more and more critical. The 
seaman was growing stupider, while his own strength 
was decreasing from hour to hour, although his courage 
was unfailing despite cold, darkness, and snow. At 
length, when within a mile of the ship, he felt that he 
could not drag his man a step farther. While resting 
and planning what next to do, he saw a rocket shoot up, 
leaving its train of welcome blazing hght. Pointing to 
it, he called on Anderson to stand up and walk on as he 
was now safe. Again and again he uttered such words 
of cheer, with alternate threats and orders, but alas! 
without avail. The seaman only asked in feeble voice 
**to be left alone to die," having reached that benumbed 
state so dangerous to a freezing man. 

Seeing that he could get him no farther, Woon laid 
him down in a drift of snow, covered him with such of 
his own clothing as he felt he could spare, and throwing 
quite a thick coating of snow over him, so as in a meas- 

ii6 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

ure to protect him from the awful cold, went ahead for 
aid, which most happily proved to be near at hand. 

The precautions that the sergeant had taken on 
leaving the man saved his life, as a half-hour's longer 
exposure to the extreme cold would have proved fatal. 
As it was, Anderson was brought to the ship insensible, 
with his heart scarcely beating, with clinched, frozen 
hands, rigid limbs, glassy eyes, and hard-set jaws. He 
lost parts of both feet, of both hands, and of his nose by 
amputation, but with his robust constitution recovered 
his general health and returned safely to England. 

The courage and devotion of Woon was recognized 
by his promotion to be color-sergeant, the highest grade 
to which Captain M'Clure could advance him. Wel- 
come as was this increase of rank to Woon, it stood 
second in his mind to a sense of the high honor and 
deeper regard with which he was ever after held by the 
men of the ship. All felt that to his strength of will, 
powers of endurance, and heroic spirit of comradeship 
was due the life of the ship's favorite, first from death 
by exhaustion and exposure and then from a more hor- 
rible fate at the ravenous jaws of the greatly feared 

In after time when, in the midst of a heated argument 
as to service matters, some exultant marine would refer 
to the story of the big seaman and the little sergeant, 
with a modesty equal to his courage and creditable to 
his spirit of comradeship Color-Sergeant Woon would 
at once interrupt the speaker and change the subject 
of conversation. 

How Woon Won Promotion 117 

Nor is Woon's heroism an especially unusual episode 
in the thrilling history of arctic service. In countless 
and too-often unrecorded cases not only the officers, but 
especially also the rank and file, have practically and 
gloriously illustrated by personal heroism those splen- 
did qualities of uplifted humanity — fortitude, loyalty, 
patience, best of all, solidarity and the spirit of self- 
sacrifice. These unheralded and humble heroes have at 
the call of duty, as circumstances required, done their 
part each in his own way. Among these the name of 
Color-Sergeant Woon stands high, simply because his 
rising to a noble occasion is a matter of written record. 

We know not his later career in war or in peace, but 
we feel sure that as color-sergeant he lived up to the 
ideal of an American private when, as others of his 
caste, for the honor and safet}' of a nation — 

"He shows in a nameless skirmish 
How the color-guard can die." 



" Every one hears the voice of humanity, under whatever 
clime he may be born, through whose breast flows the gush- 
ing stream of life, pure and unrestrained." — Goethe. 

A S elsewhere noted, Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, United 
J\ States Navy, in the brig j^dvance, while in search 
of Sir John FrankHn, was forced into winter 
quarters at Van Rensselaer Harbor, Greenland, in the 
Autumn of 1853. As the harbor ice did not break 
up the following summer, the question arose in 
August, 1854, as to the proper line of action to be 
taken in order to preserve the lives of the crew. The 
stock of fuel was practically exhausted, the provisions 
were so depleted in quantity and restricted in quality 
as to threaten starvation, while in the matter of 
health Kane describes the crew as "a set of scurvy- 
riddled, broken-down men." He believed, neverthe- 
less, and events proved that his judgment was sound 
and practicable, that the safety of the party would be 
best insured by remaining in the brig during the 
winter, saj^ing: **In spite of the uncertainty, a host 
of expedients are to be resorted to and much Robinson- 
Crusoe work ahead. Moss was to be gathered for eking 
out our winter fuel; willow-stems, sorrel, and stone-crops 

collected as anti-scorbutics and buried in the snow." 


122 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

The Danish interpreter, Petersen, strong!}' urged the 
abandonment of the ship and an attempt to reach by 
boats the Danish colony at Upernavik, thus crossing 
Baffin Bay. Though his ice experiences were only as a 
subordinate with Penny's arctic expedition, his opin- 
ion caused a separation of the party. 

With his unfailing quality of courtesy Kane accorded 
free action to each individual. He called all hands 
" and explained to them frankly the considerations 
that have determined me to remain. I advised them 
strenuously to forego the project, and told them I 
should freely give my permission to those desirous of 
making the attempt." Eight decided to remain and 
nine to make the attempt, among whom were Dr. 
Hayes and Petersen. The main incidents of their 
unsuccessful journey and their relations with the Etah 
Eskimo, whose material aid saved their lives, form the 
principal parts of this narrative.* 

The boat party, under command of the Dane, J. C. 
Petersen, started August 28, 1854, provided with all 
that they could carry in the way of food, arms, ammu- 
nition, clothing, camp and boat gear. "I gave them 
[says Kane] their portion of our resources justlj', and 
even liberally. They carried with them a written as- 
surance of a brother's welcome should they be driven 
back; and this assurance was redeemed when hard 
trials had prepared them to share again our fortunes." 

It required eight days of heavy and unremitting 

* See map, page 95. 

The Angekok Kalutunah 123 

labor to get the boats and stores to open water, a start 
so discouraging that one man deserted the party and 
returned to the Advance. The ice conditions were most 
adverse from the very beginning, entaihng sufferings 
and hazards from day to day. Among their experi- 
ences were besetment in the open pack, separation of 
boat and cargo during portages, some of the men adrift 
on detached floes, and stormy weather that kept them 
once for thirty hours without either warm food or drink- 
ing water. With courage, even if judgment was want- 
ing, the}' pushed on and improved matters by obtaining 
food and another boat from the cache made at Little- 
ton Island by Kane the preceding year. A gale nearly 
swamped them in rounding Cape Alexander, south of 
which they were forced to shore by the insetting ice- 
pack. Ice and weather were too much for them, and 
they eventually landed in Whale Sound, twenty miles 
north of Cape Parry. They had come to the end, a 
hundred miles from Kane — scarcely an eighth of their 
proposed voyage completed. 

Here they were most hospitably received at an Eskimo 
encampment and had their first view of native hfe 
in its own environment. The principal man of the 
band was swarthy-faced Kalutunah, the Angekok, or 
medicine-man, of the wandering bands that travel to 
and fro along the narrow, ice-free land between Cape 
York and Etah. He was one of the Etahs who had 
visited the Advance the preceding winter and so rec- 
ognized them as friends. In a spirit of hospitality the 
Angekok invited the voyagers to his encampment. 

124 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

where a feast of walrus blubber and meat would be 
given them. It appeared, however, that the natives as 
a body did not relish the inroads to be made on their 
scanty supply of food, and one old woman especially 
inveighed against the feast. In the end the dark- 
skinned Kalutunah, enforcing his authority and assert- 
ing his dignity as the Angekok of the tribe, tersely and 
firmly said: "The white man shall have blubber!'* 
which ended the discussion. 

Hayes records: *'Our savage friends were kind and 
generous. They anticipated every wish. Young women 
filled our kettles with water. Kalutunah's wife brought 
us a steak of seal and a dainty piece of liver. The hunt 
had latterl}^ been unproductive, and they had not in the 
whole settlement food for three days. The supply of 
blubber obtained was sufficient to fill our keg. We dis- 
tributed to them a few small pieces of wood, a dozen 
needles, and a couple of knives. We could not obtain 
any food, for the poor creatures had none either to give 
or to barter." 

The architectural skill of these, the most northerly 
people of the world, was not without interest to Hayes. 
**I found the huts to be in shape much like an old- 
fashioned clay oven, square in front and sloping back 
into the hill. The whole interior was about ten feet in 
diameter and five and a half feet high. The walls were 
made of stones, moss, and of the bones of whale, nar- 
whal, and other animals. They were not arched, but 
drawn in gradually and capped by long slabs of slate- 
stone stretching from side to side. The floor was 

The Angekok Kalutunah 125 

covered with flat stones, and the rear half of it was ele- 
vated a foot. This elevation, called a breck, served both 
as bed and seat, being covered with dry grass over 
which were spread the skins of bears and dogs. Under 
a small corner breck lay a litter of pups* and under an- 
other was stowed a joint of meat. Above the passage- 
way opened a window, a square sheet of dried intestines, 
neatly sewed together. The entrance hole, close to the 
front wall, was covered with a piece of seal-skin. The 
walls were lined with seal or fox skins stretched to dry. 
In the cracks between the stones of the walls were 
thrust whip-stocks and bone pegs on which hung coils 
of harpoon-lines. The lamps were made of soapstone 
and in shape much resembled a clam-shell, being about 
eight inches in diameter. The cavity was filled with oil 
and on the straight edge a flame was burning brill- 
iantly. The wick which supplied fuel to the flame was 
of moss. Above the flame hung, suspended from the 
roof, an oblong, nearly square, cooking-pot made of 
soapstone. Over this was a rack, made of bear rib- 
bones lashed together crosswise, on which were placed 
to dry stockings, mittens, trousers, and other articles 
of clothing. There w^re three lamps, and centring 
around its own particular lamp were three families, one 
represented by three generations." 

Petersen's party went into winter quarters sixteen 
miles south of Cape Parrj^, where their equipment was 

* In order to raise the puppies and save them from the devouring jaws of 
the ravenous, starving dogs, litters are kept in the huts, or elsewhere in a 
protected place, until they are large enough to run about and seek their 
mother's aid when attacked. 

126 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

landed, the boats hauled up, and their tents pitched. 
As the men suffered frightfully in the thin tents, a hut 
was built in a crevice of a neighboring cliff. With the 
well-known resourcefulness of the American sailor, they 
put up quite a comfortable shelter roofed with the sails 
of the boat. A canvas-covered wooden frame served as 
a door, and an old muslin shirt greased with seal blub- 
ber admitted a feeble light through the hole called a 

Three weeks had now passed since the party had left 
Kalutunah, and the attempt to live on the resources of 
the country had utterly failed, the only game killed by 
the hunter Petersen being eighteen ptarmigan (arctic 
grouse). With food for a week only, "to appease the 
gnawing pains of hunger we resorted to the expedient 
of eating the rock-lichen, which our party called stone- 
moss. Black externally with a white interior, it is an 
inch in diameter and the thickness of a wafer. When 
boiled it makes a glutinous and slightly nutritious fluid. 
Poor as w^as this plant, it at least filled the stomach and 
kept off the horrid sensation of hunger until we got to 

By the middle of October the situation was impossi- 
ble, with the cold forty degrees below the freezing-point, 
their bedding damp, the stone-moss disagreeing with 
some, and one man sick. They talked of a desper- 
ate foot journey to seek aid at Netlik, the native 
encampment forty miles to the north, but food and 
strength seemed equally lacking. Even if made, would 
the journey be profitable? Hayes had already noted 

The Angekok Kalutunah 127 

that the Eskimos "were poor beyond description. 
Nature seems to have suppHed them with nothing but 
life, and they appear to have wrested from the ani- 
mal world everything which they possessed. Clothed 
wholly in skins, with weapons fashioned of bone, they 
subsisted exclusively on animal food. [He adds:] There 
seems no hope for us save in stone-moss." 

During an awful blizzard, when hopes were feeblest, 
two native hunters burst into the hut equally to the 
astonishment and relief of the boat party. Hayes 
says: "Invested from head to foot in a coating of ice 
and snow, shapeless lumps of whiteness, they reminded 
me of my boy-made snow kings. Their long, heavy 
fox-skin coats, surmounted by head-hoods, their bear- 
skin trousers, their seal-skin boots and mittens were 
saturated with snow. Their hair, eyelashes, and few 
chin hairs were sparkling with white frost. Each car- 
ried in his right hand a whip and in his left a lump of 
frozen meat and blubber. Throwing the meat on the 
floor, they stripped off their outer garments and hung 
them on the rafters. Underneath their frosty garments 
they wore a shirt of bird-skins. One of these new- 
comers was the Angekok, the sturdy, good-natured, and 
voluble Kalutunah. Soon we were rejoicing in a good 
substantial meal at the expense of our guests." 

The next morning when the Inuits were leaving the 
starving sledge dogs attacked Hayes, who says: "An 
instant more and I should have been torn to pieces. I 
had faced death before, but never had I felt as then; 
m}"- blood fairly curdled in my veins. Death down the 

128 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

red throats of a pack of wolnsh dogs was something 
peculiarly unpleasant. . . . The poor animals, howl- 
ing piteously, had been tied separately for th!rt3^-six 
hours and were savagely hungry. Every line or piece 
of skin or article of food was out of their reach. One, 
however, had already eaten the trace by which he was 

Of the critical situation Hayes writes: "We had 
thirty-six biscuits and three pints of bread-dust. Each 
man had a biscuit a day, a quantity insufficient for our 
need. The hunt having failed utterly to supply us, we 
must get our food of the natives or not at all. Accord- 
ingly we made with the Angekok a treaty by which his 
people are to furnish as much food as we might want, 
and we are to supply them with wood, iron, knives, and 
needles at rates to be subsequently fixed upon." 

It was a fortnight before the Inuits again appeared, 
and meanwhile the whale-boat was broken up for fuel. 
All of the party had become frightfully weak and three 
men v/ere sick. Haj^es piteously says: "What shall we 
do? Will the Eskimos never come? I never go out 
without expecting to find a corpse when I return." 

At last, after two weeks, the natives returned, com- 
ing from a hunt with the greater part of three bears. 
While the starving men "were fattening on the juicy 
bear's meat thej^ left us," yet there was a key-note of 
fear in the statement that the natives "were very chary 
of the meat, as we obtained only enough to suffice us for 
a few days." Their gratitude for trifles and the will- 
ingness of the natives to give their last bit of food was 

The Angekok Kalutunah 129 

shown a few days later by a young Eskimo. "lie had 
nothing on his sledge but two small pieces of blubber, 
four birds, about a pound of bear meat, a bear-skin, 
and a small lamp. All these he laid at our feet." 

Temporarily saved from death by starvation through 
food from the natives, the whites planned for the future. 
There was much wild talk about wintering at Cape 
York, of hiring the natives to take them across the un- 
known ice of Baffin Bay to Upernavik. Finally it was 
agreed that life depended on their obtaining supplies 
from or by their return to Kane and the Advance — 
either of these alternatives a difficult as well as a bitter 
resort. The distance along the ice-foot of the winding 
coast was estimated to be about three hundred miles, 
and it was hard to admit that their departure from the 
brig against the wishes and advice of their commander 
had been a serious mistake. At least they would try 
their friend Kalutunah on their various schemes before 
admitting their error. 

The Angekok came with food, as usual, and at the 
same time there was a new visitor, a widow with a load 
of frozen birds — the little auks killed the summer be- 
fore and stored for winter consumption. She declined 
to eat the walrus and held fast to her own food. It ap- 
peared at last that she was a patient of the medicine- 
man, Kalutunah, whose power over his comrades lay 
in his virtues as a sorcerer. Hayes says: "The widow 
greatly interested me. She ate birds for conscience' 
sake. Her husband's soul had passed into the body of 
a walrus as a temporary habitation, and Angekok Kalu- 

ijo True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

tunah had prescribed that for a certain period she should 
not eat the flesh of this animal. As bear and seal were 
scarce, she was compelled to fall back on birds. This 
penance [he adds] was of a kind which every Eskimo 
undergoes upon the death of a near relation. The 
Angekok announces to the mourners into what animal 
the soul of the departed has passed, and henceforth, 
until the spirit has shifted its quarters, they are not to 
partake of the flesh of that animal." 

Tlie party, cheered by the food brought by Kalutunah, 
broached to him their wishes. He Hstened gladly to 
the tales of the delight and charms of Upernavik sung 
b}^ Petersen, but declined to attempt the ice journey 
across Baffin Ba}^ which was known to him only as 
a great, ice-filled ocean wherein had perished many of 
his tribe, as had lately the husband of the bird-eating 
widow. Neither would he sell his dogs, without whom 
he could neither travel nor hunt. To their surprise he 
consented to take one of the party north to the Advance. 
The commander of the boat-party, Petersen, decided to 
make the journey, and with him a seaman, Godfrey, 
was unwisely allowed to go, and the sledge was also 
accompanied to the native settlement at Netlik by two 
other men. The Netlik visit resulted in feasts for the 
men who stopped there, but Petersen and Godfrey 
turned back a few days later to the boat camp. They 
said that they were in fear of their lives from an Eskimo, 
Sip-su, with whom they had trouble. Hayes records the 
despair of the party at this situation, saying: "We are 
at the end of our plans and in two days more shall be 

The Angekok Kalutunah 131 

at the end of our provisions. We are destitute — help- 
less. What shall we do?" 

The day that food failed he rejoices thus: "Again the 
Eskimos appear to us more as our good angels than as 
our enemies. Kalutunah and another hunter came to 
us to-day and threw at our feet a large piece of walrus 
beef and a piece of liver." Doubtless through the 
friendly influence of the Angekok other hunters came 
to the starving whites from time to time with meat — 
even the dreaded bully, Sip-su — receiving in payment 
bits of wood or of iron. 

It was none the less clear that the party, unable to 
hunt itself, could not hope to live through the winter on 
meat from the natives who at times were themselves 
on the verge of starvation. It was decided to obtain a 
sledge and dogs wherewith to make the journe}^ back 
to the brig. 

To build a sledge Hayes examined those of the Inuits 
of which he says: 'Tt was the most ingeniousl}' con- 
trived specimen of the mechanic art that I have ever 
seen, made wholly of bone and leather. The runners, 
square behind and rounded upward in front, about five 
feet long, were slabs of bone; not soHd, but composed of 
pieces of various shapes and sizes cunningly fitted and 
tightly lashed together. Near their margins w^ere rows 
of little holes, through which were run strings cf seal- 
skin, by which the blocks were fastened together, mak- 
ing a slab almost as firm as a board. These bones w^ere 
flattened and ground — a work of months for a single 
runner — into the required shape with stones. 

132 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

*'The runners were shod with ivory from the tusk of 
the walrus, ground flat and its corners squared with 
stones; it was fastened to the runner by a seal-skin 
string which was looped through two counter-sunk 
holes. This sole, though composed of a number of 
pieces, was uniform and as smooth as glass. 

"The runners, fourteen inches apart, were fastened 
together by bones tightly lashed. These cross-bars 
were the femur of the bear, the antlers of the reindeer, 
and the ribs of the narwhal. Two walrus ribs were 
lashed, one to the after-end of each runner, for up- 
standers, and were braced by a piece of reindeer antler 
secured across the top." 

Quite hopeless of building anything that should be as 
good as this, they succeeded in making an indifferent 
sled from the remains of their boats, which had been 
broken up and largely used for fuel. Four dogs were 
bought, but a single day's journey showed how impos- 
sible it was to hope to reach Kane with such a wretched 
field outfit. They must resort to the natives, and es- 
pecially to Kalutunah the Angekok. 

After endless efforts the boat party succeeded in ob- 
taining dog teams sufficient to enable them to make the 
return journey to the Advance. As Petersen had gone 
ahead with one man, it left Hayes to conduct to the 
ship the other men, one being too sick to travel. It was 
a journey full of suffering from the extreme cold, of 
danger especially in rounding the precipitous cliffs of 
Cape Alexander, where the strong sea current from 
the north and the tides from the south cause danger 

The Angekok Kalutunah 133 

spots that often bring death to the midwinter sledge- 

Of their treatment while travelling up the coast one 
instance is given by Hayes : " We received all manner of 
kind attentions from our hosts. The women pulled off 
our boots, mittens, coats, and stockings and hung them 
up to dry. My beard was frozen fast to the fur of my 
coat, and it was the warm hand of Kalutunah's wife 
that thawed away the ice. Meats of different kinds 
were brought in and offered to us." 

Of the passage around the cape Hayes records: 
"For the space of several feet the ice-foot was not more 
than fifteen inches wide, and sloping, A halt was called 
and men and dogs crouched behind the rocks for shelter. 
The furious wind, still lashing the waves against the 
frozen shore at our feet, whirled great sheets of snow 
down upon us from the overhanging cliffs. We could 
not face the pitiless storm at our backs, and to go for- 
ward seemed impossible. Discarding my mittens and 
clinging with my bare hands to the crevices in the rock, 
I moved cautiously along the sloping shelf. Below the 
breaking surf yawned to receive any victim who made 
an inadvertent step. I shall not soon forget the joy and 
thankfulness with which I found myself upon the broad 
ice-belt at the farther side of this dangerous place. The 
dogs were driven forward by their native masters and, 
seized by the collars, were dragged around the point. 
The sledges were pushed along the shelf and turned on 
one runner and held until the dogs could stretch their 
traces and, bounding forward, at the word whirled 

134 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

them around in safety before they could topple over 
the precipice." 

Finally Van Rensselaer Harbor was reached, and 
the returning wanderers, blinded, frost-bitten, and ex- 
hausted, staggered on to the deck of the Advance. 
With his generous heart their old commander Kane 
received them with open arms and brotherly greetings. 

One cannot but class as astounding these human 
experiences, which marked the first extended relations 
betvv'een the men of Etah and the adventurous explorers 
who had come from the outside world. In this in- 
stance there had been brought face to face the hitherto 
unknown men of the stone age and the representatives 
of the high and vaunted civilization that aims to up- 
lift and to dominate all the nations of the earth. 

On the one hand were the Etahs, who were actual 
children of the stone age — clothed in skins, without 
wood or metal, having neither houses nor boats, using 
stone utensils in their rude huts of skin or of rock, 
and living solely by the hunt. Following the chase 
with weapons of bone, through untold hardships they 
wrested, day by day, precarious food from their home 
environment — a habitat on one of the most desolate 
reaches of the arctic coasts. Their struggles for mere 
existence under these harsh conditions of uncertainty 
w^ere such as — either among the men of the stone age 
or in the imperial cities of to-day — engender intense 
selfishness and lead to deadly contests in order to save 
the strong at the expense of the weak. 

On the other hand were the men of the civilized world, 

The Angekok Kalutunah 135 

provided with boats, furnished with selected food, espe- 
cially equipped for polar service, and armed with the 
best weapons. Engaged in the mission of reheving the 
men of FrankHn's missing squadron, with their superior 
knowledge and their trained minds, they were supposed 
to be able not only to be self-reliant and self-sustain- 
ing, but also to extend aid to the needy. 

Through the irony of fickle fortune the civilized men 
had found themselves unable to maintain life by the 
chase of the land and sea game of the region. In dire 
distress, with failing food, they faced certain death un- 
less aid should come from outside sources. 

To the savage and famine-threatened men of Etah 
the appalling condition of their alien visitors was 
clearly evident. Moreover, if the helpless white men 
were simply left to themselves they must soon perish, 
leaving for the Inuits untold wealth of hitherto un- 
known treasures, — of iron and wood, of cloth and cord- 
age, of robes and of weapons. 

In this fearful crisis, amid arctic cold and in polar 
darkness, savage humanity rose to heroic heights. Self- 
ishness and covetousness stood abashed among these 
children of the stone age, and in their stead were awa- 
kened holy feelings of human pity and a spirit of self- 
denying charity. 

Their deeds show that in the white north as in the 
sunny south there abide the true spirit of brotherly 
love and a recognized sense of human interdependence. 
After the Etah manner, there recurred the episode of 
the Samaritan charity of ancient Judea. Yet the ac- 

136 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

tion of the Inuit even surpassed the deed of the good 
man of Palestine, for Etah aid was not the outcome of 
a rich man's loving generosity to a penniless sufferer, 
but it also paralleled the widow's mite, for Kalutunah, 
the savage sorcerer, and his tribesmen gave the sole 
food of to-morrow for their wives and children to save 
from death the rich and alien white men of the un- 
known south. Does heroism rise to nobler deeds in 
the midst of our superior civilization and higher de- 



"An age which passes over in silence the merits of the 
heroic deserves as a punishment that it should not bring 
forth such an one in its midst." — Forster. 

IN 1845 Captain John Franklin, royal navy, in com- 
mand of the ships Erebus and Terror, sailed with 
one hundred and twenty-nine souls to make the 
northwest passage. His orders carried him via Lan- 
caster Sound and Cape Walker, and he was provisioned 
for three years. The ships w^ere last seen by civiUzed 
men in Baffin Bay, whence they passed from the knowl- 
edge of the world. In 1847 great anxiety prevailed as 
to the fate of the expedition, and fears of its loss grew 
stronger from year to year. More than a score of ships, 
with crews of nearly two thousand men, at an expense 
of millions of dollars vainly sought, between 1847 and 
1853, news of the missing squadron, and the British 
ParHament offered a reward of ten thousand pounds 
sterling for the first accredited information regarding 
the lost explorers. 

The Franklin mystery was solved through the labors 
of Dr. John Rae, a Scotch surgeon in the employ 
of the Hudson Bay Company, whose marvellous en- 
durance and restless energy are evident from the state- 
ment that in his various journeys of exploration he 
walked more than twenty thousand miles. The con- 

140 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

ditions under which Rae gained information as to the 
fate of FrankUn are herein set forth. 

Twice before had Rae been engaged in the Franklin 
search, in 1848-50 with Sir John Richardson, and later 
under the auspices of the Hudson Bay Company. In 
these combined journeys of five thousand three hundred 
and eighty miles he had explored much of Wollaston 
and Victoria Lands, from Fort Confidence as a base. 
The doctor then found at Parker Bay the butt of a 
flag-staff, which from its tack and line, bearing the spe- 
cial mark of the royal navy, had evidently belonged to 
one of Franklin's ships. Now, in 1853, he was in com- 
mand of a Hudson Bay Company's party to complete 
the exploration of Boothia Peninsula. 

Leaving Chesterfield Inlet by boat, Rae was en route 
to Repulse Bay, his intended head-quarters, when he 
fell in with a herd of walruses, from which, in spite of 
his terrified crew, who feared these sea-monsters, he 
obtained an enormous animal that furnished enough 
blubber for his cooking-lamps throughout the winter. 
That Rae's walrus hunt was not without danger was 
evident from the experiences of four Eskimos off this 
very coast on Rae's previous visit. The natives lashed 
together their four kayaks, and while in pursuit of 
walruses were attacked by a ferocious male. Striking 
down the first kayak with his enormous tusks, the in- 
furiated animal ploughed through the miniature fleet, 
capsizing and breaking up the four tiny crafts and 
drowning the unfortunate hunters. 

Dr. Rae and the Franklin Mystery 141 

It was the middle of August when Rae pitched his 
tents on the barren shores of Repulse Bay, where the 
outlook for food and comfort were not promising — the 

90* W 


Boothia and Melville Peninsulas. 

shore being free from Eskimo hunters, whose absence 
indicated that the migratory game was pasturing in- 
land that year. Summer was rapidly passing, yet thick 
masses of old ice clung to the shore and immense drifts 
of snow still filled the ravines. 

The party had food and fuel for three months only. 

142 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

while the work in hand meant a sta}' of nine months. 
The doctor began to collect supplies systematically, and 
knew how to work to the best advantage as he had once 
wintered at Repulse Bay. One party spread fish-nets 
at the best places along the shore, the second took the 
field for deer and other large game, while the last busied 
itself in gathering fuel for the winter. Rae had earlier 
found that bunches of the arctic saxifrage made excel- 
lent fuel when dried, and as there were neither trees nor 
shrubs the hills and valleys vvere scoured for this useful 

With true Scottish pertinacity-, set the pace for 
his men and then outdid them all in turn. Supplement- 
ing the mental training of the Caucasian by extended 
experiences in the hunting-field of the Hudson Bay 
region, he astonished and discomfited his men through 
astounding success in the pursuit of game. In knowl- 
edge of woodcraft, in keenness of vision, in keeping 
the trail, in patient waiting, and in hunter's wiles he 
was without equal among his men. The Indian deer- 
hunter, Mistegan, had come north especially selected to 
kill game for the party. When the Indian kept the 
field for ten hours and brought in a deer, Rae kept it for 
twelve hours and killed two or three animals. Pushed 
b}' his white rival, Mistegan did his best and shot 
tvventy-one deer in six weeks, while Rae had to his 
credit forty-nine head — the whole party of eight killing 
only one hundred and nine. 

To the am.azement of all, after a long absence roam- 
ing over the far-distant hills to the west, Rae brought 

Dr. Rae and the Franklin Mystery 143 

word that he had slain a musk-ox — the sole wanderer 
that year from the herds of the barren grounds to the 

The wearther became bitter cold, with the temperature 
down to zero, and sea-fishing then failed. Rae turned 
his efforts to the newly frozen lakes, where the hooks 
and nets, skilfully set; jnelded two or three salmon or 
lake trout daily— no mean addition to their larder for 
men who were living on the game of the countr}^. 

October was a dismal period with its shortening daj's, 
its gloomy skies, and high winds, which with zero tem- 
peratures blew piercingly through the wretchedly thin 
tents. Life in daylight was only endurable when men 
were on the trail or hunt. But now the wise old mon- 
archs of the herds were turning their heads southward 
in their annual migration, and only twenty-five deer 
were killed during the month. 

However, the bitter wind did good and needful work, 
for in time it packed into marble-like drifts the autum- 
nal snows. This gave work for native snow-knife and 
deft hands, which soon erected two large snow houses, 
on the southerly side of Beacon Hill, where they were 
well sheltered from the prevailing northwesterly gales. 

With Indian inclinations to idleness, some of the men 
looked forward eagerl}^ to the completion of the snow 
houses. They were viewed as comfortable places for 
the long winter, where the cheerful pipe, with tales of 
the trail and ample food, should make content the trap- 
per's heart and body. Rae had no such notion, for he 
had lived too long with natives and with half-breeds not 

144 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

to know that daily work was needful not only for the 
health, but even more for the morale and efficiency of 
his men. 

Finding that the fish-nets of the lake were much cut 
up by a small, shrimp-like water insect, the favorite 
food of the salmon, he transferred them to the rapids 
of North Pole River, which kept open nearly all winter. 
Some of the men made the six-mile tramp across the 
rough countr}^ to daily drag the nets, while the rest 
kept the field where an occasional fox, wolf, partridge, 
or wolverine rewarded their efforts. 

After a time there was much grumbling at days of 
fruitless hunting. Rae was equal to the occasion, and 
he set the discontented hunters at work scraping under 
the snow for saxifrage, their sole supply of fuel. To 
complaints he tersely said: "No saxifrage, no tea." 
Only men familiar with the white north know what a 
deprivation it would have been to these half-breeds to 
give up the hot tea, which they daily look forward to 
with intense longing and drink with deep satisfaction. 

With midwinter past and the sun returned, Rae wel- 
comed with relief the first sign of the far-distant but 
longed-for arctic spring. Of course, with lengthening 
days came strengthening cold, and there were weeks 
during which the mercury was frozen — the true arctic 
days of no wind, of bright skies, and of beautiful colors 
in air and on ice. 

One day the youngest of the Indians burst into the 
snow house, crying out in great terror that the clouds 
were on fire. While the older men rushed out instantly, 

Dr. Rae and the Franklin Mystery 145 

the phlegmatic Scot followed at leisure. It proved to be 
an offshoot of one of the brilliant sun-dogs which so 
wondrously beautify the arctic heavens, especially in 
the early spring or late winter. These sun-dogs, or 
mock-suns, arise from refraction and reflection of the 
solar rays of light from the ice particles that are sus- 
pended in the air, and are usually at twenty-two or 
forty-five degrees distant from the sun itself. 

On this occasion the sun-dogs had formed behind a 
thin, transparent cirrus cloud which greatly extended 
the area of the sun-dog besides adding very greatly 
to its already vivid colors. Rae tells us that "three 
fringes of pink and green followed the outlines of the 
cloud. " The alarm and mistake of the young novice in 
sun-dogs and solar halos were sources of gibes and fun 
among his chaffing comrades for many days. 

Rae now began his preparations for field work. A 
snow hut was put up for the use of the carpenter, who 
was soon busy overhauling the sledge gear. The Hud- 
son Bay sledges were carefully taken apart, scraped, 
polished, reduced in weight as far as was safe, and then 
put together with the utmost care so that the chance of 
a break-down in the field should be reduced to a mini- 
mum. The trade articles for use with the Eskimos were 
gone over and so arranged as to give the greatest vari- 
ety for use in the field with the least weight. Every- 
thing was to be hauled by man-power and the weights 
must be as small as possible. Beads, files, knives, 
thimbles, fish-hooks, needles, and chisels were thought 
tp be the best suited to native needs and tastes. 

146 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Meanwhile, Rae was disturbed that no signs of Eski- 
mos had been found in their local field journeys. He 
feared that their absence might mean that there had 
been a change of route on the part of the reindeer in 
their migratory paths, for in that region no game meant 
no inhabitants. Several efforts to locate natives near the 
fishing-points were made without success. The doctor 
then put into the field two of his best men, Thomas 
Mistegan, the deer-hunter, "a trusty, pushing fellow," 
as we are told, and WilHam Ouglibuck, the Eskimo 
interpreter of the party. Their journey of several days 
to Ross Bay showed that the country was bare of na- 
tives, but here and there were seen a number of deer 
migrating to the north, and of these a few were shot. 
This journey was most disappointing in its results for 
Rae had hoped to find Eskimos from whom he could 
buy a few dogs for sledge work. 

Rae did not spare himself, for starting in bitterly 
cold weather he laid down an advance depot which was 
hauled on Hudson Bay sledges a distance of one hun- 
dred and seventy miles. At Cape Pelly stores were 
cached under large stones, secure, as he said, from any 
animal except man or bear. Long experience had made 
him familiar with the enormous strength and destruc- 
tive powers of the polar bear. Dr. Kane, it will be 
recalled, tells of the utter ruin of one of his best-built 
cairns, which he thought to be animal-proof. Yet 
the bears tore it down and scattered its heaviest pack- 
ages in all directions. 

The long and final trip to the north began on the 

Dr. Rae and the Franklin Mystery 147 

last day of March, the four sledgemen hauling each a 
heavily laden sledge. The field ration was almost en- 
tirely pemmican, two pounds per day, with a few bis- 
cuit and the indispensable tea. The trip began with 
misfortunes, one man proving so weak in the traces that 
Rae had to replace him by the Cree Indian, Mistegan, 
an experienced sledge-hauler of unusual activity. 

The route lay overland almost directly north, to 
Pelly Ba}' across a broken, desolate country. Violent 
blizzards and knee-deep snow made travel painful 
enough, but under Rae's exacting leadership the hard- 
ships became extreme. Each sledge with its load ap- 
proached two hundred pounds, an awful drag, which 
could be made only by men of iron frame and great 
endurance, especially when making some twenty miles 
per day — Rae's standard of travel. The day's march 
ended, then came the tedious labor of building a snow 
igloo, wherein at least they were able to sleep with 
warmth and comfort. While hut-building was in prog- 
ress the doctor faithfully made sextant observations 
for latitude or longitude, determined the local variation 
of the compass, and observed the temperature — in short, 
did more than an}^ other man of the party. 

Day after day the}^ marched on over a land of 
desolation and abandonment. Neither bird nor man 
nor beast was to be seen, despite the keen eyes of the 
Cree hunter, of whom Rae commendingly remarked: 
"Custom had caused him to notice indications and 
marks which would have escaped the observation of a 
person less acute and experienced." In this smgle 

148 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

particular, of picking up and following a trail, was the 
remarkable Scottish leader surpassed by any of his 
Indian hunters or Canadian trappers. 

Nearly three weeks of monotonous, heart-breaking 
travel had thus passed, and they reached the shores of 
Pelly Bay. Scouring the country near the camp as 
usual, the trail-hunting Cree, Mistegan, threw up his 
hands with the welcome message of things seen, which 
brought Rae to his side. There, clear to the Indian but 
almost illegible to any other, a few faint scratches on 
the surface of the ice told that days before there had 
passed a dog-drawn sledge. 

Making camp, Rae began work on his observations, 
at the same time setting two men at gathering saxi- 
frage for fuel, and putting on the sledge trail Eskimo 
Ouglibuck and fleet-footed Mistegan. That night Rae 
was happy to see flying across the bay ice several dog- 
sledges with triumphant Mistegan in the lead. 

There were seventeen Inuit hunters, twelve men and 
five women. Although several of them had met Rae at 
Repulse Bay in 1846-7, the greater number were push- 
ing and troublesome, having a certain contempt for men 
of pale faces who were so poor that they were without 
even a single dog and had to haul their sledges them- 
selves. After some talk they were ready to sell the seal 
meat with which their sledges were loaded, but would 
not, despite liberal promises of needles, agree to hire out 
their dogs to go westward across land, as Rae desired 
them to do in order that he might survey the west 
coast — his sole object on this journey. Although Rae 

Dr. Rae and the Franklin Mystery 149 

spoke of the deHghts of chasing musk-oxen, they pre- 
ferred their seal-hunting grounds which they had just 
visited with success. 

Rae tells us of a favorite method of seal-hunting 
followed by these Eskimos in which many of the native 
women are very expert. On bright days the seals, 
crawling from their air-holes, delight to bask in the sun 
and indulge in little cat-naps or siestas. Dozing a half- 
minute, the seal awakes with alarm, and after quickly 
looking in all directions falls asleep, with constant rep- 
etitions of naps and starts. When a seal is thus en- 
gaged the hunter, clad in seal-skin garments, endeavors 
to make his way between the seal and the air-hole, 
a process demanding endless patience and inv^olving 
much fatigue. The hunter lies either on his face or 
side, and makes his advances while the animal dozes 
or is looking elsewhere. If obliged to move while the 
seal is awake, the native makes his advances by a series 
of awkward motions Hke those of a seal making its 
way over the ice. A skilful hunter sometimes gets 
within a few feet of the animal without arousing its 
fears, and an on-looker would at a distance be unable 
to say which figure was the seal and which the man. 
Seals are unusually curious, and at times one comes 
forward with friendly air to meet its supposed fellow. 
When in the desired position the hunter springs up and, 
running to the air-hole, attacks the animal as he tries to 
escape. Seals are thus captured even without a spear 
or other weapon, a blow on the nose from a club killing 

150 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

The active and numerous body of Eskimo visitors were 
too meddlesome for Scotch patience, and Rae finally 
sent them away, not, however, before they had stolen, 
as it was later learned, a few pounds of biscuit and a 
large lump of fuel-grease. 

Rae was now almost directly to the east of the mag- 
netic north pole, the north-seeking end of his compass 
pointing eight degrees to the south of due zvest. Break- 
ing camp, he turned toward the magnetic pole. Having 
a heavy load, he decided to cache his surplus supplies 
until his return, but did not dare to do so near the 
Eskimos. The cache was made on a rock}- hill several 
miles inland, and it took some time to make it secure 
from animals and free from observation by travellers. 
The cache made, Rae was astonished and angry to 
find that the Eskimo interpreter, Ouglibuck, was gone. 
Rae never thought of desertion, but keen-eyed Mistegan 
caught sight of the Inuit fleeing to the eastward to- 
ward the camp of his native cousins. As the speediest 
of the party, the doctor and the Cree started after 
him, taking that slow dog-trot with which the Indian 
runners cover so much ground untiringly. It was a 
sharp run of five miles before the deserter was over- 

Rae says: "Ouglibuck was in a great fright when 
we came up with him, and was crying like a child, but 
expressed his readiness to return, and pleaded sickness 
as an excuse." 

The doctor thought it best to diplomatically accept 
the statement that the deserter was sick, but none the 

Dr. Rae and the Franklin Mystery 151 

less he deemed it wise to decrease the load hauled by 
the Eskimo, doing so at the expense of the half-breeds. 
But it was quite clear that Ouglibuck was more than 
willing to exchange his conditions of hard field work 
with scant food for the abundant seal meat and the 
social company of his own people, which had proved 
so enjoyable during his brief visit to their igloos. 

This prompt action of Rae's tided over the critical 
phase of the expedition, and the temporary delay in- 
directly brought about the meeting with other natives, 
from whom came the first news of the missing ex- 
plorers. Immediately after renewing his western jour- 
ney, Rae met a native who had killed a musk-ox and 
was returning home with his dog-sledge laden with 
meat. Ouglibuck made his best efforts to reinstate 
himself in the good graces of Rae by persuading the 
Inuit stranger to make a journey of two days to the 
westward, thus lightening the loads of the other sledges. 
Another Eskimo then joined Rae, anxious to see the 
white men of whom he had heard from the visitors of 
the day previous. 

The doctor asked his usual question, as a matter of 
form, as to the Eskimo having seen before any white 
men or any ships, to which he answered in the negative. 
On further questioning he said that he had heard of a 
party of kahloonans (white men), who had died of 
starvation a long distance to the west. 

Realizing the full importance of this startling and 
unexpected information. Dr. Rae followed up this clew 
with the utmost energy, both through visits to and 

152 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

by questionings of all Eskimos he could find. He also 
extended his field efforts, during which cairns were 
searched and the adjoining region travelled over as far 
as Beecher River, about 69 N. 92 W. His original 
work of surveying was now made incidental to a search 
for Franklin! 

Nor must it be thought that these journeys were 
made without considerable danger and much physical 
suffering. A half-breed, through neglect of Rae's orders 
regarding changes of damp foot-gear at night, froze two 
toes. With a courage almost heroic, this Indian labored 
to redeem himself by travelling along and by doing all 
his work for several weeks until he could scarcely stand. 
Imbued with the importance of his new mission, Rae 
allowed nothing to stand in his way of adding to his 
precious knowledge and to the possible chance of trac- 
ing the wanderings of the lost explorers. He left the 
lame man with another half-breed to care for him and 
to cook the food spared for them. The shiftless char- 
acter of Rae's men was shown by the fact that the well 
man not only did not shoot anything but did not even 
gather saxifrage for fuel, but used scarce and precious 
grease food for cooking. 

Yet the fortitude and pride of the cripple was dis- 
played in the return journey, with the outer joint of his 
great toe sloughed off, thus making it most painful to 
walk; as Rae remarks, "He had too much spirit to 
allow himself to be hauled." 

Rae's collected information was as follows: 

In 1850 Eskimo families kiUing seals near King Will- 

Dr. Rae and the Franklin Mystery 153 

iam Land saw about forty white men travelling south- 
ward along the west shore, dragging a boat and sledges. 
By signs the natives learned that their ships had been 
crushed and that they were going to find deer to shoot. 
All were hauling on the sledge except one officer. They 
looked thin and bought a seal from the natives. Late 
that year the natives found the corpses of about thirty- 
five men near Montreal Island and Point Ogle, part in 
tents and others under a boat. None of the Eskimos 
questioned by Rae had seen the explorers either living 
or dead. They learned of these matters from other 
natives, from whom they had obtained by barter many 
relics of various kinds. 

Rae succeeded in purchasing about sixty articles from 
the Eskimos. The most important, which left no doubt 
of their having come from Franklin's squadron, were 
twenty-one pieces of silver for the table, which were 
marked with five different crests and with the initials 
of seven officers of the expedition, including Sir John 

The natives thought that some of the explorers lived 
until the coming of wild fowl, in May, 1850, as shots 
were heard and fish bones with feathers of geese were 
later seen near the last encampment. 

Although Rae had completed his survey only in part, 
he wisely decided that he had, as he records, "A higher 
duty to attend to, that duty being to communicate with 
as little loss of time as possible the melancholy tidings 
which I had heard, and thereby save the risk of more 
valuable lives being jeopardized in a fruitless search in 

154 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

a direction where there was not the slightest prospect 
of obtaining any information. " 

As may be imagined, Rae's definite reports stirred 
deeply the hearts and minds of the civilized world, 
which for seven long years had vainly striven to rend 
the veil of mystery that surrounded the fate of Frank- 
lin and his men. 

The silver and other articles brought back by Dr. 
Rae were placed in the Painted Hall of Greenwich Hos- 
pital, among the many historic relics of the royal navy. 
Even to-day these relics attract the attention and excite 
the admiration of countless visitors. And well they 
may, not alone as memorials of the deeds in peace of 
the naval heroes of England, but also as evidences of 
the modest courage, the stanch endurance, and heroic 
efforts of a Scotch doctor, John Rae, through whose 
arduous labors they were placed in this temple of fame. 



" Death cut him down before his prime. 
At manhood's open portal." 


THE remarkable series of physical observations of 
Kane's expedition, the most valuable scientific 
contribution of any single arctic party in that 
generation, was almost entirely due to the scientific 
training and personal devotion of his astronomer, Au- 
gust Sonntag, While the nature of his duties lay in the 
observatory, his adventurous spirit sought field ser- 
vice whenever practicable. As shown in "Kane's Res- 
cue of His Freezing Shipmates," Sonntag's prudence 
kept him from freezing in that terrible winter sledging, 
while his energy in the long journey for aid contributed 
to the final rescue of the disabled party. 

When Dr. L L Hayes outfitted his expedition of i860 
in the United States^ the glamour of the arctic seas was 
still on Sonntag, who for service therewith resigned his 
fine position as associate director of the Dudley Ob- 
servatory at Albany. Of his expeditionary force Hayes 
wrote that he "lacked men. My only well-instructed 
associate was Mr. Sonntag. " 

Sailing as astronomer and as second in command, 
Sonntag met his fate with the expedition on the ice- 
foot of the West Greenland coast. His dangerous jour- 


158 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

ney was made for reasons vital to the success of the ex- 
pedition. The incidents of the sledge trip are briefly 
supplemented by such references to his previous field 
experiences as show the physical fitness and heroic 
quality of the man.* 

The schooner United States was in winter quarters 
at Port Foulke, near Littleton Island. Without steam- 
power, the ship had not only been unable to pass to the 
northward of Cape Sabine, but her unavoidable con- 
flicts with the polar pack had sadly damaged her. Con- 
scious that his ship was so near a wreck as to be unable 
to renew her voyage toward the north the next summer, 
Hayes found himself obliged to undertake his polar 
explorations with dogs over a long line of ice-floes. 

Tests of dogs became the order of the day, and 
Hayes's delight was great when, driving his own team 
— twelve strong, selected animals with no load — twelve 
miles in sixty-one minutes, he beat Sonntag by four 

Although knowing the danger of such a journey, 
Sonntag arranged to climb Brother John's Glacier 
(named by Kane for his brother) to determine its sea- 
ward march. The approach was through a deep can- 
yon. "This gorge is interrupted in places by immense 
bowlders which have fallen from the overhanging cliffs, 
or by equally large masses of ice which have broken 
from the glacier. Sometimes the ice, moving bodily 
forward, had pushed the rocks up the hill-side in a 

* See map on page 95. 

Sonntag's Fatal Sledge Journey 159 

confused wave. After travelling two miles along the 
gorge Sonntag made the ascent, Alpine fashion, with 
which he was familiar, by steps cut with a hatchet in 
solid ice." 

The deep, irregular crevasses common to most gla- 
ciers were bridged by crust formations of the recent 
autumnal snows. These bridges were so uniform with 
the general surface of the glacier as to make their de- 
tection almost impossible. Although Sonntag moved 
with great caution and continually tested the snow 
with his ice-chisel, which replaced the Alpine alpen- 
stock, he broke through one bridge. Most fortunately 
the fall was at a place where the fissure was only about 
three feet wide, opening either way into a broad crev- 
asse. Still more fortunately he did not fall entirely 
into the chasm, but as he pitched forward he instinc- 
tively extended his left hand, in which he was carrying 
a mercurial barometer three feet long, which caught on 
two points of the glacier and thus barely saved his 
life. * 

But Sonntag's ardent wish was for a bear hunt which 
occurred during an unsuccessful attempt to revisit Rens- 
selaer Harbor by dog-sledge, when a bear and cub were 

Hayes says: "Sonntag has given me a lively descrip- 
tion of the chase. As soon as the dogs discovered the 
trail they dashed off utterly regardless of the safety of 

* Comparative measurements showed that the centre of Brother John 
Glacier moved one hundred feet annually. Rink states that the centre of 
the great Jacobshavn Glacier moves twenty metres a day, or about four and 
a half miles annuallv. 

i6o True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

the people on the sledges. Jensen's sledge nearly cap- 
sized, and Sonntag rolled off in the snow, but he was 
fortunate enough to catch the upstander and with its 
aid to regain his seat. The delay in the hummocks 
gave the bears a start and made it probable that they 
would reach the open sea. Maddened by the detention 
and the prospect of the prey escaping them, the blood- 
thirsty pack swept across the snowy plain like a whirl- 
wind. The dogs manifested the impatience of hounds 
in view of a fox, with ten times their savageness. To 
Sonntag they seemed like so many wolves closing upon 
a wounded buffalo. 

**The old bear was kept back by the young one, which 
she was unwilling to abandon. The poor beast was in 
agony and her cries were piteous. The little one jogged 
on, frightened and anxious, retarding the progress of the 
mother who would not abandon it. Fear and maternal 
affection alternately governed her. One moment she 
would rush forward toward the open water, intent only 
upon her own safety; then she would wheel around 
and push on the struggling cub with her snout and 
again coaxingly encourage it to greater speed. 

"Within fifty yards of the strugghng animals the 
hunters, leaning forward, shpped the knot which bound 
the traces together in one fastening, and the dogs, freed 
from the sledges, bounded fiercely for their prey. The 
old bear heard the rush of her enemies and squared 
herself to meet the assault. The little one ran fright- 
ened around her and then crouched for shelter between 
her legs. 

Sonntag's Fatal Sledge Journey i6i 

**The old and experienced leader, Oosi-so-ak, led the 
attack. Queen Ar-ka-dik was close beside him, and 
twenty other wolfish beasts followed. Only one dog 
faced her, and he, young, with more courage than dis- 
cretion, rushed at her throat and in a moment was 
crushed by her huge paw. Oo-si-so-ak came in upon 
her flank, Ar-ka-dik tore at her haunch, and other dogs 
followed this prudent example. She turned upon Oo- 
si-so-ak and drove him from his hold, but in this act 
the cub was uncovered. Quick as lightning Karsuk flew 
at its neck and a slender yellow mongrel followed after. 
The little bear prepared to do battle. Karsuk missed 
his grip and the mongrel tangled among the legs of the 
cub was soon doubled up with a blow in the side and es- 
caped yowling. Oo-si-so-ak was hard pressed, but his 
powerful rival came to his relief with his followers upon 
the opposite flank, which concentrated onslaught turned 
the bear in the direction of the cub in time to save it, 
for it was now being pulled down by Karsuk and his 

Disregarding her own tormentors, she threw herself 
upon the assailants of the cub, and to avoid her blows 
they quickly abandoned their hold, which enabled her 
to once more draw under her the plucky little creature, 
weakened with loss of blood and exhausted with the 
fight. The dogs, beaten off from the cub, now concen- 
trated on the mother, and the battle became more fierce 
than ever. The snow was covered with blood. A crim- 
son stream poured from the old bear's mouth and an- 
other trickled over the white hair of her shoulder, from 

i62 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

shots fired by Hans and Jensen. The little one was 
torn and bleeding. One dog was crushed almost life- 
less, and another marked with many a red stain the 
spot where he was soothing his agony with piteous 

"Sonntag now came up, but their united volley, while 
weakening her, was not sufficient to prevent her from 
again scattering the dogs and sheltering her offspring, 
which then sank expiring. Seeing it fall, she for a 
moment forgot the dogs, and licking its face tried to 
coax it to rise. Now, apparently conscious that the 
cub no longer needed her protection, she turned upon 
her tormentors with redoubled fury, and flung another 
dog to join the luckless mongrel. 

"For the first time she seemed to know that she was 
beset with other enemies than dogs, when, his rifle miss- 
ing fire, Hans advanced with an Eskimo spear to a 
hand-to-hand encounter. Seeing him approach, the in- 
furiated monster cleared away the dogs with a vigorous 
dash and charged him. He threw his weapon at the 
animal and turned in flight. The bear bounded after 
him, and in an instant more neither speed nor dogs 
could have saved him. Fortunately Sonntag and Jen- 
sen had by this time reloaded their rifles, and with well- 
directed shots rolled her over on the blood-stained 

In early December a great misfortune befell the 
expedition through an epidemic disease attacking the 
dogs. "The serious nature of this disaster [says Hayes] 
will be apparent when it is remembered that my plans 

Sonntag's Fatal Sledge Journey 163 

of operations for the spring were mainly based upon dogs 
as a means of transportation across the ice. Unless I 
shall be able to supply the loss, all of my plans would be 
abortive. " The first dog attacked, Karsuk of the bear- 
fight, was the best draught animal of the best team. 
Of the effect of the malady he adds: **I have never 
seen such expression of ferocity and mad strength ex- 
hibited by any living creature as he manifested two 
hours after the first symptoms were observed. I had 
him caught and placed in a large box, but this aggra- 
vated rather than soothed the violence of the symptoms. 
He tore the boards with indescribable fierceness, rip- 
ping off splinter after splinter, when I ordered him to be 
shot." About the middle of December there remained 
only nine dogs out of the original pack of thirty-six. 

It occurred both to Hayes and to Sonntag that the 
best method of replacing their lost animals was to open 
communication with the Eskimos of Whale Sound. If 
they could induce several native famihes, through offers 
of stores and food, to come north to Fouike Harbor, 
they would bring along their dog teams which would 
thus be available for the sledge journeys of the coming 

There were supposed to be several Inuit families liv- 
ing on the south side of Whale Sound, which was dis- 
tant a midwinter sledge journey of at least one hundred 
and fifty miles. Hayes says: "That we should com- 
municate with these people at the earliest practicable 
moment was a matter of the first importance. When 
the moon came it was arranged that Sonntag should 

164 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

make the journey, taking a single sledge and Hans as a 

Sonntag and Hans started with a team of nine dogs 
on the day of the arctic midnight, December 21, when 
the sun had reached its greatest southern declension. 
Hayes writes on the 22d: "Sonntag set out yesterday 
to reach the Eskimos. We had talked the matter over 
from day to day, and saw clearly it was the only thing 
to do. It was evident that if we waited for daylight 
they would be beyond our reach." 

Five weeks later came the news of Sonntag's death, 
which is told by Hans in his * Memoirs":* 

'Tn winter, just before Christmas, the astronomer 
[Sonntag] and I undertook a journey by sledge to look 
for natives. We crossed the great glacier [at Cape 
Alexander] and travelled the whole day without meet- 
ing with any people. A strong wind sprang up from 
the north and caused a thick drifting of snow, while we 
made our snow hut and went to sleep. On wakening 
the next day it still blew a gale and the snow drifting 
dreadfully, for which reason we resolved to return. 
While we proceeded homeward the ice began to break 
up, so we were forced to go ashore and continue our 
drive over the beach ice [ice-foot]. We arrived at a 
small firth and crossed it, but on trying to proceed by 
land on the other side it proved impassable and we were 

* <« 

' Memoirs of Hans Hendrik " was written by Hans in Eskimo twenty- 
eight years after Sonntag's death. This little-known volume, translated by 
Dr. Henry Rink, gives, among other interesting matter about the expeditions 
of Kane, Hayes, Hall, and Nares, the account of Sonntag's death, which is 
substantially the same as that recorded in Hayes's "Open Polar Sea." 

Sonntag's Fatal Sledge Journey 165 

obliged to return to the ice again. On descending here 
my companion fell through the ice which was nothing 
but a thick sheet of snow and water. I stooped [from 
the high ice-foot evidently] but was unable to seize him, 
it being very low tide. As a last resort I remembered a 
strap hanging on the sledge-poles; this I threw to him, 
and when he had tied it around his body I pulled, but 
found it very difficult. At length I succeeded in draw- 
ing him up, but he was at the point of freezing to death, 
and now in the storm and drifting snow he took off 
his clothes and slipped into the sleeping-bag, where- 
upon I placed him on the sledge and repaired to our 
last resting-place. 

"Our road being very rough, I cried from despair for 
want of help; but I reached the snow hut and brought 
him inside. I was, however, unable to kindle a lire and 
was myself overpowered with cold. My companion 
grew still worse, although placed in the bear-skin bag, 
but with nothing else than his shirt. By and by his 
breathing grew scarcer, and I, too, began to feel ex- 
tremely cold on account of now standing still after 
having perspired with exertion. During the whole 
night my friend still breathed, but he drew his breath 
at long intervals and toward morning only very rarely. 
When finally I was at the point of freezing to death, I 
shut up the entrance with snow, and as the breaking up 
of the ice had rendered any near road to the ship im- 
practicable, and the gale continued violently, I set out 
for the south in search of men, although I had a wide 
sea to cross." 

l66 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

After finding two deserted huts he threw himself 
down in despair, awaiting his death. He continues: 
"When here I lay prostrate I uttered sighing, They say 
some one on high watches over me too. Have mercy on mcy 
end save me if possible, though I am a great sinner. My 
dear wije and child are in such a pitiful state — may I first 
be able to bring them to the land of the baptized.* 

*T also pronounced the following prayer: 

" 'Jesu, lead me by the hand 
While I am here below, 
Forsake me not. 

If Thou dost not abide with me, I shall fall. 
But near to Thee I am safe.' 

Thereafter I arose and set off again. ... I discovered 
the light of a window\ . . . These folks [Etah Inuits] 
w^ere very kind and hospitable. When I entered the 
liouse and began to take off my clothes the fox-skin 
of my jacket was as soft and moist as if newly flayed. 
My outer bear-skin trousers were not so very wet. 
When I took off my hare-skin gaiters they stuck to my 
stockings from being frozen together, and I could not 
get them off but by cutting open the boots. Had I 
used seal-skin gaiters I think that I should have frozen 
to death. Here I stayed many days, being unable to 
return alone." 

Sonntag's body was recovered in the early spring, 
the hut in which he died being found to be completely 

* Hans Hendrik was of West Greenland where all the natives are baptized. 
His wife, Mertuk, was one of the so-called heathen natives of the Cape York 
region. See "The Wifely Heroism of Mertuk, the Daughter of Shung-hu." 

Sonntag's Fatal Sledge Journey 167 

covered with drifted snow, and he was buried on the 
desolate shores of Port Foulke. 

In an unpublished journal his shipmate Dodge writes: 
"Not yet in the prime of life, but already enjoying a 
well-earned reputation which gray-haired men might 
envy, with prospects of honor and usefulness before 
him, he was endowed with abilities to achieve success 
in the highest walks of science. Peace to his remains 
and all honor to his memory. For among the gallant 
and the gifted men who have fallen victims to their 
zeal for scientific research in the arctic regions, there 
has been none braver or worthier than August Sonn- 

Thus perished one of nature's gentlemen, wedded to 
the universe through his devotion to astronomy and yet 
alive to the winning aspects of terrestrial grandeurs. 
Unsparing of self where the lives or comfort of his 
comrades were in question, in unobtrusive v/ays he 
contributed to their happiness and shared cheerfully 
the common burden of daily duties. Such manly 
qualities, simple though they seem, made heroic the 
life and death of August Sonntag. 





"So many saints and saviors, 
So many high behaviors." 

— Emerson. 

IN "The Discovery of the Northwest Passage" and 
in "Pirn's Timely Sledge Journey" there have been 
sketched various heroic phases connected with the 
last voyage of Sir John Franklin and the expeditions 
of the Franklin search. In the search there were em- 
ployed thirty-three ships and nearly two thousand 
officers and men, whose utmost endeavors during a 
period of eight years, and at an expense of many mill- 
ions of dollars, had failed to obtain any definite in- 
formation as to the fate of the missing explorers. One 
clew had come from private sources, as shown in the 
tale of "Dr. Rae and the Franklin Mystery." 

This present narrative sets forth the work accom- 
plished through the devotion of the widow of Sir John 
Franklin, in a so-called hopeless enterprise. Sacrific- 
ing her ease and her private fortune to a sense of duty, 
not alone to her husband but also to those who served 
under him, her labors eventually wrested from the deso- 
late isles of the northern seas the definite secret of the 
fate of the expedition as a whole. 

After his abandonment in 1853 of four expeditionary 
ships of the Franklin search, Sir Edward Belcher re- 


172 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

turned to England, ending what he termed "The 
Last of Arctic Voyages, " in which opinion the British 
Government concurred. Lady Jane Franklin did not 
accept this decision as final. On April 12, 1856, in a 
letter to the admiralty, she strongly urged the need for 
a further search, saying: "It is due to a set of men who 
have solved the problem of centuries by the sacrifice of 
their lives." To this letter no reply was made, and 
efforts for another expedition made by her friends in 
Parliament were equally futile. 

It is needless to say that even such unwonted and 
discourteous neglect did not silence this noble-hearted 
woman, whose heroic devotion had been conspicuously 
displayed in her earlier efforts. It will be remembered 
that she had previously awakened the interest and en- 
gaged the active support of two great nations — Russia 
and the United States — in the search for the Franklin 

Americans will recall with pride that, moved by Lady 
FrankUn's appeal, President Zachary Taylor, in a mes- 
sage of January 4, 1850, urged co-operation on Congress, 
which took action that resulted in the expedition com- 
manded by Lieutenant E. J. De Haven, United States 

In her letter to President Taylor, Lady Frankhn al- 
luded gracefully to "that continent of which the Amer- 
ican repubhc forms so vast and conspicuous a portion,'* 
and says: "To the American whalers I look v/ith more 
hope, being well aware of their numbers and strength, 
their thorough equipment, and the bold spirit of enter- 

Heroic Devotion of Lady Jane Franklin 173 

prise which animates their crews. But I venture to 
look even beyond these. I am not without hope that 
you will deem it not unworthy of a great and kindred 
nation to take up the cause of humanity, which I plead, 
in a national spirit." 

On learning of the attitude of the American press, she 
wrote: "I learn that the people of the United States 
have responded to the appeal made to their humane and 
generous feelings, and that in a manner worthy of so 
great and powerful a nation — indeed, with a munificence 
which is almost without parallel." 

Now the efforts of three nations having failed. Lady 
Jane then resolved to undertake a final search at the 
expense of herself and of her sympathizing friends. 
There was then available the Resolute^ abandoned by 
Belcher, brought back by the American whaler, J. M. 
Buddington, bought by the American Congress, and 
presented to the Queen. The admiralty would neither 
loan the Resolute nor any of its surplus stores suited for 
arctic service. B}^ the efforts of Lady Franklin and her 
friends the steam-yacht Fox was sent forth on an ex- 
pedition that cost about thirty-five thousand pounds 
sterling, of which the greater portion came from Lady 
Jane's private fortune. McClintock and Allen Young 
volunteered to serve without pay, and both Hobson 
and Dr. Walker made similar pecuniary sacrifices. 

At McClintock's request Lady Jane wrote out her 
wishes, in which the personal element came last. She 
says: "The rescue of any survivor of the Erebus and 
Terror would be to me the noblest results of our efforts. 

174 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

To this object I wish every other to be subordinate; and 
next to it in importance is the recovery of the unspeak- 
ably precious documents of the expedition, public and 
private, and the personal relics of my dear husband and 
his companions. And lastl}^, to confirm, directly or in- 
ferentially, the claim of my husband's expedition to 
the earliest discovery of the passage, which, if Dr. 
Rae's report be true (and the government has accepted 
it as such), these martj^rs in a noble cause achieved at 
their last extremity." 

Captain Sir Leopold McClintock sailed July 2, 1857, 
inspired by the feeling that "the glorious mission in- 
trusted to me was in reality a great national duty." 
He was the greatest of arctic sledgemen, having made 
in unexplored parts of Parry archipelago, without 
dogs, a sledge journey of one hundred and five days, 
in which he travelled twelve hundred and ten miles. 

Reaching Baffin Bay, theFox had the great misfortune 
of being caught in the pack in the midst of summer, 
on August 15. McClintock's experiences and sufferings 
vv^ere horrible. His assistant engineer died of an acci- 
dent, and for days at a time the Fox was in danger 
of instant destruction from gales, icebergs, and other 
elements attendant on life in the pack. After a beset- 
ment of eight months and nine days, in which she 
drifted twelve hundred miles to the south, the yacht 
escaped, buffeted, racked, and leaking. 

The winter in the pack was not entirely without the 
presence of game, for in the beginning of November a 
bear crept up to the yacht, attracted by odors from the 

Heroic Devotion of Lady Jane Franklin 175 

cook's galley. Fortunately an alert quartermaster de- 
tected his form outlined against the snow and at once 
shouted to the dogs. Some of them ran like cowards, 
while others, rushing the bear, closed in on him, biting 
his legs as he ran. Crossing a lane of lately frozen sea, 
the bear broke through the new ice, followed by a 
number of dogs who held fast to him in the water- 
space. One dog, old Sophy, fared badl)^ at close 
quarters, receiving a deep cut in one of her shoulders 
from his sharp claws. It took four shots to kill the 
animal, it being a large male bear seven feet three 
inches long. McClintock tells us that "The chase and 
death were e.xciting. A misty moon affording but 
scanty light, dark figures gliding singly about, not 
daring to approach each other, for the ice trembled 
under their feet, the enraged bear, the wolfish, howling 
dogs, and the bright flashes of the rifles made a novel 

The escape from the pack was made under conditions 
that would turn one's hair gray in a few days. For 
eighteen hours the chief stood fast at his engines, while 
navigation was made through very high seas, with 
waves from ten to thirteen feet high, which threatened 
to destroy the yacht by driving against her great 
ice-floes which shook the vessel violently and nearly 
knocked the crew off their legs. 

Return to Europe for repairs seemed inevitable, but 
with the thought of poor Lad}^ Franklin in his heart, 
McChntock patched up the ship as best he could in 
Greenland, and, crossing Baffin Bay, was driven, after 

176 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

a fruitless sea-search, to winter quarters in Port Ken- 
nedy, 72° N. 94° W. 

Hunting filled in the winter, though most animal life 
had gone south. Lemmings were plentiful, about twice 
the size of and resembling the short-tailed field-mouse. 
Bold and fearless, they enlivened the members of the 
crew. An ermine visited the ship, and, being seen by 
one of the dogs, the pack set up a perfect pandemonium 
in their efforts to catch him. The beautiful snow-white 
creature rather unconcernedl}^ watched the eflPorts of 
the dogs to get at him under the grating of the boat 
where he was safely ensconced. It was amusing to 
see an ermine play around the ship, and when closely 
pursued by man or by dog plunge into a drift of soft 
snow onl}' to reappear at a considerable distance and 
in a quarter where least expected. It was with the 
active little animals a kind of hide-and-seek game, with 
their lives for forfeit if they were caught. 

During Hobson's long journey to lay down an ad- 
vance depot he lost a dog actually from overcare. She 
had the bad habit of gnawing and eating her seal-thong 
harness, and to prevent this Hobson caused her to be 
tightly muzzled after the evening meal. One of the 
numberless dog-fights occurred during the night, and 
with the trait so common to these half-wolfish beasts 
they fell on the least defenceless, and the whole pack 
bit and tore almost to pieces their muzzled and de- 
fenceless sister. Her vv^ounds were so many and so 
deep that she died during the day. 

In this journey Hobson's party barely escaped per- 

Heroic Devotion of Lady Jane Franklin 177 

Ishing through a violent northeasterly gale which drove 
seaward the ice-pack on which they were encamped. 
McClintock says that on discovering that the entire 
ice-field was adrift ''They packed their sledge, har- 

King William Land. 

nessed the dogs, and passed the long and fearful night 
in anxious waiting for some chance to escape. A little 
distance offshore the ice broke up under the influence 
of the wind and sea, and the disruption continued until 
the piece they were on was scarce twenty yards in di- 
ameter. Impelled by the storm, in utter darkness 
and amid fast-falling snow, they drifted across a wide 

178 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

inlet. The gale was quickly followed by a calm, and 
an intense frost in a single night formed ice strong 
enough to bear them safely to land, although it bent 
fearfully under their weight. Their escape was indeed 
providential. " 

Death spared these men of action in the field, but it 
invaded the ship, and Brand, the engineer, died of apo- 

When the sun came back after seventy-three days 
of absence, McClintock decided to take the field, and 
started February 14, earlier than any previous arctic 
traveller, for an extended journey. His great hope of 
success depended on finding Eskimos in the region of 
the north magnetic pole, which entailed a trip of four 
hundred and twenty miles, in temperatures as much 
as eighty degrees below the freezing-point. 

Sledging through an unknown country, wearily 
breaking day after day a trail for his emaciated, un- 
trained dogs, McClintock vainly searched the unbroken 
snowy wastes for trace of sledge or of man, and anx- 
iousl}^ scanned the dreary landscape for sight of the 
longed-for igloo or hut. The cold was intense, the 
land was barren of game, the region seemed accursed 
in its desolation, while the conditions of travel were 
hard in the extreme. 

The absence of human life was far more distressing 
to the heroic McClintock than the rigors of the jour- 
ney, for without Inuit aid the labors and sufferings of 
his crew and of himself would be unavailing. Was 
it possible that the region was abandoned by beast 

Heroic Devotion of Lady Jane Franklin 179 

and so by man? Was his mission destined to be a 
failure? Could he succeed without Eskimo help? 

He reached the magnetic pole without seeing any 
one, his dogs in such fearful plight that he could ad- 
vance but one day farther. Six of the dogs were then 
useless, and during the journey the poor animals had 
so suffered from poor food, intense cold, and bad 
snow that several of them had repeatedly fallen down 
in fits. 

When he was quite in despair, several Eskimos re- 
turning from a seal hunt crossed his trail and visited 
his camp. From the winter colony of forty-five 
Boothians he gained his first tidings of the missing 
explorers. One native said that a three-masted ship 
had been crushed by ice to the west of King William 
Land, but the crew came safe to shore. Another told 
of white men who starved on an island (probably 
Montreal) where salmon came. That the men had 
perished was quite clear from the abundance of Frank- 
hn relics among the Eskimos — buttons, knives, forks, 
McDonald's medal and a gold chain, which McClintock 
bought at the average price of one needle each. None 
of the Inuits had seen the whites, but one native had 
seen some of their skeletons. 

An example of the disregard of the natives for extreme 
cold made McClintock shiver with pity and anger. He 
says: "One pertinacious old dame pulled out her infant 
by the arm from the back of her large fur dress, and 
quietly held the poor little creature, perfectly naked, 
before me in the breeze, the temperature at the time 

i8o True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

being sixty degrees below the freezing-point. " McClin- 
tock at once gave her a needle, for which she was thus 
begging, but was considerably alarmed for the infant's 
safety before it was restored to the warmth of its 
mother's fur hood. 

Active sledging, meantime, by Young, Walker, and 
Hobson, had no results beyond snow-bhndness, freez- 
ings, and other suffering for these resolute and effi- 
cient officers. McCHntock himself, on his return, was 
scarred by frost-bites, his fingers calloused by frequent 
freezings, and his body thin with scant food, which 
made him eat, Boothian fashion, "frozen blubber in 
delicate little slices." These physical hardships were 
as nothing in return for the mental satisfaction of 
tidings of Franklin, with intimations as to the locality 
of the regions in which further research would doubt- 
less produce results. He was determined to explore the 
whole King William region, and thus obtain further 
information as to the fate of the second ship. 

McClintock then outfitted his sledge party for a jour- 
ney of eighty-four days, with Hobson as assistant, while 
Young was to establish supporting depots of food, the 
field of operations to be southwest of the magnetic pole. 

The journey to the Boothian village was, like other 
arctic travel, under bad conditions. The uncomplain- 
ing leader tells us that despite colored glasses their eyes 
were inflamed and nearly blinded, while the tale was 
further told by their blistered faces, frost-bitten mem- 
bers, cracked lips, and split hands. The discomfort of 
their camps may be inferred from the fact that it took 

Heroic Devotion of Lady Jane Franklin i8i 

an entire day to clear from accumulated ice and hoar- 
frost their sleeping-bags and camp gear. The exhaust- 
ing character of their march is evident from the load of 
two hundred pounds hauled by each man and the hun- 
dred pounds pulled by each dog. 

Two Boothian families now told McClintock that 
one ship sank and that the other broke up on shore 
where she was forced by the ice. The body of a very 
large man with long teeth had been found in the ship 
visited by the Inuits. The crew had gone, taking boats 
along, to the "large [Back] river," where their bones 
were later found. An old Eskimo woman and boy had 
last visited the wreck during the preceding winter, 

On leaving the magnetic pole, in order to extend the 
field of search, Hobson was sent down the west coast of 
King William Land. McClintock following the land 
to the east of that island fell in with forty natives, who 
confirmed the information earlier obtained, and from 
whom he bought silver plate marked with the crests of 
Franklin, Crozier, Fairholme, and McDonald. 

It was the middle of May when he reached snow-clad 
Montreal Island, which he fruitlessly searched with as 
much thoroughness as was possible under conditions 
of blizzard weather and zero temperatures. Of his 
travel troubles he tells us that driving a wretched dog 
team for six weeks had quite exhausted his stock oi 
patience. He relates: "None of the dogs had ever been 
yoked before, and the}' displayed astonishing cunnmg 
and perversity to avoid whip and work. They bit 

1 82 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

through their traces, hid under the sled, leaped over 
each other until the traces were plaited and the dogs 
knotted together. I had to halt every few minutes, 
pull off my mitts, and at the risk of frozen fingers dis- 
entangle the lines. When the sledge is stopped or 
stuck fast in deep snow, the perfectly delighted dogs 
lie down, and the driver has to himself extricate the 
sledge and apply persuasion to set his team in mo- 

His hopes of finding tangible information as to the 
Franklin records had been centred on Montreal Island, 
which Rae's report (p. 139) indicated as the scene of 
the final catastrophe. McClintock's thorough search 
of that region had been futile. Must he return to 
England and face Lady Franklin with the admission 
that her years of effort and her sacrifice of personal 
fortune had produced no additional results.? Was the 
fate of England's noted explorers to remain always 
a mystery? Were the records of work done and of 
courage shown by the officers and the men of the 
royal navy lost forever to the world? A thousand 
like and unbidden thoughts filled incessantly the tort- 
ured brain of this the greatest of arctic sledgemen* 
However, it was not in the nature of this noble-hearted 
man to despair utterly, or to cease from labors to the 
very end. 

Sick at heart and worn in body, the indefatigable 
McClintock turned shipward, and almost despairingly 
took up the search of the south coast of King William 
Land. Here he tells us: "On a gravel ridge near the 

Heroic Devotion of Lady Jane Franklin 183 

beach, partially bare of snow, I came upon a human 
skeleton, now perfectly bleached, lying upon its face. 
This poor man seems to have fallen in the position in 
which we found him. It was a melancholy truth that 
the old woman spoke when she said : * They fell down 
and died as they walked along' " Sad as may appear 
the fate of this man, one of the rank and file of the 
expedition, his indomitable courage in struggling to 
the last moment of his life will always stand as an 
instance of the high endeavor and heroic persistency 
of the British race. 

Welcome as was the indirect information obtained in 
this and in other places near by, iMcCIintock's heart was 
supremely gladdened at finding in a small cairn, prom- 
inently placed;, a note from Hobson who had found an 
abandoned boat, in which were two skeletons, with 
crested silver, etc., and, most vital of all, a record 
from Frankhn's expedition. 

It appears that Hobson found on the south side of 
Back Bay, King William Land, a record deposited by 
Lieutenant Graham Gore in May, 1847. It was in a 
thin tin soldered-up cylinder, and proved to be a dupli- 
cate of the record also found by Hobson at Point Vic- 
tory. The latter record was in an unsoldered cylinder 
which had fallen from the top of the cairn where it was 
originally placed. It was written on one of the printed 
blanks usually furnished to surveying and to discovery 
ships to be thrown overboard in a sealed bottle, with 
a request to return it to the admiralty. This written 
record, in full, ran as follows: 

184 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

"H. M. Ships Erebus and Terror 28th of May 1847. 
Wintered in the ice in Lat. 70° 5' N., Long. 98° 23' W.' 
Having wintered in 1846-7 [should read 1845-6] at 
Beechey Island, in Lat. 74° 43' N., Long. 91° 39' 15" W. 
After having ascended Wellington Channel to Lat. yfy 
and returning by the west coast of Cornwallis Island. 
Sir John Franklin commanding the Expedition. All 
well. Party consisting of 2 officers and 6 men left 
the ships on Monday 24th May 1847. 

" Gm [Graham] Gore Lieut. 

" Chas F Des Voeux Mate.'* 

On the margin of the above record was written the 


April 25, 1848, H. M. Ships Terror and Erebus were 
deserted on the 22nd of April, 5 leagues N.N.W. of 
this, having been beset since 12 September, 1846. 
The officers and crew, consisting of 105 souls, under 
the command of Capt. F. R. M. Crozier, landed 
in Lat. 69° 37' 42", Long. 93° 41' W. This paper 
was found by Lieut. Irving, under the cairn sup- 
posed to have been built by Sir James Ross in 
183 1, 4 miles to the northward, where it had been 
deposited by the late commander Gore in [May, erased 
and therefor substituted] June, 1847. Sir James 
Ross' pillar has not however been found and the 
paper has been transferred to this position, which is 
that in which Sir J. Ross' pillar was erected. Sir 
John Franklin died on the nth of June, 1847, and the 

Heroic Devotion of Lady Jane Franklin 185 

total loss by death in the Expedition has been to date 
9 officers and 15 men. 

" F. R. M. Crozier, Captain and senior officer. 

" James Fitzjames, Captain H. M. S. Erebus. 
*'And start to-morrow, 26th, for Back's Fish River. " 

These are the only records that have ever been found, 
and the thorough search made by Hall, Schwatka, and 
Gilder make it most improbable that any other will 
ever be discovered. 

The heroic persistency of Hobson in locating these 
precious papers is akin to that shown by the steward 
who fell down and died as he walked. When ten days 
out from the ship Hobson found that he was suffering 
from scurvy, but he went on and in a month walked 
lame. Near the end of his journey of seventy-four days 
he was not able to walk more than a few yards at a time, 
and so had to allow himself to be dragged on the sledge. 
When he arrived at the ship he was neither able to walk 
nor even to stand without assistance. Worthy com- 
rades were Sir Allen Young and Dr. Walker, whose 
strenuous and co-operating labors made this success 
possible, for which they also paid the price in physical 
suffering and in impaired health. 

McClintock himself played many parts, for with his 
two engineers dead he stood at a critical time twenty- 
four consecutive hours at the engine, while Young from 
the crow's nest piloted the Fox out of the ice-pack on 
her homeward voyage, in August, 1859. 

With characteristic modesty McClintock dwells 

i86 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

lightly on his own work, and ends his story with a 
merited tribute to "those heroic men who perished 
in the path of duty, but not until they had achieved 
the grand object of their voyage — the discovery of the 
northwest passage. " 

While the self-sacrificing heroism of McClintock and 
of his loyal companions solved the mystery of the 
English sailor dead, which their pow^erful government 
had been unable to reveal, yet the initiation and in part 
the prosecution of this work were due to the wifely and 
patriotic devotion of Lady Jane Franklin. 

Well and truly has it been said of this true woman: 
**So long as the name of Franklin shall be bright in the 
annals of British heroism will the unwearied devotion 
and energy of his widow be with it remembered and 



"To die be given us, or to attain! 
Fierce work it were to do again." 

— Arnold. 

ONLY once in our history has the United States 
sent forth an expedition to reach the north pole, 
and that was under Charles Francis Hall, al- 
ready distinguished for his daring arctic work in search 
of relics of the Franklin squadron. Hall sailed in the 
Polaris^ and in a voyage of unusual rapidity, passing 
through Smith Sound, added to his fame by discovering 
Robeson Channel and Its bordering lands. He broke 
the record In navigating his ship to 82 11' north lati- 
tude, in the Great Frozen Ocean, which was reached 
August 30, 1 87 1. The Polaris^ forced southward by 
the arctic pack, wintered at Thank God Harbor, Green- 
land, where Hall died of apoplexy. With his death the 
north-polar quest was abandoned, and the ice-master 
Buddington sailed homeward the following summer. 
Pushed hastily Into an impassable pack, the ship was 
subjected to its vicissitudes for two months without 
possibility of escape. Drifting steadily southward the 
Polaris was off Northumberland Island on October 15, 
1872, when she was nearly destroyed by a violent bliz- 
zard and her crew was separated — half on the floating 


190 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

pack and the rest on shipboard. The latter party 
beached the sinking ship in Life Boat Cove, where the 
crew wintered. Going south in 1873 they were picked 
up by the whaler Ravenscraig near Cape York. The 
story of the separation and of the experiences of the 
castaways follow.* 

Above the shining waters of the blue and historic 
Potomac at Washington rise the oak-crowned hills of 
Arlington where repose many heroic dead in our Amer- 
ican Valhalla. Side by side in almost countless rows 
stand thousands of plain white stones which preserve 
for coming patriotic generations the names and mem- 
ories of those who died for the Union. Here and there 
the prevailing monotony is broken by a more ambitious 
monument raised by family or by friends. These men, 
inspired by patriotism as a rule, did deeds of valor, with 
weapons in hand, in the face of an armed foe. But the 
men of the American nation have conquered fate in 
other fields than those of war, and such services are 
elsewhere commemorated in Washington. In the Hall 
of Fame at our national capital each American State 
places the statues of its two most distinguished servi- 
tors — in memory of deeds done for the good and the 
greatness of the State. And near by the Congressional 
Cemetery contains stately shafts and memorial col- 
umns that mark the graves of other men famous in 
national annals through civic worth. 

Yet there are other heroes than those of war or of 

*See map, page 95. 

Marvellous Ice-Drift of Captain Tyson 191 

civic service buried within sight of the majestic monu- 
ment to Washington or of the graceful dome of the 
Capitol. In the shades of Greenwood stands a plain 
shaft of black marble whereon the passer-by may read 
as follows: 

"To the memory of an arctic hero, Captain George 
E, Tyson, 1829-1906. In 1872-73, while adrift on an 
ice-floe 196 days, he saved the lives of 18 companions. 
They serve God urll zvho serve his creatures. " 

Tliis memorial, built through small contributions 
from self-denying men of meagre means, was in honor 
of a plain man of small education, of humble occupation, 
who loved his fellows. It therefore seems well that 
the tale of his arctic services thus recognized should be 
told anew to the rising generation of Americans that 
his deeds may not soon fade from the minds of men. 

The fateful disaster of October 15, 1872, which led to 
the Tyson floe-drift occurred in the midst of a dark 
winter night when a snow-filled hurricane wind drove 
huge icebergs through the solid and seemingly impene- 
trable ice-field in which the Polaris was fast beset. As 
if by magic the solemn, quiet calm of the polar night 
was broken by a series of tornado-like gusts, and soon 
the responsive ice-field quivered as though upcast b)' 
a marine earthquake. The bowlings of the wind were 
broken by horrible groanings from the moving polar 
pack, while now and then arose deafening sounds, as of 
a cannonade, from the explosions of the ice-surface. It 
takes much to move to fear men long in arctic service, 
but the quiet ship life was stirred into startled action 

192 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

when heavy floes near the ship began to split into count- 
less fragments. One and all knew that the long-dreaded 
peril was upon them — the disruption of the polar pack. 
For weeks they had watched with pleasure the changing 
lights and reflected tints from their azure-colored neigh- 
bors — the tall, white sentinels of the arctic seas. After 
pleasure the pain, and now with terror they saw the pale 
blue icebergs of enormous size — wind-driven and slow- 
moving — plough their way serenely through the main 
pack of flat-topped paleocrystic floes scores of feet in 

Under these awful pressures the huge floes, as they 
met, crumbling at the edges, threw up vast masses of 
broken ice which in long pressure-ridges acted as buflf- 
ers. Caught in this maelstrom of whirling, upturning 
ice the Polaris was bodily lifted many feet, quite out of 
the water, so that she careened on her beam ends. 

In this crisis, amid intense excitement, some one cried 
out that the ship's sides were broken in and that she 
was making water freely. At this Buddington shouted : 
"Work for your lives, boys! Throw everything over- 
board" — meaning the emergency packages of stores 
and provisions which for weeks had been kept ready on 
deck in view of possible and sudden shipwreck. Stores, 
clothing, records, boats, food, and other articles were 


frantically cast upon the main floe to which the ship 
was secured by ice-anchors. Fearing that the Polaris 
would soon sink and carry down in her final plunge 
everything near her. Captain Tyson busied himself in 
removing and piling together, at a safe distance, the 

Marvellous Ice-Drift of Captain Tyson 193 

scattered stores. While thus engaged the main pack 
loosened up near the Polaris. The ice pressures slowly 
relaxed, the pressure-ridges dropped apart, and the 
ship, slipping down into the sea, dragged her ice- 
anchors, broke her hawser, and was driven out of sight 
— disappearing almost in the twinkling of an eye, as 
it seemed to the dazed men yet on the floe. 

The stranded men and supplies were not on a single 
floe, but scattered on several, which were separated by 
rapidly widening lanes of water. Tyson acted with de- 
cision and promptness, and launching a whale-boat at 
the risk of his life succeeded during that dark, tempestu- 
ous night in bringing together the nineteen men, women, 
and children on the immense floe to which the ship 
had been anchored for weeks. Here the exhausted 
party huddled together under some musk-ox skins, 
which in a degree protected them from the increasing 
southwest bhzzard that then prevailed; but dawn found 
them chilled to the bone, covered with the heavy snow- 
fall of the night.* 

Tyson took charge and at once decided to abandon 
the floe and the main supplies, knowing that the party 
would be safe if it could reach land and the Etah 
Eskimos. The ice had so drifted that the shore was 
within a few miles, and the party in an attempt to reach 
it was hurried into the boat, which unfortunately had 

* Of this situation Hans Hendrik, in his "Memoirs," written in Eskimo, 
says: "But especially I pitied my poor little wife and her children in the 
terrible snow-storm. I began thinking: ' Have I searched for this myself by- 
travelling to the north? But no! we have a merciful Providence to watcU 
over us.' At length our children fell asleep, while we covered them with ox- 
hides in the frightful snow-drift." 

194 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

only three oars and was rudderless. Two men actually 
reached the land over the ice, on a scouting trip, but 
later the wind, ice, and tides were so adverse that Ty- 
son decided, as the pack closed in front of the boat, to 
return to their original floe. 

Although sadly reduced in size by the action of the 
grinding pack and by the ploughing icebergs, the 
flat-topped floe-berg was still enormous. Nearly cir- 
cular in shape, and averaging quite a hundred feet in 
thickness, its area was about seven square miles. 
With its diversified surface of hill and dale, favored by 
several fresh-water lakes, and of marble-like texture 
and hardness as to its ice, it seemed to be a floe-berg of 
such solidity and extent as would insure safety under 
any and all conditions. 

The castaways numbered nineteen in all — Captain 
Tyson, Signal Sergeant Meyer, eight seamen, and nine 
Eskimos, of whom seven were women and children. 
Except Tyson and the negro cook Jackson, there were 
no Americans in the party. 

With the foresight, system, and judgment which in- 
sured the final safety of the party, Tyson collected the 
materials scattered over the several floes, inventoried 
and provided for the safety of the food, and insisted on 
a fixed ration. Their food supplies on October i8 con- 
sisted of 14 hams, 14 cans of pemmican, 12 bags of 
bread, i can of dried apples, 132 cans of meats and 
soups, and a small bag of chocolate. They also had 2 
whale-boats, 2 kayaks, an A-tent, compasses, chro- 
nometer, etc., rifles and ammunition. 

Marvellous Ice-Drift of Captain Tyson 195 

Food was of surpassing importance, and l}son cal- 
culated that the supply would last four months at the 
rate of twelve ounces daily to each adult, the Eskimo 
children to receive half rations. 

To insure an equable distribution of the food, Tyson 
took charge and personally measured out both bread 
and pemmican. Later he was able to give exact 
w^eights through a pair of improvised scales. They 
were made by Meyer most ingeniously of a lever bal- 
ance taken from an aneroid barometer and connected 
with a three-cornered rule; the weights used were shot 
from their shot-gun ammunition. 

The foreigners of the party, except the docile Eski- 
mos, were not thoroughly amenable to command. After 
Hall's death the failings of the sailing-master in com- 
mand, Captain Buddington, were such that he could 
not maintain proper discipline, and hence a certain 
degree of demoralization existed among the seamen. 
The rule of the sea that loosens bonds and makes 
seamen free from service on the loss of a ship, was also 
injuriously felt. 

As a result Tyson's powers of control simply arose 
from his high character, sound judgment, and profes- 
sional knowledge. His orders were obeyed as seemed 
convenient, but, as one man testified under oath, 
"When we didn't [obey his orders] we found out it 
didn't turn out well" — the highest of praise. 

With increasing cold the tent was no longer habita- 
ble, and it became necessary to provide warm shelter, 
which was done through the building of igloos, or snow 

196 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

huts, by the Eskimo Ebierbing (Joe) and Hans Hendrik. 
Hans and his family of six built their igloo a little apart 
from the others. While there were five separate igloos, 
they were thrown into close connection by a system of 
arched snow passages through which the men came and 
went without exposure to the weather. Some delay 
and trouble occurred in finding suitable drifts of packed 
snow from which were dexterously carved the snow 
slabs needful for the huts. The very low entrances to 
the igloos were covered by a canvas flap frozen into 
the outer wall so as to exclude almost entirely the en- 
trance into the hut of either cold air or wind-driven 
snow. Feeble light was introduced through windows 
made of thin slabs of fresh-water ice cut from an adja- 
cent lake. 

From the entrance the canvas-covered snow floor 
sloped gently upward to the rear of the igloo, thus 
making that portion of the room a little higher and 
somewhat warmer, as the colder air flowed down to- 
ward the door. Their scant bedding of sleeping-bags 
and musk-ox skins was arranged in the rear of the hut, 
on canvas-covered boards, where, however, the arched 
snow roof was near the head of the sleeper. The only 
place where one could stand erect was in the very cen- 
tre of the hut, where the separate messes cooked their 
scanty meals. 

Tyson and the Eskimo famihes did their cooking 
from the first by lamp, native-fashion, the lamps being 
made from pemmican cans with wicks of canvas ravel- 
ings. He urged the others to follow the example thus 

Marvellous Ice-Drift of Captain Tyson 197 

set, telling them that this economical method was 
necessary owing to scarcity of fuel. The seamen tried 
it for a while, but as there was much smoke from lack of 
care they abandoned the lamp. Despite Tyson's ad- 
vice, they began, with reckless disregard for the future, 
to break up the smaller of the two boats and use it as 
fuel for cooking. In excuse they said that the astro- 
nomical observations and opinions of Meyer showed 
that the floe was drifting toward Disco, Greenland, 
and that they would soon reach that place and the 
occupancy of the ice camp would be of short duration. 

On October 27 the sun left them permanently for 
three months, and soon the bitter, benumbing cold of 
the arctic winter was felt by all. The cold, hunger, and 
short rations soon affected both body and mind, 
causing less bodily activity and inducing a sharpness 
of temper which often led to long and angry discus- 
sions among the seamen. 

An unfortunate loss of food occurred in connection 
with the dogs, all nine having been kept for bear- 
hunting. Slowly perishing of starvation, the wolfish 
dogs succeeded in breaking into the storehouse, and 
devoured everything within reach before they were dis- 
covered. Five of the most ravenous brutes w^ere shot, 
greatly to the advantage of the Eskimo, who made a 
royal feast. The white men, not yet reduced to ex- 
tremities, looked on with amusement as their native 
companions with luxurious satisfaction cooked and 
swallowed the slaughtered animals. 

Tyson's experiences as a whaler made him realize 

198 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

that the only chance of life lay in obtaining game, and 
so he organized and encouraged hunting-parties. All 
the men were armed except the captain himself, but 
it must be here admitted that the entire crew of seamen 
did not obtain enough game, during the drift of six 
months' duration, to make a single meal for the party. 
The successful hunters were the Eskimo, Ebierbing 
(Joe) being most successful, though Hans Hendrik 
killed many seal. 

Once Hans barely escaped death from the rifles of 
Ebierbing and Seaman Kruger, as in the darkness they 
mistook him for a bear owing to the color of his snow- 
covered fur clothing and to the lumbering methods by 
which he climbed over the hummocky ridges. Fort- 
unately the hunters waited for a better shot, and mean- 
time saw that it was Hans. 

Matters were getting bad after one boat had been 
burned and there was no blubber left for cooking. 
Some of the men were so weak that they trembled as 
they walked, and the native children often cried from 
the pangs of hunger. Once the men ate the seal meat 
uncooked and undressed, so keen was their hunger. 

As no bears appeared, seal-hunting was followed with 
renewed and feverish energy. At first seal were killed 
in open water-spaces around the edges of the floe. 
When the extreme cold cemented together the floes, it 
was necessary to hunt carefully for seal-holes — places 
where the seal comes regularly for air, keeping the hole 
open by his nose, rising and breaking the new ice as it 
forms from day to day. 

Marvellous Ice-Drift of Captain Tyson 199 

Such holes are only three or four inches across, and 
it often requires long search before the trained eye of 
the seal-hunter locates a breathing space. Even then 
unwearied patience and great skill are needful for suc- 
cessful hunting. Seated by the hole, with his back to 
the wind, his feet on a bit of seal-skin, with a barbed 
spear in his hand, the Inuit hunter steadily and in- 
tently fastens his eyes on the glazed water-space where 
the animal rises. Often it is hours before the seal comes, 
if indeed at all, and he is caught only through a swift, 
single stroke by w^hich the spear unerringly pierces the 
thin skull of the animal. Five seals were killed during 
November, and Thanksgiving day was celebrated by 
adding to the usual meal a little chocolate and some 
dried apples. 

The moral attitude of the greater number of the sea- 
men was evident from several incidents. On Thanks- 
giving day the captain suggested that all unite in some 
religious service appropriate to the day and to their 
situation, but the seamen were unwilling to participate. 

In marked contrast were the feelings of the Inuit 
Hans Hendrik, who thus writes: "I considered the 
miserable condition of my wife and children, on a piece 
of ice in the mid-ocean, then I pronounced my prayer: 

Jesti, lead me by the hand. 
While I am here below; 
Forsake me not. 

With bad judgment Meyer, who was an under- 
officer, left Tyson's hut and joined the seamen — mostly 

200 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Germans like himself. As a result of the growing 
demoralization, incursions were made on the food by 
unknown persons, and when Tyson was one day sick 
a seaman made the issues and then decided to retain 
this duty. There had been complaint that Tyson was 
too stingy in his issues, and the new issuing officer gave 
with freer hand in accord with the wishes of the heedless 

Tyson was then driven to leave his lonely hut for the 
igloo wherein lived Ebierbing and his worthy wife 
TookooHto (Hannah) and their young adopted daugh- 
ter. This hut was the very centre of activity on the 
floe. Apart from the time needful for cooking, Too- 
koolito busied herself either in deftly mending the torn 
and sadly worn skin garments of her husband and of 
Tyson, or in making some article that would add to the 
general comfort and be of daily use. Thus the party 
was divided into two camps, one of care and produc- 
tion, the other of amusement and consumption. Ebier- 
bing kept the field daily, and his success as a hunter 
proved to be the salvation of the party. Hans did what 
he could, it is true, but he was either less skilful or less 
fortunate than his native companion. The crew did 
almost nothing save to cook the food given them. 
They scarcely took exercise and filled in their time with 
endless discussions as to the future or with a pack of 
cards made out of heavy paper. Tyson controlled the 
Eskimos alone, and gave advice to the men only as oc- 
casion urgently demanded. 

The winter month of December passed badly, with 

Marvellous Ice-Drift of Captain Tyson 201 

increasing darkness, severer cold, and despondent feel- 
ings. The poor natives, hearing so much desperate 
talk, unfortunately gained the notion that in the last 
extremity, which then seemed to be at hand, they 
would be sacrificed, and much uneasiness was felt by 
Tyson who strove to reassure them. Two wretchedly 
thin foxes, giving about three ounces of fresh meat to 
each man, was the only game up to Christmas, and 
nothing was encouraging except the steady drift to 
the south. 

The captain felt it best to give a starvation feast on 
Christmas, and so added to the usual ration the last 
remaining delicacies — a bit of frozen ham, a few spoon- 
fuls of dried apples, and a swallow or two of seal blood 
saved in a frozen condition. The knowledge that the 
sun was returning, of southing being made by drift, and 
chances of game increasing were conditions of hope 
that made it an almost cheerful holiday. 

Actually they were in desperate straits of hunger, 
for Tyson relates that in his igloo they ate greedily 
the refuse of the cooking-lamp oil. Tookoolito turned 
into food and cooked pieces of dried seal-skin which 
had been set aside for repairing their clothing. Of this 
Tyson says: "It was so very tough it made my jaws 
ache to chew it." 

Day after day, in storm and in calm, faithful Ebierbing 
kept the field, always hoping for success on the morrow. 
After thirty-six days of unsuccess he killed a seal in the 
open sea. Shot through the brain, the seal floated un- 
til he could be reached bv that wonderful skin boat of 

202 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

the Eskimos — the kayak. Then land shot up into view 
to the southwestward, and all felt that they were saved. 

The new year of 1873 opened in dreary form, with 
no game, and a dinner of two mouldy biscuit with seal 
entrails and blubber served frozen, as their fuel was 
gone. The improvident seamen had not only burned 
one boat, but even the boards under their sleeping- 
robes. Compelled at last by dire need, they now made 
a lamp from an old can and began to cook Eskimo- 
fashion. Most of the time the seamen passed idly 
in their igloo, quarrelling and disputing. In their ill- 
clad, half-starved condition they suffered terribly from 
the severe and prolonged cold of January, during which 
the mercury was often frozen, with occasional tem- 
peratures seventy degrees below freezing. Hopes of 
relief were high when a bear was found near, and then 
came a feeling of despair when the animal escaped 
after injuring badly the two remaining dogs. 

Affairs then went from bad to worse, and the utter 
disruption of the party was imminent, although Ty- 
son used to the utmost his powers of command over 
the natives and of persuasion with the seamen. An 
unruly and mutinous member of the crew invaded 
Tyson's igloo, roundly abused the captain, and even 
threatened him with personal violence, well knowing 
that he was unarmed. The evil effects of such conduct 
was so plain to all that the culprit was forced by public 
opinion to make an apology for his actions and thus 
in a manner to strengthen Tyson's hands in the future. 

After an absence of eighty-three days the sun re- 

Marvellous Ice-Drift of Captain Tyson 203 

turned on January 19, which gave new courage to the 
natives and increased chances of game. When they 
killed a seal after many days of hunting, the starving 
seamen, almost crazy at the sight of food, dragged the 
animal into their own igloo and gave to the hunters 
only a small and unfair part of the meat and blubber. 
With difficulty Tyson was able to mollify the offended 
natives, by whom this injustice was the more felt as 
Tobias, one of Hans's babies, was quite sick and could 
not eat pemmican. 

February opened with ten days of fruitless hunting, 
when Hans fortunately saw a seal thrust his head up 
through young ice far from the floe. Would he come 
again? Could he kill him at that distance, and was it 
possible to bring him in.' While asking himself these 
questions, with his eyes intent on the air-hole, the nose 
and then the head of the seal rose slowly into view. On 
this shot might depend their lives, and with the care and 
slowness of the Inuit hunter, half-starved Hans, with 
steady hand and unerring aim, sent a bullet through the 
brain of the seal, paralyzing him and thus keeping the 
air in the seal's lungs and floating his body. As the 
thin new ice would not bear a man, Tyson solved the 
difficulty by putting Hans in his kayak and pushing 
him forward as far as could be done. With his paddle 
braced against rough bits of the floe and by squirming 
his body, Hans finally reached the seal, fastened a line 
to it, and worked his way back in the kayak. 

With food failing again and the revival of the 
selfish spirit of every man for himself, Tyson's lot 

204 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

was hard and he knew not what would happen from 
day to day. Always quiet and cool, he spoke only 
when there was need, and never with harsh tones or 
angry words. He did not waste his force on matters 
of minor importance — an attitude that carried weight 
in the end. 

When almost in despair there came seal after seal, 
and scores of arctic dovekies, or little auks in winter 
plumage. Though each of the birds gave but four 
ounces of meat, they were welcomed both as a change 
of diet and as harbingers of coming spring. The sea- 
men then listened to Tyson's advice and decided to 
eke out life on one meal a day, owing to the fast- 
vanishing stock of bread and pemmican. 

Cape Mercy, in about 65 north latitude, was now 
in sight though forty miles distant. Some of the men 
were ready to heartlessly abandon the natives, owing 
to the smallness of the sole remaining boat, but Tyson 
said tactfully that all could go (not must go) when the 
water was ice-free. Preparations were made, the tent 
enlarged from spare canvas, the ammunition divided, 
etc., but ice conditions grew worse instead of better. 

March opened with a violent storm, which kept all 
in their igloos save the indefatigable hunters. Then 
Ebierbing shot a monster harp seal about nine feet 
long, the largest that Tyson had ever seen, which gave 
about seven hundred pounds of its rich, nutritious meat 
and blubber. So delirious were the quite starved sea- 
men that they rushed at the body, carved out pieces 
and ate them raw, soon being so frightfully besmeared 

Marvellous Ice-Drift of Captain Tyson 205 

v/ith blood that they looked like ravenous brutes de- 
vouring their prey. The heedless men, who turned to 
Tyson in all cases of dire distress, now ignored his ad- 
vice not to eat the liver of the seal, and paid for their 
imprudence by fits of sickness, fortunately not fatal. 

With a persistent, fatuitous belief that they would 
drift to Disco, the seamen were first aroused to the ex- 
treme seriousness of their situation by a most violent 
gale of sixty hours in which they barely escaped death. 
As has been said, their igloos were built near the centre 
of an enormous floe nearly a hundred feet in thickness 
and fifteen miles in circumference. When the storm 
began the sea seemed covered by floes of similar size 
and of equally unbreakable ice. The party again failed 
to have in mind the many insecure and dangerous ice- 
bergs which dotted the ice-plain that covered the sea. 
Throughout the first night the cracking and breaking 
of the floes sounded like the firing of heavy artillery and 
the explosion of high-powered shells. Under stress of 
anxiety the men passed the second night dressed and 
ready for the worst. 

The howling of the gale, the snow-filled air making 
everything invisible, the recurring roar of the sea, the 
sound of splitting floes within a few yards of the igloos, 
and the awful moaning of the moving pack around them, 
with the steady grinding of colliding bergs, made it a 
night of horrors. With the gale ended they found 
themselves saved almost as by miracle, for though their 
igloos were safe in the centre of a tiny fragment of the 
great floe, its area was less than a hundred square yards. 

2o6 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Surrounding them were hundreds of icebergs and huge 
floes of all sizes and shapes inextricably entangled and 
disrupted. Yesterday they could walk miles on their 
own floe, now they were confined to a floe-fragment. 

Dangerous as was the gale it brought about their 
safety, for the open pack made seal-hunting more pro- 
ductive. The twenty-three seals which were killed dur- 
ing the succeeding two weeks gave needful food, revived 
their courage, and renewed their strength. Tyson then 
arranged to save for emergencies their little remaining 
bread and pemmican. As they were now off the en- 
trance to Hudson Strait, on the breeding grounds of the 
seal, their safety as regards food seemed to be assured. 
But another gale brought fresh and unlooked-for 
disaster, for while they collided with a large iceberg 
without destruction they were driven far to the east- 
ward, into the open ocean, where their floe was by itself 
away from the main ice, with only water in sight. 

Tyson knew that separation from the icebergs and 
floes meant speedy death, and as soon as the sea calmed, 
April I, he ordered the party to prepare for the aban- 
donment of the floe. Many objected to leaving their 
comfortable igloos, with plenty of meat, to seek ice so 
far to the west that it could not be seen, but they finally 
obeyed Tyson's orders. 

The short-sightedness of the seamen in burning a boat 
was now evident to all. There were nineteen persons 
to be crowded into a whale-boat intended for eight. 
Some of the selfish would have left the natives behind, 
for taking them meant the leaving behind of nearly all 

Marvellous Ice-Drift of Captain Tyson 207 

meat and other dead weights. Bread, pemmican, some 
ammunition, the tent, and sleeping-gear were put in the 
boat, and with a spirit of loyalty criticised by the sea- 
men, Tyson took on board the desk and records of 
Captain Hall. If this man lived it would be with 
honor; if he died it should be with his self-respect. The 
fearfully overcrowded boat barely escaped swamping 
several times — saved only through Tyson's skilful sea- 
manship. Some men were so alarmed that in panic 
they threw overboard seal meat to lighten the boat. 
Three days of unremitting labor brought them to a floe 
that seemed solid, which they occupied in face of bad 

They had barely put up igloos when an awful gale 
burst on them, and for four days it was a steady battle 
against death. Their floe began to crumble under press- 
ure from other bergs, and Ebierbing's hut w^as carried 
oflF as the floe split. Seeking the centre of the ice they 
built a new igloo, which lasted for the night only. 
Next day the floe, caught between two giant bergs, 
burst with a mighty roar, splitting completely in two, 
the crack running through the floor of the igloo. They 
were left on a piece of ice so small that they could 
not make arrangements for all to lie down together. 
Everything was put into the boat, and all through the 
night they stood watch, half-and-half, ready to launch 
her at a moment's notice. Again the floe split while 
breakfast was being cooked in the tent, the crack run- 
ning through the tent; the cook escaped but the break- 
fast fell into the sea. The tent was again pitched 

2o8 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

alongside the whale-boat. The tent could not shelter 
all the party, but by turns they got a little sleep. 

About midnight there was heard a fearful crash, and, 
as Hans relates, "The ice which served us as a camping- 
place parted between the boat on which I slept and 
the tent. I jumped out to the other side, while that 
piece on which the boat was placed moved off quickly 
with Mister Maje [Meyer] who was seated in the boat, 
and we were separated from it by the water. Our 
Master [Tyson] asked the sailors to make a boat out of 
a piece of ice and try to reach it, but they refused. We 
had never felt so distressed as at this moment, when we 
had lost our boat. At last I said to my comrade [Ebier- 
bing] : 'JVe must try to get at it!' Each of us then formed 
an umiardluk [a bad boat] out of a piece of ice, and in 
this wa}^ passed to the other fragment. As now we were 
three men we could manage to put the boat into the 
water. On doing so Mister Maje [Meyer] fell into the 
sea; Ebierbing pulled him up. Meanwhile the ice had 
screwed together, and we stood still. At this time 
night fell, and our companion who had been in the sea, 
now lying in the boat, was like to freeze to death. I 
said to my comrade that if he remained so he would 
really die. When I had spoken we asked him to rise, 
saying that if he remained he would perish. The first 
time he rose he tumbled down, but, after having walked 
a long time, he recovered. At daybreak we discovered 
our friends close by, and the ice joined together. They 
came to us and assisted us to drag the boat over to 











r S 












Marvellous Ice-Drift of Captain Tyson 209 

The crucial trial on the evening of April 20 may best 
be realized from Tyson's graphic description: "Finally 
came a tremendous wave, carrying away our tent, skins, 
and bed-clothing, leaving us destitute. The women 
and children were already in the boat (Merkut having 
her tiny baby Charlie Polaris, Inuit-fashion, in the 
hood of her fur jacket), or the little ones would have 
been swept into watery graves. All we could do was to 
try and save the boat. All hands were called to man 
the boat — to hold on to it with might and main to 
prevent it being washed away. With our boat warp 
and strong line of oogjook (seal) thongs we secured the 
boat to vertical projecting points of ice. Having no 
grapnels or ice-anchors these fastenings were frequently 
unloosed and broken, and we had to brace ourselves 
and hold on with all the strength we had. 

" I got the boat over to the edge of our ice where the 
seas first struck, for toward the farther edge the gath- 
ered momentum of the waves would more than master 
us and the boat would go. . . . We were nearly carried 
off, boat and all, many times during this dreadful night. 
The heaviest seas came at intervals of fifteen to twenty 
minutes. . . . There we stood all night long, from 9 
p. M. to 7 A. M., enduring what few, if any, have gone 
through and lived. Tremendous seas would come and 
lift up the boat bodily, and carry it and us forward 
almost to the extreme opposite edge of our piece. 

"Several times the boat got partly over the edge and 
was only hauled back by the superhuman strength 
which a knowledge of the desperate condition its loss 

2IO True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

would reduce us to gave us. With almost every sea 
would come an avalanche of ice-blocks in all sizes, from 
a foot square to the size of a bureau, which, striking our 
legs and bodies, bowled us off our feet. We were black 
and blue with bruises for many a day. 

" We stood hour after hour, the sea as strong as ever, 
but we weakening. Before morning we had to make 
Tookoolito and Merkut [the women] get out and help 
us hold on too. . . . That was the greatest fight for life 
we had yet had. God must have given us strength for 
the occasion. For twelve hours there was scarcely a 
sound uttered save the crying of the children and my 
orders: Hold on! Bear down! Put on all your 
weight ! ' and the responsive ay, ay, sir ! ' which for 
once came readily enough." 

These awful experiences past, they were rescued ten 
days later, off the coast of Labrador, by Captain 
Bartlett of the sealing-steamer Tigress. They had 
lived on an ice-floe one hundred and ninety-six days and 
drifted fifteen hundred miles. Through God's provi- 
dence they were restored to the world in health and 
without the loss of a life or even of a limb. 

His work accomplished, the heroic sailor, Tyson, went 
back to the every-day things of life without parade or 
boastings, and in an humble position did well and con- 
tentedly the ordinary round of work. 

In the difficult and dangerous arctic service herein 
told Tyson did from day to day what seemed his 
present duty as best he could without thought of self. 
Without other ambition than to save the lives of the 

Marvellous Ice-Drift of Captain Tyson 211 

men, the women, and the children whom Providence had 
intrusted to his charge, he did not seek but he found 
fame and good report. Let the youth of our great land 
note that this is but one of the many cases in our day 
and generation in which, as Tennyson sings: 

" Let his great example stand, 
Till in all lands and thro' all human story 
The path of duty be the path of glory." 



"Only action gives life strength." 


IN 1875 the British arctic expedition steamed 
northward through Kane Sea in its attempt to 
reach the north pole. Its commander, Captain 
George S. Nares, R.N., thought it prudent to insure a 
safe retreat by estabHshing a southerly base of opera- 
tions where one ship should remain. Nares, in the 
flag-ship Alerty chose the dangerous and exposed winter 
quarters at Floeberg Beach, an open roadstead of the 
ice-clad Arctic Ocean at the northern entrance of 
Robeson Channel. The Discovery, under command of 
Captain S. F. Stephenson, R.N., was laid up at a shel- 
tered anchorage in Lady Franklin Bay, more than a 
hundred miles to the southward of the Alert. An at- 
tempt to open communication between the two ships 
by sledge party failed in the autumn of 1875. With 
the return of the sun in 1876, after an absence of 
one hundred and fifty days, it became most important 
to establish communication with the Discovery at the 
earliest moment. From the Alert there was visible far 
to the eastward, on clear days, the mountains of north- 
west Greenland, which Nares wished Stephenson to 
explore instead of making a sledge trip to the Etah 
Eskimos to the south as originally planned. The heroic 


2i6 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

conduct of the officers attempting this journey and 
their success in saving the Ufe of Petersen are set forth 
in this tale. 

The efficiency of every army and of every navy of 
the world is known only by the final and supreme test 
of active service in war, but it is plain that the essential 
attributes to success — skill, solidarity, and devotion 
to duty — are acquired in times of peace. Nowhere are 
greater efforts made to cultivate these admirable qual- 
ities than in the royal navy of Great Britain, the most 
formidable of the world. 

Among its chiefs is the second naval lord, whose 
duties lie especially with the hearts of oak, the men be- 
hind the guns, whose courage and skill are the very 
soul of the service. The second naval lord has in 
charge the manning and officering of the war-ships; he 
plans the bringing together at a special place and in a 
given time the mighty dreadnoughts, the tiny torpedo- 
boats, the swaying submarines, and the swift destroy- 
ers; and he sees that gunnery, marksmanship, and 
other special training are up to the highest mark. 
Such a lord should, above all, be a man among men — 
one inspiring confidence both by knowing when and how 
times of peril should be met and also through having 
himself done such service in earlier life. 

Such is the life history of Admiral Sir George Le 
Clerc Egerton, who, passing from a high sea command to 
duty as the naval aid to his majesty the King, rose a few 
years since to this lofty station and assumed its im- 

The Saving of Petersen 


portant duties. Great as may be the respect and high 
as can be the admiration of the world for efficient per- 
formance of pubHc duties by officials of high station, 
yet the hearts of sympathetic, tender-hearted men and 

Robeson Channel and Lady Franklin Bay, 

women are more deeply moved whenever and where- 
ever they hear a tale of self-sacrifice and of heroic 
comradeship. Such is the story of this great naval lord, 
enacted by him as a sub-lieutenant far from the civilized 
world, on the ice-bound coast of a desolate arctic land, 
for the safety of an humble dog driver. The nobler the 

2i8 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

heart the greater is its sense of duty to helpless de- 
pendents in deep distress. And more heroic was the 
work of Lieutenant Egerton, flying his sledge flag, 
*' Tanq je puis (All that I can)," than an}'- done under 
his stately flag as a naval lord or as admiral of the fleet. 

When Captain Nares looked longingly southward 
from his ship on the Arctic Ocean, wishing in his heart 
for word of his assistant, he was not blind to the dangers 
and diflBiCulties of the journey. The preceding Septem- 
ber gallant Lieutenant Rawson with strength and cour- 
age had pressed on to Cape Rawson. The precipitous 
cliffs there made a farther journey by land impossible, 
while the half-open sea was covered with a shifting, 
ever-moving ice-pack that made the ocean as impassa- 
ble for a boat as the ice was for a sledge. 

Now in late winter the surface of Robeson Channel 
was covered by a soHd, unmoving pack, but the cold 
was so intense that it could be endured in the field only 
by men of iron. Day after day the temperature was 
eighty degrees below the freezing-point, and even when 
it should moderate the travelling party must be care- 
fully chosen. Rawson was to go as a passenger, for 
his ship was the Discovery to which he was now to re- 
turn. Of all available officers Egerton seemed to have 
physical and mental qualities that promised well. 
Naturally the dog driver — for they were to travel with 
a dog-sledge — would have been Eskimo Frederick. In 
this emergency Niels Christian Petersen off"ered his ser- 
vices, claiming that his arctic experiences and powers 
of endurance fitted him for such a journey. A Dane by 

The Saving of Petersen 219 

birth, his years of service in Greenland had made him 
a skilled dog driver, and experiences with Dr. Hayes in 
his expedition of i860 had made him familiar with 
field service. A vigorous man of forty years, he seemed 
the best of the three sledgemen for stanch endurance in 
such ice and weather. 

Nares said in his letter of instructions: "In perform- 
ing this duty in the present cold weather, with the 
temperature more than seventy-seven degrees below 
freezing, great caution is necessary." The date of de- 
parture was originally fixed for March 4, 1876, the day 
on which the retiring sun was first clearly seen above the 
southern hills at 11.30 a. m. The cold was intense, 
being one hundred and one degrees below the freezing- 
point. Whiskey placed on the floe froze hard in a few 
minutes. Egerton's departure was therefore postponed 
until the prolonged cold ended eight days later. 

Meantime it was clear that such awful temperatures 
would seriously affect the dogs, who were suffering in 
short exercise marches from the action of the intense 
cold on the sharp, sand-like snow particles — all sepa- 
rate. Nares relates that in crossing the trails of the 
dogs near the ship he "noticed, lying on the floe, numer- 
ous frozen pellets of blood which always form between 
the toes of these animals when working during severely 
cold weather. The heat of the foot causes the snow to 
ball; this soon changes into ice, and collecting between 
the toes cuts into the flesh. On board of the Resolute 
in 1853 we endeavored to fit our dogs with blanket pads 
on their feet, but these were found to increase the 

220 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

mischief by first becoming damp and then freezing, 
when the hardened blanket cut into the sinews at the 
back of the dogs' legs."* 

On March 12, 1876, Petersen threw forward the long 
flexible lash of his Eskimo whip, calling sharply to the 
waiting dogs, and the party dashed off in a temperature 
of minus thirty degrees. Petersen, Rawson, and Eger- 
ton took turns on the sledge, one riding at a time. 
The others ran behind the sledge, holding fast each to 
one of the upstanders.f 

The dogs ran freely with their very light load of 
fifty-one pounds per animal, for a full load would be 
about one hundred pounds for each dog. An hour's 
travel in a cross wind — filled with the fine drift of sand- 
like snow so common in the arctic — made them all 
put on their blinkers (face-protectors against the cold, 
made of carpeting material) to keep their faces from 
freezing solid. Every care was taken by the watchful 
Egerton to guard against frost-bites. Each quarter of 
an hour he stopped the sledge for a moment, when each 
sledgeman examined the faces of his comrades. When- 
ever a whitish spot was seen, the warm palm of the 
bare hand was placed against the frozen flesh v/hich at 
once thaws. J 

* In my own expedition we shod our dogs for travel in very cold weather 
with neatly fitting, thin, oil-tanned seal-skin shoes. Though a shoe was 
occasionally lost, as they had to be tied on loosely, the feet of the dogs 
were well protected. 

t The upstanders are stout poles rising from the extreme rear of the sledge 
by which the driver is able to steer or direct the course of the sledge itself. 

X The rubbing of frozen places with snow, so often recommended, is most 
injurious in the extreme north. In my own expedition it was once suggested 

The Saving of Petersen 221 

As closely as possible Egerton followed the favorite 
line of travel, along the high ice-foot of the bold shore, 
inside or outside as conditions required. This name 
is given to the ice-ledge which forms by gradual accre- 
tion on the rocks or earth of the shore. As the main 
sea ice rises and falls with the tides, the ice necessarily 
breaks near the shore; the inner, fast-adhering ice is 
known as the ice-foot, the outer ice as the main pack 
or the floe. The break is in the form of an irreg- 
ular fissure called the tidal crack. In the period of 
the spring tides (when the tides have their greatest 
ranges) the main pack rises at high tide above the ice- 
foot, and through the tidal crack flows the sea, covering 
and filling the irregularities of the ice-foot. This over- 
flow freezes, leaving a smooth, level surface particularly 
favorable for sledge travel until it is broken up by 
pressure from the moving pack. 

Egerton found the ice-foot in good shape for some dis- 
tance, but now and then was driven to the main floe 
of Robeson Channel. The ice of the strait was a mass 
of broken, irregular blocks, often loose in arrangement 
and sharp in forms. Its surface and the difficulties of 
travel may be best likened to marching over great blocks 
of anthracite coal, save that the ice is bluish-white 
instead of black. 

The heutenant made a short day's march, going early 
into camp to avoid overworking the unhardened mus- 

to a man whose nose was freezing, as a matter of joke. Taken seriously, the 
unfortunate man rubbed his nose freely. The sharp, sand-like particles of 
snow acted like a file, and scraped off the skin so that it was a week or more 
before the man's face was healed. 

222 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

cles of man and beast — a sound practice followed by 
wise arctic sledgemen at the beginning of a long journey. 

Even in good weather the making of camp is the 
worst feature of arctic travel. Everything is frozen 
solid, from the bread to the bacon, from the tent to the 
sleeping-bags, which become as stiff as a board. Now 
conditions were worse than usual owing to the increas- 
ing violence of the blizzard. With snow-blinded eyes 
and a high, annoying wind the putting up of the tent 
was most difficult, but it was finally done. This gave a 
wind-protected place where the cook could light his lamp, 
melt his snow for tea, and thaw out the frozen meat. 

Meanwhile the two other men unpacked the sledge 
and removed the articles into the tent. It was found 
that the driving wind had sifted fine snow into the pro- 
vision bags, the sleeping-gear, and everything that was 
at all exposed. It was a necessary but most tedious 
labor to carefully brush every particle of snow from each 
article before moving it into the tent. They knew that 
a neglect so to do would be felt the next morning 
through coatings of ice over their gear. While the 
cook was busy the other sledgemen fed and picketed 
the dogs. If left loose these domesticated wolves might 
possibly return to their fellows at the ship, where good 
food and fighting company were to be had. If they 
remained at the camp a loose dog would swallow down 
everything in the shape of skin, hide, or food. More 
than once an arctic "tenderfoot" has wakened to find 
his means of travel vanished — sledge-thongs and dog 
harness entirely gone down the capacious throats of 

The Saving of Petersen 223 

his ravenous team. Egerton, alive to the situation, 
carefully stored harnesses and camp gear in the tent 
with the provision bags. 

So bad was the weather that it took six hours of 
steady labor to make camp, change foot-gear, cook, eat, 
and enter their sleeping-bags. 

With the night passed on the blizzard, and morning 
came — clear, calm, and bitter cold. Even in the tent 
the temperature was forty-two degrees below freez- 
ing. Frost-bitten hands, ravenous dogs, slowly melting 
snow, and the watched pot that never boils made slow 
the striking of camp. It was five and a half hours after 
leaving their sleeping-bags before they were getting a 
spark of warmth into their benumbed limbs by steady 
travel over the arctic trail. Though it was bitter cold 
the dogs kept taut their traces and progress was rapid 
for several hours. From time to time Petersen would 
sigh, and to Egerton's question, "What is the matter?" 
answer that it was only a pain that would pass. But 
Egerton felt anxious, as the Dane fell back now and 
then, and when he said that the cramps in his stomach 
were terrible, halt was made in a sheltered spot where 
the cooking-lamp could be lighted. In a half-hour a 
bowl of boiling-hot tea was served, the finest known 
restorative of vigor and warmth in cases of arctic ex- 
posure — far surpassing rum, brandy, or any alcoholic 
stimulant. The Dane ate neither the offered bread 
nor the bacon, and indeed of the latter Egerton said 
that it was frozen so solidly that even a well man could 
not put tooth through the lean parts. 

224 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Soon they came to very bad travelling, across steeply 
inclined snow slopes along the bordering cliffs of the 
ice-bound sea that they were forced to follow. In one 
place the trail led to a snow-drift thirty feet across, 
whose steep seaward face ended on a rocky ledge 
with a sheer outward fall of about thirt}^ feet. It was 
clearly impossible to move the sledge across, and, Alpine- 
glacier fashion, a road was slowly hewn out with pick 
and axe. In other bad places the loaded sledge plunged 
headlong from the top of high hummocks into masses 
of rubble-ice in the intervening valleys. In such work 
animals are quite useless, for the Eskimo dog pulls hard 
and steady only under conditions where the sledge 
moves constantly forward. When once stalled the dog 
team sits on its haunches, welcoming a rest, and watches 
events composedly. In such cases the skilled driver un- 
tangles the traces, straightens out the team, calls out 
shrilly, cracks his whip loudly, and, as the dogs spring 
forward, gives a timely and skilful twist to the up- 
standers which helps the sledge to a new start. If the 
sledge does not then move it must be unloaded and 
the dogs again started, or it must be hauled by man- 
power to an easier part of the trail. 

This exhausting labor fell on the 3^oung ofHcers, as 
Petersen was so sick as to be unable to do his part. 
Standing around, the Dane began to lose that warmth 
of vigorous circulation that alone keeps a man alive in 
arctic cold. When finally the dog driver was seized 
with fits of spasmodic shivering and his face showed 
frequent frostings, with bits of seriously frozen flesh, 

The Saving of Petersen 225 

Egerton became greatly alarmed. As they were then 
making their way through very bad ice, camping at 
once was impossible. From time to time, however, the 
officers, quitting the sledge, took the sufferer in hand, 
and by five or ten minutes of work would get him so 
thawed out that he could safely go on. 

When a good camping-place was reached, though 
they had travelled only six miles, Egerton at once 
stopped, hoping that a good night's rest with warm 
drink and food would bring the Dane around. 

The moment that the tent was up Egerton sent Peter- 
sen in with directions to change his clothing, get into 
the sleeping-bag, and make himself comfortable until 
dinner was ready. Meanwhile the officers unloaded 
the sledge, picketed the dogs, and cared for the camp 

On crawling into the tent Egerton found Petersen 
groaning, and on examination was shocked to find that 
he had crawled into the sleeping-bag without changing 
his clothing. Especially bad was his failure to replace 
his damp foot-gear by dry socks — a practice of rec- 
ognized necessity in arctic travel to prevent the feet 
from freezing at night. 

As he was groaning and complaining of much pain, 
Egerton set to work to relieve him. Finding that both 
the hands and the feet were severely frost-bitten, the 
man was made to strip off all his clothing, damp with 
the sweat of travel, and put on dry undergarments. 
While Rawson was busy making tea, Egerton set him- 
self to the labor of thawing out the frost and of restoring 

226 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

circulation by chafing the hardened limbs with his bare 
hands — a long and difficult task. The sick man took 
a Httle hot tea, which his stomach would not retain, 
but a dose of sal volatile (ammonia) with hot rum and 
water gave temporary relief. A high wind arose and the 
cold became most bitter, the temperature in the tent 
falling to fifty-two degrees below the freezing-point. 
With a cold that would nearly solidify mercury added 
to their mental troubles, the sufferings of the party were 
extreme. The hands, face, and feet of the invahd suf- 
fered repeated frost-bites, which the devoted officers 
were hardly able to remove. 

Exhausted as they were by the hard and unusual 
labors of the day, sleeping only by snatches, they took 
watch and watch to care as best they might for their 
sick comrade. Suffering extremely themselves from 
the cold, they spared no efforts to give such personal 
services as might comfort and benefit him. Again 
and again they restored circulation to the frozen parts 
by chafing alternately with their naked hands and 
by the application of flannel wraps heated by their 
own bodies. Such a night seemed endless with its 
cares, its privations, and its anxieties, and unfortu- 
nately the continuing gale made it impossible to move 
when dawn came. 

It was with great relief that they learned from the 
Dane that his cramps had nearly disappeared, after he 
had taken his breakfast of hot cocoa and soaked biscuit. 
This gave way to renewed anxiety when a few hours 
later Petersen was attacked by violent and recurring 

The Saving of Petersen 227 

fits of ague, which they hoped to dispel by wrapping 
him up closely in all the available robes and flannels. 

Egerton no longer thought of going on to the Discov- 
ery, as it was now a question whether or not the Dane 
would perish before he could be got back to the Alert, 
less than twenty miles distant. While knowing that 
travel in such a gale would be fatal to one if not to all, 
it was certain that death would come to the Dane if 
the}^ remained in the tent with a cold of fifty-six degrees 
below freezing. 

Rawson and Egerton agreed that the only chance of 
prolonging life lay in building a snow house. Casting 
about they found conditions unfavorable for a regular 
hut, and so decided to burrow a refuge hole in a great 
snow-drift not far from their tent. First they sank a 
shaft six feet deep to a solid foundation, and thence 
under-cut a tunnel inward for some distance. At the 
end of it they hollowed out a space eight feet square 
and four feet high. This work was intermittently done, 
as from time to time they had to return to the terrible 
duty of thawing out and restoring circulation to the 
limbs of the freezing man. Within six hours, however, 
they had the shelter done and the Dane removed to it. 
Both tent and sledge were drawn over the passageways 
so as to keep the cold air out and the warmth from their 
bodies within. The cold being still intense, they ran 
the risk of asphyxiation to insure Petersen's comfort. 
Closing every crevice through which could come a 
breath of air, they lighted their cooking-lamp and thus 
raised the temperature to seven degrees above zero. 

228 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Fortunately such transpiration of fresh air took place 
through the snow as saved them from harm. 

The day passed in this manner, small quantities of 
food being taken from time to time by the sick man only 
to be rejected later. Indeed, the only improvement in 
his condition seemed to come from those strong and 
dangerous, though effective, restoratives, rum and am- 
monia, and these were almost always followed by phys- 
ical relapses. Answering repeatedly, to inquiries, that 
he was warm and comfortable, in making him ready 
for the night they found that his feet were perfectly 
geHd from the toes to the ankles and that his hands 
were nearly as benumbed. 

Realizing that he was nearly in extremities, Eger- 
ton and Rawson renewed their devoted efforts. Each 
officer took a foot, stripped it naked, and set to work 
to warm it by rubbing it with their bare hands. When 
circulation was somewhat restored they applied flannels 
warmed against their bodies, and replaced them as the 
used pieces became too cold for service. The hands 
were similarly restored to warmth after two hours of 
steady work. When the limbs were wrapped up in 
thick, dry, and warm coverings they thought that the 
crisis was over. 

During the night Egerton was awakened to find the 
Dane worse than ever. Quite delirious, he had crawled 
from his sleeping-bag, began to eat snow, and exposed 
his uncovered body to the cold. Ague fits attacked 
him, his breath came in short convulsive gasps, and cir- 
culation was almost entirely suspended, even in his 

The Saving of Petersen 229 

body. Then followed the same awful and tedious labor 
of thawing the man out and of guarding against a 
repetition of such irrational conduct. 

With the coming morn the weather was found to 
be nearly calm, and to their great surprise the condi- 
tion of Petersen was somewhat improved. 

As it was certain death to remain where they were, 
Egerton decided to start on the journey to the Alert, 
seventeen miles distant. Though exceedingly feeble, 
Petersen thought that he could make the journey. 
Egerton promptly abandoned everything except tent, 
sleeping-gear, and food for a single day. Over the first 
part of the trail — most dangerous for a sledge and very 
rough — Petersen managed to walk under the stimula- 
tion of rum and ammonia. When he fell, prostrate 
and unconscious, on the icy road and could go no 
farther, he was put into a sleeping-bag, wrapped in 
warm robes, and lashed securely to the sledge. 

The terrible conditions of the homeward journey 
must be imagined for they cannot well be described. 
Once the sledge was precipitated down a crevasse 
twenty-five feet deep, the sledge turning over and over 
three times in its descent, hurling the dogs in all di- 
rections. With beating hearts the officers scrambled 
down in haste to Petersen, expecting to find him badly 
injured, but almost miraculously he had escaped with 
a few bruises. At another point Egerton, who was 
driving, stopped the team to clear the harness, a fre- 
quent duty, as the antics of the dogs tie up in a sadly 
tangled knot the seal-thong traces by which the sledge 

230 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

is hauled. With one of its occasional fits of uncontrol, 
the team started on the jump, and dragged the spirited 
Egerton, who held fast to the traces, a hundred yards 
through rough ice-masses before he could gain control. 

Whenever a stop was made to clear harness or to 
pick a way through bad ice, the officers went through 
the slow and painful duty of thawing out Petersen's 
limbs. Save a brief stop for hot tea to give warmth 
to and quench the thirst of the invalid, they travelled 
ten hours, and when in the last stages of physical ex- 
haustion had the inexpressible happiness of bringing 
their crippled comrade alive to the Alert. 

With a generosity in keeping with his heroic conduct 
toward Petersen, Egerton ascribed his final success to 
Rawson's labors, for in his official report he says that 
high praise is due Lieutenant Rawson "for the great 
aid derived from his advice and help; without his un- 
remitting exertions and cheerful spirit, my own efforts 
would have been unavailing to return to the ship with 
my patient alive." 

In these hours of splendid devotion to their disabled 
comrade these young officers, absolutely disregarding 
personal considerations, displayed that contempt for 
external good which Emerson indicates as the true 
measure of every heroic act. 



"And now there came both mist and snow, 
And it grew wondrous cold: 
And ice, mast-high, came floating by, 
As green as emerald." 

— Coleridge. 

THE second German north polar expedition 
sailed under Captain Karl Koldewey in 1869, 
with the intention of landing on the coast of 
East Greenland, near Sabine Island, whence b}' winter 
sledging the explorations of the northern coasts of 
Greenland and of the north polar basin were to be 
undertaken. The two ships of the expedition, the Ger- 
mania and the Hafisa, reached by the middle of July the 
edge of the great ice-pack, which in enormous and gener- 
ally impenetrable ice-masses streams southward from 
the Arctic Ocean between Greenland and Spitzbergen. 
As an accompaniment to this vast ice-field come from 
the glacier fiords of East Greenland most of the enor- 
mous icebergs which are sighted and encountered by 
transatlantic steamships off the banks of Newfoundland. 
The ships separating through misunderstanding of a 
signal, the Germania, a steam-ship, succeeded in working 
her way through the ice-stream to Sabine Island, where 
her crew carried out its programme. The Hansa, with- 
out steam-power, and so dependent on sails, became 
entangled in the pack in early August and was never 


234 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

able to escape therefrom. The fate of the Hansa and 
the experiences of her crew form the subject-matter of 
this sketch. 

Until the Hansa was fast frozen in the pack, on Sep- 
tember 9, Captain Hegemann was prepared for any 
emergency, whether the ship was crushed or if opening 
lanes of water should permit escape to Sabine Island 
from which they were only forty miles distant. Com- 
pletely equipped and victualled boats were kept on 
deck so that they could be lowered to the ice at any 

When the ship was frozen in the captain faced re- 
sourcefully the serious question of wintering in the pack. 
It was known to him that no ship had ever escaped from 
such wintering in the drifting ice-pack of the Greenland 
Sea, and indeed the violent and frequently recurring 
pressures of the ice-field pointed to the early loss of 
their ship. Life might be possible, but health and 
comfort could not be had in boats covered with 
canvas. Cramped quarters, severe cold, damp bedding, 
and absence of facilities for cooking forbade such an at- 
tempt. While others suggested the snow houses of the 
Eskimo, one fertile mind urged that a living-house be 
built of coal, which was done. 

Fortunately the coal supply was in the form of bri- 
quets, coal tiles nine inches broad, quite like ordinary 
bricks in shape. Thus went up the most remarkable 
construction in the annals of polar history, a house of 
coal on a foundation of ice. The Hansa was moored 

Life on an East Greenland Ice-Pack 235 

to one of the so-called paleocrystic floe-bergs several 
square miles in extent, nearly fifty feet thick, with 
fresh-water ponds and an uplifted central mass thirty- 

rrcdv!ckihaab\y^l_^ AM ice. 
Cope Farewali 


Southeastern Greenland. 

nine feet high, near which hill the coal house was built 
to insure its safety. With water from the pools to 
pour on the finely powdered snow, the arctic masons 
had a cement that quickly bound together the tiles as 

236 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

they were laid in courses. The ship's spars were laid 
crossways for the main rafters, and other wood was 
used for the completion of the roof-frame, over which 
were stretched reed mattings and sail-cloth. Coal tiles 
made a level and convenient floor, whence in case of 
necessity they might draw for fuel in the late winter. 
With a double door and provision caches in the house 
they awaited the action of the pack, still comfortable 
in the ship's cabins. 

With joy the hunters learned that the ice-lield was 
not wholly desolate, but that it was the hunting-field 
of the polar bear, who was followed by the arctic fox, 
who deftly snapped up under bruin's very nose any 
outlying bit of seal that was within reach. 

In the early days, before the pack had becom.e an un- 
broken ice-mass, a hunter espied on an adjacent floe a 
large she bear with her cub. A boat was quickly put off* 
to cross the narrow water-lane, when to the surprise of 
every one the old bear, followed by the cub, rushed 
forward to meet them at the edge of the floe, gnash- 
ing her teeth and licking her chops, clearly unfamiliar 
with man and his weapons and anxious for a meal. As 
they fired the bear fell dead on the snow, but the cub 
instead of running remained by her side licking and 
caressing her mother in the most aflfectionate manner. 
She paid no attention at first to the advancing hunters, 
save to alertly elude the many efforts to cast a noose 
over her head. Finally the cub became alarmed, and 
with piteous bowlings ran away, escaping over the 
rugged pack despite a shot which wounded her. 

Life on an East Greenland Ice-Pack 237 

In the middle of October came a series of violent bliz- 
zards which foretold the coming fate of the ship. The 
groaning, grinding ice-field was breaking up under 
enormous pressures that came from the colliding floe- 
bergs, which were revolving under various forces of 
wind and sea currents. Though trembling violently, 
with her masts swaying to and fro, the Ilansa was 
spared, great fissures in the floe near by showing how 
close was her escape. All of the crew were busy pre- 
paring for the worst, fuel, food, and clothing being 
carried in quantities to the house. 

The end came on October 19 within four miles of the 
East Greenland coast, when a gale sprang up and the 
coUision of the fast ice of the shore and the moving 
sea-pack had already increased the ice-pressures with 
fearful results. Mighty blocks of granite-like ice shov- 
ing under the bow of the ship raised it seventeen feet 
above its former position in the ice, while the after 
part of the Hansa was frozen in so tightly or jammed 
so badly that it could not rise, under which condi- 
tions it was certain that the stern would be racked and 
strained beyond service. 

The dangerous situation was dramatic in the extreme. 
With the dying wind the sky cleared, the stars shone 
with keen briUiancy, the cold increased sharply to forty- 
five degrees below the freezing-point, while, as if in 
mockery of man's sorrows, the merry dancers flashed 
upward in dagger-shaped gleams wavering an instant 
and then vanishing, only to come again in new forms 
with ever-changing colors. To a mere observer it would 

238 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

have been a perfect picture of adverse arctic conditions, 
wonderful in its aspects and surpassingly beautiful to 
an artistic eye. 

With relaxing pressures the great ice-ridges slowly 
decreasing in height fell apart, and the ship was again 
on her usual level, but rent fatally and making water 
fast. In vain did the whole crew strain at the pumps, 
while the outpouring water from the spouts froze on the 
deck as it fell — the water gained steadily and orders to 
save the cargo were given. The worn-out men worked 
frantically, dragging out bedding, food, clothing, med- 
icines, guns, ammunition, sledges, boat furniture, and 
everything that could be of service for life on the 
floe. Best of all, for their comfort and amusement, 
they hoisted over the rail of the ship's galley heating- 
stoves, games, and books; they felled the masts for fuel 
and stripped the sails for house use. Fortunately the 
energetic seamen were able to strip the ship of all useful 
articles before she sank on October 22, 1869, in 70 52 
north latitude, a few miles from the Greenland coast. 

They now faced a situation of extraordinary if not 
of imminent peril. It was barely possible that they 
might reach the coast, six miles distant, but that was 
to face starvation, as everything must be abandoned 
for a cross-floe march. If the shore was reached it was 
well known to be ice-clad and desolate, as there were 
to be found neither natives nor land game along the 
narrow strips of rocky, ice-free beach which stretches 
from sea-glacier to sea-glacier on this seemingly ac- 
cursed coast. 

Life on an East Greenland Ice-Pack 239 

The only chances of life were in the shifting and un- 
certain forces of nature — a cold winter to keep the ice- 
field intact, a stormless season to save their floe from 
breaking up under pressures, and the usual Greenland 
current to set them to the south. With good fortune 
they might hope to get into open water seven months 
hence, when by their boats they could possibly reach 
the Danish settlements of West Greenland. But could 
they live seven months through a winter barely be- 
gun? At least they would do their best. They were 
fourteen men, all good and true, in health, skilled to the 
sea, inured to hardships and privations, accustomed 
to discipline, and inspired by a spirit of comradeship. 

Their floe had been wasted at its edges by the enor- 
mous pressure, as well as by the action of thfe sea, so 
that they were thankful for Hegemann's foresight in 
placing the coal house remote from the ocean. All that 
sailor ingenuity could plan was now done to make life 
healthy and comfortable in their ark of safety. Outer 
snow walls were erected so that there was a free walk 
around the main house, giving also a place for the pro- 
tection of stores against storms and shelter for daily 
exercise. From their flag-staff was displayed on fine 
days a flag, emblem of their love for their country, of 
their faith in themselves, and of aspiration and uplifting 
courage in hours of danger. 

The hunt engaged their activities whenever signs of 
game were noted. Once a bear and her cub came from 
the land, and the mother was slain and added to their 
larder. An eff'ort was made to keep the cub as a kind 

240 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

of pet. After a while she escaped and was caught 
swimming across a narrow lane of water. To keep her 
secure they fastened her to an ice-anchor, where she 
was at first very much frightened, but later she ate 
with avidity such meat as was thrown to her. To add 
to her comfort a snow house was built, with the floor 
strewed with shavings for her bed, but the record runs: 
"The young bear, as a genuine inhabitant of the arctic 
seas, despised the hut and bed, preferring to camp in the 
snow. " Some days later she disappeared, and with the 
heavy chain doubtless sank to the bottom of the sea. 

Nor were these castaways unmindful of the charms 
of arctic nature. Their narratives tell us of the common 
beauties around them — the snow-crystals glittering in 
the few hours of sunlight like millions of tiny diamonds. 
Night scenes were even more impressive, through won- 
drous views of the starry constellations and the recurring 
and evanescent gleams of the mystical aurora. Under 
the weird auroral light the white snow took at times a 
peculiar greenish tint, and with it, says an officer, "One 
could read the finest writing without trouble. One 
night it shone so intensely that the starlight waned and 
objects on our field cast shadows." But in its main 
aspects life on the ice-pack was full of dread in v/hich 
nervous anxiety largely entered. 

The barren peaks and rounded snow-capped land 
masses of the Greenland coast were usually in sight, and 
once they were astonished as they walked to see thou- 
sands of tiny leaves, possibly of the arctic willow, fly- 
ing about them, signs of a snow-free fiord not far dis- 

Life on an East Greenland Ice-Pack 241 

tant. Again the newl}' fallen snow for a considerable 
distance was covered with a reddish matter which 
Dr. Laube thought must be of volcanic origin carried 
through the air from Iceland two hundred miles away. 

Of interest to the party were the visits of foxes, who 
came from the near-by land. Of the first it is said: 
"With tails high in air they shot over the ice-field like 
small craft sailing before the wind. For the first mo- 
ment it seemed as if the wind had caught up a couple 
of large semicircles of whitish yellow paper and was 
wafting them along. " One was shot as a specimen, but 
the later visitor in the middle of December was better 
treated. We are told that "the fox, white with a 
black-tipped tail, was particularly confiding, even bold. 
He scratched up the bear flesh buried in the snow, and 
carried it off to eat as we approached. He then quite 
unconcernedly took a walk on the roof of our house, 
and through the small window convinced himself as 
to what we were doing. Should we shoot it.f* No! It 
was a long time since we had seen such a fearless 
creature. At times we placed nets with a meat bait 
to tease him, but he always managed to get clear of 

Meanwhile their coal house with the floe was drifting 
south slowly, with the coast of Greenland in plain sight, 
distant from five to fifteen miles. Their safety, always 
the subject of daily talk, seemed assured until the com- 
ing spring, for they were on an immense floe-berg 
whose area of about four square miles was dotted with 
hills and vales, while sweet-water lakes gave abundant 

242 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

water for drinking and cooking, a great boon. It was 
known that surrounding floes were daily grinding huge 
pieces of ice from the edge of their own, and that the 
ice-pressures were steadily turning it around, so that 
one week they saw the rising sun from their single 
window and the week following noted the setting sun 
therefrom. At first this floe rotation was completed in 
twelve days, but later, with reduced size, stronger cur- 
rents, and high winds, the floe-berg made a full rotation 
in four days. 

At times there were welcome additions to their slim 
larder of fresh meat. One day a seaman rushed in 
breathless to say that he was sure there was a walrus 
near by. All were instantly astir, and soon a walrus 
was located, a black spot on the clear white of an ad- 
joining floe. With great celerity and caution the whale- 
boat was launched in the intervening lane of open water, 
and with notable skill the steersman, Hildebrant, ma- 
noeuvred the boat within rifle range without disturbing 
the rest of the sleeping animal. The first shot wounded 
the walrus so badly that he could move away but slowly. 
On the approach of the hunters he struggled with great 
fury, breaking through the young ice and attempting 
to strike down the hunters as they approached to give 
him his death wound. 

Covered with hide an inch thick, the walrus was so 
colossal that it took the united strength of ten men, 
using a powerful pulley, to raise the carcass from the 
water to the main ice. Under the outer hide was a 
layer of fat three inches thick, which was almost as 

Life on an East Greenland Ice-Pack 243 

acceptable for fuel as was the meat for food to men 
who had for so long a time been confined to salt and 
canned meats as their principal diet. 

The odor of the burning walrus fat seemed to at- 
tract bears from long distances. One inquisitive bruin, 
sniffing at the meat in one of the boats, fell through the 
tightly stretched canvas covering, and scrambling out 
growled at the night light by the outer door of the house 
and passed on safely. A second animal was wounded 
but escaped. The third, whose acute hunger brought 
him one dark night to the house in search of the odor- 
ous walrus fat, was received with a volley and was 
found dead the next morning. 

The quiet Christmas holidays, celebrated with Ger- 
man earnestness, had brought to their hearts an un- 
usual sense of confidence, peace, and hope, based on their 
providential preservation, excellent health, and physical 
comfort. This confidence was soon rudely dispelled, 
giving way to deep anxiety at the devastation wrought 
by a frightful blizzard that burst on them with the 
opening new year. 

Then the crew realized that there was a possible 
danger of perishing in the pack, since at any time their 
immense floe-berg might break into countless pieces 
in the very midst of the polar cold and the winter dark- 
ness. With the violent wind arose an awful groan- 
ing of the ice-pack, due to the tremendous pressures of 
the surging ocean beneath and of the crowding floes 
around. So violent were the movements of the floe 
itself, and so great the noise of crashing bergs, that 

244 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

they feared to longer remain in the coal house, and in 
terror of their Hves they sought refuge in the open. Al- 
though the snow-filled air made it impossible for any one 
to see a dozen yards, yet at least there was a chance to 
escape if the floe split under their feet, which was felt to 
be possible at any moment. They made ready for the 
worst, though escape from death seemed quite hopeless. 
RolHng up their fur sleeping-bags and clothing, they 
filled their knapsacks with food. Forming a human 
chain they ran safety lines from the house to the several 
boats, well knowing that in the blinding blizzard one 
could not otherwise find his way to the boat to which 
each one had been told off for the final emergency. 
They then set a watch of two men to note events, and, 
intrusting their souls to God, the rest of the party 
crawled into their sleeping-bags for such needed rest 
and for such possible sleep as might come to the most 

When the gale broke two days later they found that 
they had escaped death as by miracle. Three-fourths 
of this seemingly stable floe had disappeared, broken 
into huge, shapeless masses. Barely a square mile of 
the floe remained intact, with the coal house perilously 
near the edge instead of in the centre. 

Scarcely had order and comfort been restored, when 
ten days later an even more furious blizzard burst upon 
them, actually bringing them face to face with death. 
In the middle of the night the watch cried out loudly, 
"All hands turn out!" With their furs and knapsacks 
now kept ready for instant action, they rushed out and 

Life on an East Greenland Ice-Pack 245 

stood in place, each by his allotted boat. The hurricane 
wind made movement most difficult, snow filled the air, 
their floe was quivering from awful pressures, while the 
howling gale and groaning ice-pack made a deafening 
tumult. Nothing could be done but to stand and wait! 
Suddenly the captain cried out, "Water is making 
on the next floe!" An adjoining floe-berg of great size 
and thickness had split into countless pieces, and where 
a moment before had been a solid ice surface was a high 
sea tossing broken ice-masses. Huge pieces of their own 
berg now broke off', due to the action of the sea and to 
collision with the crowding pack. While looking with a 
feeling of despair at the high waves, now gnawing at 
and rapidly wasting the edges of their floe, they were 
greatly alarmed to hear a loud, sharp report as of a 
cannon-shot. Before am^ one could stir, even had he 
known where to go, their floe burst with a fearful sound 
midway between the coal house and the wood-pile. 
Within a dozen yards of the house now appeared a huge 
chasm, quickl}' filled w4th huge waves which tossed to 
and fro great ice-blocks which beat against tiie floe 
remnant on which the dismaj^ed men stood. Though 
all seemed lost the crew without exception acted with 
courage and celerity. By prompt work the}' dragged 
up on the sound ice the whale-boat which barely es- 
caped dropping into the sea. Aware that the}' could 
not launch and handle in such a storm the largest of 
their boats, Hegemann told off" the men to the tv,o small 
boats. In the pandemonium death was thought to be 
close at hand. With this thought they gave a last 

246 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

handshake to each other and said a final farewell as 
they separated and went to their alloted stations by the 
boats. The physical conditions were so utterly wretched 
that some even said that death would be welcome. 
The roaring of the pack was unceasing, the hurricane- 
like winds continued, while the temperature was forty- 
tw^o degrees below freezing. The sharp, cutting snow- 
pellets of the blizzard not only blinded the vision, but 
the clothes were saturated with the sand-like ice par- 
ticles driven through the fur to their very skin, where 
they were melted b}^ the heat of the body. Food was 
not to be thought of, save a bit of biscuit which was 
eaten as they stood. 

For ten hours they stood fast b}^ their boats in shiv- 
ering misery and in mental anxiety, knowing that any 
moment they might be thrown into the sea. But by 
God's protection, in a providential manner, after being 
reduced to a diameter of one hundred and fifty feet 
their floe held together. 

The dangers of the sea and of the ordinary pack had 
still another and novel phase. When matters seemed to 
be at their worst the watch cried out: "We are drifting 
on a high iceberg!" They stood immovable as the 
lofty berg loomed far above their heads, close on them, 
and after hanging a ghastly object over their tiny floe 
for a moment vanished in the mist while their hearts 
were yet in their mouths. 

They had barely gathered together and arranged their 
few remaining effects when another frightful storm 
came upon them. While there were ice-movements 

Life on an East Greenland Ice-Pack 247 

around them all went to sleep except the watch, 
when with a thundering sound their quivering fioe 
broke in two, a broad fissure passing through the floor 
of the house. Captain Hegemann says: *'God only 
knows how it happened that in our flight into the open 
none came to harm. In the most fearful weather we 
all stood roofless on the ice, waiting for the daylight 
which was still ten hours oflT. As it became quieter 
some crept into the captain's boat. Sleep was not to 
be thought of; it was a confused, unquiet half-slumber, 
from utter weariness, and our limbs quivered convul- 
sively from cold (it was forty-one degrees below freez- 
ing) as we lay packed like herrings in our furs." 

With a heroic devotion to duty the energetic cook 
had the courage to make cofi'ee in the shattered house, 
on the very edge of the gaping ice-chasm that ran down 
into the sea. Hegemann says: "Never had the deli- 
cious drink awakened more creatures to life." This 
cook was a notable character, never discomposed, but 
invariably self-possessed even in the most critical mo- 
ments. While the shattered coal house seemed in dan- 
ger of falling into the sea he was busy repairing a kettle. 
When the captain suggested that he leave the house 
owing to the peril, he said : *' If onl}^ the floe would hold 
together until I finish the kettle, then I can make tea 
so that you all may have something warm before ycu 
enter the boats." No pains or trouble was too great 
for him when the comfort of his shipmates was in 

The poor doctor of the expedition did not have the 

248 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

iron nerves of the cook, and under the influence of 
constant!}^ recurring dangers he developed melancholia, 
which lasted to the end. Of the crew in general cap- 
tain Hegemann says: "Throughout all of the discom- 
forts, want, hardships, and dangers of all kinds the 
frame of mind among the men was good, undaunted, 
and exalting." 

All denied themselves to give comfort and to show 
consideration to the afflicted doctor. 

At a gloomy period there came to them amuse- 
ment and distraction through the visit of a frisky fox 
from the main-land, who remained with them many 
days. With growing boldness he came up quickly 
without signs of fear when bits of meat were thrown to 
him from the cook's galley. His gay antics and cun- 
ning ways were the source of much fun. Finally he 
became so tame that he even let the men he knew 
best stroke his snow-white fur. 

On May 7, 1870, they were near Cape Farewell, the 
southerly point of Greenland, where they expected to 
quit the ice-field. It was now two hundred days since 
their besetment, and they had drifted more than six 
hundred miles, with all in health save the doctor. 
Snow had now given place to rain, the pack was rapidly 
dissolving, and at the first opening of the ice toward 
land they left their old floe and faced in their three 
boats the perils of an ice-filled sea. Afflicted by snow- 
blindness, worn out by strenuous, unceasing labor, 
storm-beset at times, encompassed by closely packed 
broken ice — through which the boats could not be 

Life on an East Greenland Ice-Pack 249 

rowed or pushed and over which man could not travel 
• — they at last reached Illuidlek Island. The voyage 
at starting was supposed to involve four days of navi- 
gation, but it took twenty-four days to make it. 

Now food became scarce for the first time, neither 
seals nor bears being killed, so that they were always 
hungry. Hegemann writes: "Talk turns on nothing 
but eating. Konrad was quite sad this morning; in 
his sleep he had consumed ham and poached eggs, one 
after another, but on waking felt so dreadfully hollow 

Threatened by a closing pack they hauled up, with 
great difficulty, their boats on a large floe. They found a 
low shelving edge of the ice and emptied the large boat 
of its contents. Rocking the boat backward and for- 
ward, head on, when it had gained a free motion, the 
whole crew hauled together on the painter when the 
boatswain cried loudy: "Pull all!" When the bow 
caught the edge of the ice the boat could in time be 
worked gradually up on the floe, but it was a heart- 
breaking, exhausting, prolonged labor. 

Storm-bound for four days, they resorted to various 
devices to pass the time and divert their minds from 
hunger. The loquacious carpenter spun old-time sea 
yarns, Vegesack tales of astounding character. In one 
story he related his experiences as captain of a gun- 
boat when, having no sailing directions for the North 
Sea, he steered by the help of a chart of the Mediter- 
ranean from Bremen to Hull. When he arrived off 
Hull he verified his position exactly by a sounding, 

250 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

which proved conclusively that he was at Ramsgate, 
south of the Thames. Thus did folly beguile misery. 

Cut off from land by closely packed ice, they finally 
made the journey practically on foot, carrying their 
food and baggage on their backs. The boats were 
dragged one at a time through soft snow and across 
icy chasms. This task left them in a state of utter 
exhaustion, even the captain fainting from continued 

From Illuidlek their voyage was easy to the Mora- 
vian missionary colony at Friedrichshaab, West Green- 
land, where comfort and safety were again theirs. 
Thus ended this wondrous voyage, which quiet heroism, 
complete comradeship, and full devotion to dut)^ make 
one of the most striking in the annals of arctic service. 



Those grim fields which he silent as night and unin- 
habited, and where no sound of human voice breaks the re- 
pose, where no dead are buried and where none can rise. 

— Klopstock. 

CENTURIES of efforts to attain the north pole, 
under the auspices of the government of Great 
Britain, had their final culmination in the 
arctic expedition of 1875-6. The squadron was com- 
manded by Captain Sir George Nares, R.N., of Chal- 
lenger fame, whose flag-ship, the Alert, wintered at 
Floeberg Beach, exposed to the full force of the mighty 
pack of the frozen Arctic Ocean. Of the many sledge 
journeys made with the Alert as the base of operations, 
the most important was naturally expected to accom- 
plish the main object of the expedition. It was com- 
manded by Commander Albert H. Markham, R.N., 
who with three man-sledges, two boats, and seventeen 
men all told marched directly northward over the 
hummocky surface of the Great Frozen Sea in an eff'ort 
to reach the north pole. B}'^ most strenuous labors 
and heroic persistency Markham reached on the sur- 
face of the ice-covered sea latitude 83 20' N., a point 
nearer the north pole than had ever before been at- 
tained by man. 

This tale sets forth the lamentable experiences of 


254 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Markham's homeward march, and particularly the 
vitally important and heroic journey of Lieutenant 
A. A. C. Parr, R.N., which saved the lives of his 
slowly perishing comrades. 

The northward sledge journey over the floes of the 
frozen sea, though conducted by brave and experi- 
enced officers with selected men, was made under un- 
usual physical disadvantages which made impossible 
any further success than was actually accompHshed. 
The party was encumbered with heavy boats, which 
were carried as a precautionary measure through fear 
lest the main polar pack might be disrupted during 
their journey. The sledges were fearfully overloaded, 
for while their burdens of two hundred pounds per man 
might be hauled short distances over good ice, the later 
conditions of four hundred pounds (three sledges with 
two crews) per man, in deep snow and through rough 
ice, was simply impossible. The extreme roughness of 
the ice of the Arctic Ocean was beyond expectation or 
earlier experience. Finally it developed on the march 
that the health and strength of the men were impaired 
by attacks of incipient and unsuspected scurvy. So 
it happened that when only thirteen days out from 
the ship a scurvy-stricken man had to be hauled on 
the alread}^ overloaded sledge. With true British grit 
Markham went ahead, but four days later, in order to 
spare the strength of his men, who were daily falling 
out of the traces, he decided to take the chances of 
pack-disruption and so abandoned one of his boats. 

Parr's Lonely March 


It is not needful to give the details of the outward 
journey, which involved the abject misery of scarified 
faces, frost-hardened fingers, capsizing sledges, deep 
snows, and extreme cold to which most arctic sledge- 




*hlarkham Q3''20'N. 
Gr^at rroz,cn 5c a 

Great Frozen Sea and Robeson Channel. 

men are subjected. To these were added road-making, 
owing to the mazes of high hummocks with deep inter- 
vening valleys. The increase of loads, so that progress 
could be made only by standing-pulls, w^as bad enough, 
but this disabilit}' was enhanced by the steady decrease 
of the number of sledgemen, by the necessity of hauling 

256 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

disabled men, and by the nursing care of patients 
steadily growing worse and unable to do anything for 

Under such conditions Markham added to the glory 
of the British Navy by displaying the flag of his country 
on May 12, 1876, in 83° 20' N., thus establishing a 
world's record. As five of his seventeen men were then 
unable even to walk, his venturesome courage in this 
journey could not be surpassed. Certainly Commander 
Markham pushed to the extreme limit compliance w4th 
his assertive sledge motto: "I dare do all that becomes 
a man. Who dares do more is none." 

Amidst the glory and happiness of this notable day, 
there could not fail to arise in the minds of all, especially 
of Markham and his efficient aid, Lieutenant Parr, 
unbidden forebodings as to the homeward march. Was 
it not possible that their distressing conditions were a 
prelude to disaster? Would they all reach the ship? 
At all events they would do all that was in their 

The seriousness of the situation was soon evident. In 
five days' travel, though inspired to greater efforts by 
the fact that they were homeward bound, they averaged 
only one and a half miles daily, at which rate it would 
take fifty days of uninterrupted sledging to reach the 
Alert. The sledge work was simply appalling, almost 
heart-breaking. It took the whole force to advance 
the largest of the three sledges, and the necessary re- 
turn -for the smaller sledges tripled the distance of the 
original march. In addition the windings of the road 

Parr's Lonely March 257 

to avoid bad ice so increased the length of the route 
that they were travelling five miles for each mile made 
good toward the ship. 

Meantime the health and the strength of the men 
steadily decreased, and, most alarming symptoms of 
all, the appetites of the sledgemen began to fail. Mark- 
ham's field journal briefly tells the harrowing tale: 
''With great difficulty can the patients be persuaded 
to eat anything. Mouths are too tender for well-soaked 
biscuit, and stomachs rebel against pemmican and fat 
bacon. . . . Unquenchable thirst, alleviated at meals 
only for lack of fuel to melt ice. . . . Invalids very 
weak and much subject to fainting fits. So utterly 
helpless and prostrate are they that they have to be 
assisted in every detail by two and sometimes four of 
their companions. . . . Tea-leaves are devoured with 
avidity by the majority. . . . The men find great 
difficulty in moving their legs, and are in great pain. 
. . . All are so stiff that the slightest exertion causes 
great suffering. . . . Out of thirty-four legs in the party 
we can only muster eleven good ones. . . . Every hour 
is important, as we know not when we may all be at- 
tacked and rendered useless." 

When in this condition they were storm-stayed for 
thirty-six hours by a violent blizzard, when one could 
not see a sledge's length ahead. This brought matters 
to a crisis, and to hasten the march Markham was 
obliged to abandon his last boat and all stores that 
could be spared, ammunition, one hundred and sev- 
enty pounds of pemmican, and much camp gear. It 

258 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

was indeed time, for only four of the men were en- 
tirely well. 

A pleasurable incident made happy for a moment 
these distressed sailors, sick, worn out, surrounded by 
an illimitable expanse of ice. Markham records: "The 
appearance of a little snow-bunting, which fluttered 
^around us for a short time, uttering to us its rather 
sweet chirp. This was an event of no small interest 
to our party, as it was the first bird seen by the major- 
ity for a period of nine months. Even the sick men 
on the sledge requested they might have their heads 
uncovered and lifted so as to obtain a glimpse of the 
little warbler." 

Conditions steadily changed from bad to worse, and 
on June 2 the sledge party was simply a band of crip- 
ples. Five helpless invalids were in their sleeping- 
bags on the sledge, four others were barely able to crawl 
along, leaving only six men and two officers to drag 
their sick comrades and the heavily loaded sledge. 

On June 5 they camped on land, about seven miles 
south of Cape Joseph Henry, and were cheered and en- 
couraged by having a meal of fresh hare, which had 
been thoughtfully cached for them by a travelling party. 
Unfortunately they came to the shore a day too late, 
for on visiting the depot Markham learned from a note 
**to our disappointment that Captain Nares, May, and 
Fielden had only left for the ship the previous day. 
This was very unfortunate." 

Although temporarily braced up by fresh meat and 
by delicacies from the depot, the party reached its 

Parr's Lonely March 259 

effective end the following day, June 6. Five invalids 
were on the sledge, four others had to lie down on the 
snow and rest every thirty or forty yards, and a tenth 
man was quite near the end, while the party had 
wandered a distance from the road. 

Markham fully realized the critical situation of the 
party and writes: "So rapid had been the encroach- 
ments of the disease that it was only too palpable that 
immediate succor was necessary for our salvation. At 
the rate of progress we were making, it would take us 
fully three weeks to reach the ship, although only forty 
miles distant; and who would there be left in three 
v.eeks' time.'' The few who were still strong enough 
to drag the sledges would barely last as many days!" 

In his field journal he records on June 6: "After a 
lonjr consultation with Parr it has been resolved that he 
shall proceed to-morrow morning, if fine, and walk to 
the ship. Our only chance of saving life is by receiving 
succor as soon as possible. Although the distance from 
us to the ship is nearly forty miles, over floes covered 
with deep snow and girt with heavy hummocks, he 
has nobly volunteered to attempt it, and has con- 
fidence in his being able to accomplish it. He is the 
only one of the party strong enough to undertake such 
a march." 

Parr knew the strain that such a dangerous and diflS- 
cult journey involved, so he arranged his equipment and 
laid his plans accordingly. As lightly outfitted as was 
safe, he started at ten o'clock in the evening, wisely 
avoiding the disadvantages of day travel. The night 

26o True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

gave him the needed lower temperatures with firmer 
snow-crust, and avoided the snow-blinding sun-glare, 
as the course was to the south which brought the mid- 
night sun on the traveller's back and so spared his eyes, 
while more clearly disclosing the irregularities of the ice. 

Most fortunately there was no wind, the weather 
was fine, the air so clear that to the westward stood 
sharply outlined the coast of Grant Land along which 
the heroic officer had often travelled during the past 
year. This enabled him to keep a straight course, and 
saved him from the dangers of straying to which one is 
liable in thick or stormy weather when travel must be 
slowly made by careful compass bearings. He took 
with him food for a single day only, with a small spirit 
lamp so that in extreme need he could start a fire, melt 
ice for drinking-water, or warm a scanty meal. With 
his belt well pulled up, his foot-gear carefull}'- and not 
too tightly adjusted, ice-chisel in hand and snow- 
goggles over his eyes, he said *'Good-by, " and started 
amid the answering "God-speeds" of his comrades, 
which long re-echoed in his ears as so many appeals for 
aid and stimulants to action. 

Two routes were open to him to the Alert. Possibly 
the safer way in the advanced stage of oncoming sum- 
mer, but certainly a much longer route, lay along the 
ice-foot of the coast, which from the next headland made 
a long detour to the westward around Marco Polo Bay. 
The shorter air-line route was across the sea ice, now 
fast decaying under the summer sun, with the certainty 
of many air-holes and possible pitfalls where tides and 

Parr's Lonely March 261 

pressure, sun and currents had broken and wasted the 
winter floe. Confident in his keenness of vision and 
in his famiharity with sea ice, he took the shorter air- 
line route, though its rough rubble-ice and shattered 
hummock-masses were sure to make greater demands 
on his physical strength and to require vigilance to 
avoid accidents. 

On and on, mile after mile, hour upon hour, he 
marched slowly but steadily onward, stumbling often 
and halting only when road conditions demanded. 
Now and then the loose rubble-ice separated under his 
feet, leaving him uncertain footing, and again huge 
pressure-ridges or converging hummocks obliged the 
weary man to carefully seek a safe way through their 
tangled, confused masses. The greatest danger was 
that of breaking through thin ice, and when he came to 
some attractive piece of new smooth ice, deceptively 
promising fast and easy travel, it was his rule to care- 
fully test its strength and thickness with his ice-chisel 
before venturing to cross it. It was not that his life 
should be lost, but that he carried with him the gift of 
life or the message of death to others. 

Now and then he staggered and there came over him 
a sense of growing weariness, but the thought of his 
helpless, dying comrades on the Great Frozen Sea be- 
hind him, and of the eager, willing hearts in the ship 
before him, steeled his nerves, inspired anew his heart, 
and gave fiery energy to his flagging strength and fail- 
ing body. 

For an hour or two as he marched there arose faint 

262 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

doubts as to the wisdom of his cross-sea route, for it 
was a period of strong tides which in their onward sweep 
from the northern Arctic Ocean warped and twisted 
the mighty ice-covering, whose total disruption was 
certain at the first violent gale, it being stayed now 
only b}' the almost immovable floes of enormous thick- 
ness crowded against the bordering lands. 

Wearisome and monotonous in the extreme had the 
main pack become to Parr after steady travel thereon 
for more than two months, especially during the brief 
periods of calm weather when the curling wreaths and 
trailing streamers of the almost constantly drifting 
snow were absent, leaving the scene unrelieved in its 
almost hideous desolation. But then at least he was 
free from the nervous tension that now came with the 
loud groans, the feeble mutterings, the rasping grindings 
of floes, and the loud explosions that mark the surface 
changes of the pack from heavy tidal action. Es- 
pecially the fear of a fog-covered floe came to his 
mind, as vaporous forms like water-spirits rose here 
and there from fissures forming in the cracking floes. 
Would the dreaded fog envelop the pack? If so, what 
were his chances of reaching the Alert ? And what 
fate would the fog bring to the field party? 

The uneasy, trembhng ice-pack in thus forcing on 
him a realization of its presence through motion under 
his feet recalled inevitabl}'' the vision of the Great 
Frozen Sea, which if it had insured world-wide fame 
to his faithful sledge-mates had also brought death so 
near to them. 

Parr's Lonely March 263 

It was therefore with an overwhelming sense of re- 
lief that he clambered up the overtowering ice-foot at 
Depot Point and once more placed his foot on hrm 

Ascending the hill he scanned the horizon and was 
relieved to note that a breath of southern wind was 
carrying the fog to the north, while the floes toward the 
ship were entirely clear.* 

Behind him lay Marco Polo Bay, while before him 
was the seemingly boundless and illimitable expanse of 
the great polar pack. Ample food dainties in the cache 
at his feet invited refreshment, while physical exhaus- 
tion, from rough, steady travel, demanded rest and 
sleep. Either need would have here stayed a man of 
less heroic stamp than Parr, but he paused not to eat a 
bit of food, to drink a cup of tea, nor to take the brief 
rest that his tired muscles so sadly needed. 

A short distance beyond he scrambled down over the 
precipitous ice-foot to the chaotic, pressure-ridged ice- 
masses of Black Cliffs Bay, and fixed his course in a bee- 
line to the farthest cape, Harle}- Spit to the southeast. 
He could not later recall the awful trials of that cross- 
bay travel. With failing strength and exhausted body, 
to his confused mind the furlongs seemed to lengthen 
out to miles and the hours were of interminable du- 
ration. With his great and splendid vitality almost 

* The clearing of the fog was providential for the invalids. Markham 
records at that time: "Our usual weather overtook us, and the land was 
entirely concealed by the fog. This increases our anxiety about Parr." 
The solidarity and altruism of the party is shown by the anxiety not for 
themselves but for others. 

264 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

utterly spent, he reached the cape after nine hours of 
utmost effort. 

A short mile along the ice-foot brought in sight a 
standing tent which stirred his heart with visions of 
expectant comrades from the ship with God-sent aid. 
Hastening his lagging steps as best he could, he reached 
the tent and raised the flap. Alas! it was empty, and 
for the moment he was overcome with bitter and dis- 
heartening disappointment. Would aid ever come or 
help be obtained? 

With the mental reaction he became conscious of his 
fearfully exhausted condition and knew that he could 
go no farther without rest and drink. He lighted his 
tiny spirit lamp, filled the pot with fresh snow, unrolled 
a sleeping-bag and crept into it for warmth and rest. 
In time, all too short it was to the worn-out man, the 
kettle sang its usually welcome song of steam. Then 
came the tea — strong and almost boiling it stirred his 
blood, cheered his heart, and gave vigor to his wearied 
body; he needed none for his unfaiHng courage. On 
rising he found that his legs were so stiff that he could 
barely place one before the other, but with a great 
effort of will he was soon able to reach the floe and to 
go on toward Cape Sheridan, beyond which at a short 
distance lay the Alert, and safety. 

Pressing onward steadily, though with decreasing 
speed, from hour to hour he hoped against hope to meet 
some sailor comrade from the ship — either hunters 
seeking game or officers taking their daily exercise. 
Time and again a black speck on the floe took the 

Parr's Lonely March 265 

mocking semblance of a man to his longing eyes, onl}' 
to fade into an inanimate shape. Time and again, as 
he stumbled or staggered, it seemed as though he would 
fail, so feeble had the body become and so forceless his 
will-power. Could he reach the ship? Would help 
come in time for the dying men behind? Most fear- 
ful of all, was the Alert still there? Exposed to the 
full force of the Arctic Ocean, had she suffered ship- 
wTeck or was she unharmed? If safe, why did no one 

At last he was at Cape Sheridan, and oh! happiness, 
there against the southern sky were outlined the bare 
spars and the covered deck of the long-sought Alert. 
She was but a few miles away, yet in his enfeebled state 
she seemed to recede rather than to advance as he 
dragged himself along. 

But everything has its end, and in six of his weariest 
hours Parr reached the ship, strangely enough without 
being seen. Striding silently across the deck, nodding 
only to the officer on watch, he nervously knocked on 
the panels of Captain Nares's cabin. The door swung 
open at once and for a few seconds the captain stared 
vaguely at his subordinate. So solemn was Parr's 
look, so soiled his garb, so weary his expression, and 
so travel-stained was his person that Sir George at first 
failed to recognize him. 

Meanwhile matters had steadily gone from bad to 
worse with Markham and his men. On the day follow- 
ing Parr's departure. Gunner George Porter, who had 
been sick seven weeks with suspected scurv}', was taken 

266 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

with retching, with recurring spasms and stertorous 
breathing, which ended in his death. Regard for the 
safety of the living did not permit of carrying him far- 
ther, and he was buried on the floe, in a deep snow-drift 
near the camp. At the head of his grave was placed 
a cross improvised from the oar of a boat and a sledge 

The day following the death of Porter only five of 
the fourteen men were able to enter the sledge harness, 
so that Commander Markham had to make the needful 
sixth sledgeman to move the party forward. The next 
day two other men failed utterly, immediately before 
the arrival of the relief party from the Alert — promptly 
despatched as a result of Parr's heroic journey. Before 
reaching the ship there remained only three of Mark- 
ham's original fifteen men who were not dragged on the 
relief sledges, unable to walk. 

Heroic as was the dauntless spirit that spurred Parr 
to the journey which saved the lives of several of his 
field comrades, it was well matched by his indomitable 
will and by his powers of physical endurance. By the 
route traversed Parr marched over forty miles, which 
under any conditions would have been a remarkable 
achievement, without extended break or rest, over the 
rough surface of the Great Frozen Sea, whose broken, 
disjointed ice-masses present difficulties of travel to an 
almost incredible degree. 

Not only was Parr's march practically unbroken, 
but it was made in less than twenty-three hours, a 
somewhat shorter time than was taken by Dr. Moss 

Parr's Lonely March 267 

and Lieutenant May with a fresh dog team "on a 
forced march" for the rehef of the party. 

Parr's conduct after his most heroic actions was 
thoroughly modest and unassuming. In the field and 
later at home his life appears to have been an exempli- 
fication of his sledge motto during the northern jour- 
neys, of Faire sans dire (To do and not to talk). 

In recalling the past and glorious deeds of British 
seamen in arctic work during the past century, looking 
to the future one may ask with Drayton: 

"O, when again shall Englishmen 
With such acts fill a pen?" 




" Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail 
Or knock the breast; no weakness, no contempt. 
Dispraise or blame: nothing but well and fair." 

— Milton. 

AFTER a long and dangerous besetment in the 
r\ polar ice to the north of Bering Strait, the 
American whaling-ship Navrach was abandoned 
August 14, 1897. Twenty-one of her seamen perished 
on the moving ice-pack of the Arctic Ocean in their 
efforts to reach land across the drifting ice. Captain 
Whitesides with his brave wife and six of the crew in- 
trusted their fortunes to the sea, and almost miracu- 
lously escaped by using a canvas boat, which was al- 
ternately hauled across the floes and launched where 
open water was reached. On landing at Copper Island, 
off the coast of Asia, the party was in danger of death 
through starvation when rescued by the United States 
revenue-cutter Bear^ which chanced to touch at that 
point. The news of the loss of the Navrach and the 
reports of very bad ice conditions in the Arctic Ocean 
created great alarm in the United States, owing to the 
fact that no less than eight whale-ships with crews of 
two hundred and sixty-five men were missing that 
autumn. Appeals for prompt aid were made to the 

President of the United States by the members of the 


272 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

chamber of commerce of San Francisco and by other 
interested persons. Refitting in three weeks' time, the 
United States revenue-cutter Beaty manned by volun- 
teers under Captain Francis Tuttle, R.C.S., sailed from 
Seattle on November 27, 1897, and wintered at Una- 
laska. The story of the relief of the whalers, happily 
and heroically accomplished by this expedition, forms 
the substance of this sketch. 

From the character of the duties of the revenue- 
cutter service its officers and men are not favored with 
such frequent opportunities for adventurous deeds as 
are those of the army and of the navy, but whenever 
occasion has arisen they have ever shown those quali- 
ties of courage, self-sacrifice, and devotion which go far 
to inspire heroic action. 

As the period of navigation had already passed for 
the northern seas, the Bear was to winter at Dutch 
Harbor, Unalaska, communicating with the distressed 
seamen by an overland expedition, which should aid 
and encourage them until the spring navigation should 
make their rescue possible. If practicable the land 
party was to be set ashore on the north side of Norton 
Sound, near Cape Nome, which would require some 
eight hundred miles of sledge travel at the least. 

From the eager volunteers for this arduous and novel 
service. Captain Tuttle approved of Lieutenant D. H. 
Jarvis, commanding. Lieutenant E. P. Bertholf, and 
Dr. S. J. McCall, with a reindeer driver, Koltchoff. 

With dauntless courage and skill Captain Tuttle 

Relief of American Whalers at Point Barrow 273 

skirted the growing ice-fields of Bering Sea, seeking in 
vain a lead through which he could reach Norton Sound, 

Northwestern Alaska. 

but it was finally clear that the ship could not be put 
north of Nunavak Island without danger of her loss 
as well as sealing the fate of the whalers. The winter 

274 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

darkness, storm conditions, an uncharted coast, and 
drifting ice forced him to land the party as far north of 
Kuskowim Bay as could be safely reached. Fortu- 
nately, on December i6, a wild, stormy day, the shore 
ice drifted far enough seaward to enable a hasty landing 
to be made near Cape Vancouver. There were fore- 
bodings of evil in attempting this winter journey now 
stretched out to fifteen hundred miles, under conditions 
which increased its perils. But with the splendid con- 
fidence and magnificent vitaHty of youth, the fearless 
revenue-officers hailed with satisfaction the beginning 
of their arduous journey of mercy and relief. 

South of the landing was a deserted village, but fort- 
unately a few miles to the north, near Cape Vancouver, 
was the still occupied Eskimo settlement of Tunanak. 
Ashore, Jarvis found himself in difficulty, for the snow- 
free rocky beach was impassable for his sledges, while 
he was without boats. Here, as elsewhere on this jour- 
ney, the native aid was obtained on which he had 
counted from the knowledge of the kindly feelings of 
these children of the ice that he had gained in his 
past cruises in the Bering Sea region. As there was 
now an ice-free channel along the coast, the Eskimo 
sea-hunters deftly lashed together in pairs their kayaks 
(skin canoes), catamaran fashion, and piled thereon 
helter-skelter the various supplies. Jarvis and Bert- 
holf watched this cargo-stowing with great anxiety, 
not unmingled with doubt as to the outcome of the 
voyage. Following the progress of the kayaks and 
shouting advice and encouragement from the sea-shore. 

Relief of American Whalers at Point Barrow 275 

they were dismayed to see now and then a breaking 
wave threaten to overwhelm the boats and to iinj that 
the short sea trip had ruined much of the precious flour 
and indispensable hard bread. 

Overhauling his cumbersome, heavy sledges and in- 
specting his few unsuitable dogs, he knew that they could 
never do all the work required. Fortunately he found 
a half-breed trader, Alexis, who agreed to furnish dogs, 
sledges, and serve as a guide to the party as far as the 
army post at Saint Michael. As the half-breed knew 
the short shore route and was famihar with the location 
and supplies of the succession of native villages, this 
enabled them to drop much of their heavy baggage and 
travel light. Their outfit was carefully selected, con- 
sisting of sleeping-bags, changes of clothing, camp- 
stoves, rifles, ammunition, axes, and a small supply of 

Their three native sledges were open box-frames, ten 
feet by two in size and eighteen inches high, resting 
on wooden runners a foot high. Tough, pliant lashings 
of walrus hide bound together with the utmost tightness 
the frame and the runners. This method of construc- 
tion, in which not a bit of iron enters, avoids rigidity 
and thus gives a flexibility and life to the sledge which 
enables it to withstand shocks and endure hard usage, 
which would soon break a solid frame into pieces. A 
cargo-cover of light canvas not only closely fits the bot- 
tom and sides of the box-frame but overlaps the top. 
When the cargo-cover is neatly hauled taut and is prop- 
erly lashed to the sides of the sledge the load, if it has 

276 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

been snugly packed, is secure from accidents. Its com- 
pact mass is equally safe from thievish dogs, from the 
penetrating drift of the fierce blizzards, and from dan- 
gers of loss through jolts or capsizings. 

Of a single piece for each dog, the harness used by 
the natives is of seal-skin; the half-breeds often make it 
of light canvas, not only as better suited to the work 
but especially for its quality of non-eatableness which 
is a vital factor during days of dog-famine on long jour- 
neys. The harness is collar-shaped with three long 
bands; the collar slips over the dog's head and one 
band extends to the rear over the animal's back. The 
other bands pass downward between the dog's legs and, 
triced up on each side, are fastened permanently to the 
back-band, where there is also attached a drag-thong or 
pulling-trace about two feet long. In harnessing, the 
three loops described are sHpped respectively over the 
head and legs of the dog. 

The animals are secured in pairs to the long draught- 
rope of the sledge by the Alaskan pioneers, who much 
prefer this method to the old plan of the natives where- 
by the dogs were strung out in single file. With the 
dogs in couples the draught-line is shorter, so that the 
better-controlled animals will haul a larger load. 

In the first day's journey they crossed a mountain 
range two thousand feet high, and in making the de- 
scent of the precipitous northern slope Jarvis records a 
sledging expedient almost unique in sledge travel. The 
four Eskimo drivers detached the dogs from the sledge, 
and winding around the runners small chains so as 

Relief of American Whalers at Point Barrow 277 

to sink in the deep snow and impede their progress, 
prepared to coast down the mountain. Two men 
secured themselves firmly on each sledge, and when 
once started the descent was so steep that the sledges 
attained a fearful speed, which brought them almost 
breathless to thp bottom of the range in ten minutes. 

Jarvis describes in graphic language the trying task 
of feeding the always famished, wolf-like dogs: "They 
are ever hungry, and when one appears with an armful 
of dried fish, in their eagerness to get a stray mouthful 
the dogs crowd around in a fighting, jumping mass, 
which makes it difficult to keep one's balance. After 
throwing a fish to each dog, it takes all of us with clubs 
to keep off the larger fellows and to see that the weaker 
ones keep and eat their share. When being fed they 
are like wild animals — snarl, bite, and fight continually 
until everything is eaten." 

As the dogs, worn-out by the hard journey, could not 
be replaced by fresh ones at the Eskimo colony of Ki- 
yi-Iieng, Bertholf and KoltchofF waited there to bring 
them up later, while Jarvis and McCall pushed on, 
marching across the Yukon delta in temperatures below 
zero daily. They found the natives of this alluvial 
region wretchedly poor and illy protected against the 
bitter cold. To the eye they were a motley crowd, as 
they had levied tribute for clothing on the birds of the 
air, the beasts of the tundra, the fish of the river, and 
the game of the sea. There were trousers and heavy 
boots from the seal, inner jackets of the breasts of the 
wild geese, fur ornamentation of the arctic fox, and the 

278 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

poorer Eskimos even made boots, when seal were lack- 
ing, from the tanned skin of the Yukon salmon. 

With all their dire poverty they were not unmindful 
of their duty to strangers and always offered the shelter 
of the khazeem (a hut built for general use by the un- 
married men, from which women are rigidly excluded). 
His sense of fastidiousness had not yet left Jarvis, who 
surprised the Eskimos by tenting in the midwinter cold 
rather than endure the tortures of the stifling khazeem^ 
which to the natives was a place of comfort and pleasure. 
Of this half-underground hut Jarvis says in part: 
"The sides are of drift-wood, filled in with brush. The 
roof is ingeniously made by laying logs along the sides 
and lashing them thereto with walrus thongs. Two 
logs notched on the ends to fit securely are then laid 
across the first logs on opposite sides, but a little farther 
in toward the centre. This method is repeated until 
a sort of arch is formed, which ie filled in with earth- 
covered brush leaving a small hole in the centre of the 
roof. Other drift-wood, split in rough slabs, forms the 
floor, leaving an entrance space about two feet square. 
From this hole in the floor, which is always several feet 
below the level of the surrounding ground, an entrance 
passage has been dug out large enough for a man to 
crawl through it into the main earth-floored room. 
Over the entrance opening is hung a skin to keep out the 
air, while the roof opening is covered with the thin, 
translucent, dried intestines of the seal or walrus, which 
gives famt light during the day. 

*Tn the khazeem the animal heat from the bodies of 

Relief of American Whalers at Point Barrow 279 

the natives, with that from seal-oil lamps, raises the 
temperature so high that the men sit around with the 
upper part of the body entirely naked. The only ven- 
tilation is through a small hole in the roof, invariably 
closed at night in cold weather. The condition of the 
air can be better imagined than described, with fifteen 
or twenty natives sleeping inside the small room." 

The culmination of danger and suffering on the march 
in the delta journey was at Pikmiktellik, when they 
strayed from the trail and nearlj' perished in a violent 
storm. Almost as by miracle they staggered by chance 
into the village long after dark, so exhausted that with- 
out strength to put up tlieir tent they gladly occupied 
the dreaded khazeem. 

Twelve days brought them to Saint Michael, where 
the)^ were given cordial and humane aid from Colonel 
(now General) George M. Randall, United States Army, 
and the agents of the Alaska Commercial and North 
American Trading Companies. Without such help 
Jarvis must have failed. The feet of his dogs were 
worn bare by rapid, rough travel of three hundred and 
sevent3^-five miles, the rubber-covered, goat-skin sleep- 
ing-bags were cold and heavy, which in bitterer weather 
would be actually dangerous. Deerskin clothmg and 
fresh dogs were necessary for rapid travel with light 
loads on which final success depended. 

Leaving orders for Bertholf, yet far behind, to bring 
up relief supplies from Unalaklik to Cape Blossom, by 
crossing the divide at the head of Norton Bay, Jarvis 
and McCall pushed ahead on January i, 1898. The 

28o True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

third day out they met a native woman travelling south 
on snow-shoes, who told them that she was with her 
husband and Mate Tilton of the Belvedere; the two 
parties had passed each other, unseen, on trails three 
hundred feet apart. Tilton brought news even worse 
than had been expected. Three ships had been crushed 
by the ice-pack, two losing all their provisions, while 
five other ships were frozen up in the ocean ice. As the 
worn-out mate went south, Jarvis pushed on with new 
energy, realizing the great need ahead. 

Severe storms and deep snow made travel very slow, 
and at times the runners sank so deep that the body of 
the sledge dragged, while the dogs were almost buried 
in their efforts to struggle on. They soon realized that 
actual arctic travel is far from being like the usual 
pictures of dog-sledging. Instead of frisky dogs with 
tails curled over their backs, with drivers comfortably 
seated on the sledge cracking a whip at the flying team, 
snarling dogs and worn-out men tramped slowly and 
silently through the unbroken snow. 

It very rarely occurs that there is either a beaten or 
a marked trail, so the lead is taken by a man who keeps 
in advance, picking out the best road, while his comrades 
are hard at work lifting the sledge over bad places or 
keeping it from capsizing. The king dogs, who lead 
the way and set the pace, never stray from the broken 
path save in rare instances of sighting tempting game, 
but follow exactly the trail-breaker. One day Jarvis 
came to fresh, deep snow, where it took all four men to 
break a way for the sledge, and when they themselves 

Relief of American Whalers at Point Barrow 281 

were worn out they had the misery of seeing their 
utterly exhausted dogs lie down on the trail, indiffer- 
ent equally to the urging voice or the cutting whip. 
That wretched night the party had to make its camp 
in the open instead of at one of the nativ^e huts which 
were always in view.. 

The dog teams were sent back from the Swedish 
mission, Golovin Bay, where reindeer were available. 
Of this new and unusual method of travel, Jarvis, who 
drove a single-deer sledge, says: "All hands must be 
ready at the same time when starting a deer-train. As 
soon as the other animals see the head team start they 
are off with a jump, and for a short time the}' keep up a 
very high rate of speed. If one is not quick in jumping 
and in holding on to his sledge, he is likel}' either to lose 
his team or be dragged bodily along. 

"The deer is harnessed with a well-fitting collar of 
two flat pieces of wood from which short traces go back 
to a breastplate or single-tree under the body. From 
this a single trace, protected by soft fur to prevent 
chafing, runs back to the sledge. A single line made fast 
to the halter is used for guiding, and, kept slack, is onh'^ 
pulled to guide or stop the deer. A hard pull brings 
the weight of the sledge on the head of the deer and 
generally brings him to a stop. No whip is used, for 
the timid deer becomes easil}^ frightened and then is 
hard to control and quiet down. The low, wide sledges 
with broad runners are hard to pack so as to secure 
and protect the load. " As the dogs naturally attack 
the deer, it was henceforth necessary to stop outside 

282 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

the Eskimo villages, unharness the animals, and send 
them to pasture on the nearest beds of reindeer moss. 

Jarvis thus relates his straying during a violent bliz- 
zard: **Soon after dark my deer wandered from the 
trail, became entangled in drift-wood on the beach, and 
finally wound up by running the sledge full speed against 
a stump, breaking the harness, dragging the line from my 
hand, and disappearing in the darkness and flying snow. 
It was impossible to see ten yards ahead, and it would 
be reckless to start off alone, for the others were in ad- 
vance, and I might wander about all night, become ex- 
hausted, and perhaps freeze. I had nothing to eat, but 
righting the sledge I got out my sleeping-bag in its lee 
and made myself as comfortable as possible." His 
comrades were greatly alarmed as a reindeer dashed by 
them, and fearing disaster hastened back on the trail, 
which, although followed with difficulty on account of 
the blinding snow, brought them to the lieutenant still 

If the relief expedition was to be of use to the ship- 
wrecked men it was important that food should be car- 
ried north. As this was impossible by sledge, it was 
evident that the sole method was to carry meat on 
the hoof. The sole sources of supply consisted of two 
herds of reindeer, at Teller and at Cape Prince of 
Wales. If these herds could be purchased, and if the 
services of skilled herders could be obtained and the 
herd could be driven such a long distance then the 
whalers could be saved. To these three problems 
Jarvis now bent his powers of persuasion and of ad- 

Relief of American Whalers at Point Barrow 2S3 

ministrative ability, feeling that lives depended on the 
outcome and that he must not fail. 

The reindeer belonged in part to an Eskimo, Artisar- 
look, and in part to the American Missionary Society, 
under the control and management of Mr. H. W. Lopp. 
Without the assent and active aid of these two men the 
proposed action would be impossible. Would he be 
able to persuade these men to give him their entire 
plant and leave themselves destitute for men whom 
they had never seen and knew of only to hold them in 
fear? Would they consider the plan practicable, and 
would they leave their families and go on the arctic 
trail in the midst of an Alaskan winter ? If they thought 
it a bounden duty, what was to happen to their families 
during their absence? Day after day these questions 
rose in the lieutenant's mind to his great disquietude. 

With Jarvis and Bertholf there was the stimulus of 
the esprit de corps, the honor of the service, always act- 
ing as a spur to their heroic labors, while in the case of 
Dr. McCall there was also that sense of personal devo- 
tion to the relief of suffering that inspires the medical 
profession as a whole. 

On January 19 Jarvis reached the house of Artisar- 
look, when he "almost shrank from the task." From 
this untaught, semi-civilized native, wrestling for a bare 
subsistence with harsh, forbidding nature, what favor 
could be expected ? The starving men were of an ahen 
race, and of that class from which too often his own peo- 
ple had reaped degradation, suffered outrage, and en- 
dured wrongs too grievous to be ignored or forgotten. 

284 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

To relieve these men Artisarlook must voluntarily loan 
his entire herd of reindeer without certainty of replace- 
ment. He must leave behind him his wife, unprotected 
and subject to the vicissitudes of an arctic environment. 
He must also endure the hardships and sufferings in- 
cident to a midwinter drive, in the coldest month of the 
year, of reindeer across a country unknown to him — a 
desperate venture that might cost him his life. Al- 
truistic souls of the civilized world might make such 
sacrifices, but would this Alaskan Eskimo.'' 

Of the crisis Jarvis writes: *T almost shrank from 
the task. He and his wife were old friends, but how 
to induce them to give up their deer — their absolute 
property — and how to convince them that the govern- 
ment would return an equal number at some future 
time was quite another matter. Besides, he and the 
natives gathered about him were dependent on the 
herd for food and clothing. If I took the deer and 
Artisarlook away these people were likely to starve 
unless some other arrangements were made for their 

*T explained carefully what the deer were wanted for; 
that he must let me have the deer of his own free will, 
and trust to the government for an ample reward and 
the return of an equal number of deer. 

"Artisarlook and his wife Mary held a long and 
solemn consultation and finally explained their situa- 
tion. They were sorry for the white men at Point Bar- 
row and they were glad to be able to help them. They 
would let me have their deer, one hundred and thirty- 

Relief of American Whalers at Point Barrow 285 

three in number, which represented their all, if I would 
be directly responsible for them. 

"I had dreaded this interview for fear that Artisar- 
look might refuse, but his nobility of character could 
have no better exposition than the fact that he was 
willing to give up his property, leave his family, and 
go eight hundred miles to help white men in distress, 
under a simple promise that his property should be re- 
turned to him." 

Has there ever been a finer instance of the full faith 
of man in brother man than is shown in this simple pact, 
by word of mouth, under the dark, gloomy sky of an 
Alaskan midwinter? Far from the business marts of 
crowded cities, in the free open of broad expanses of 
country, there are often similar instances of man's 
trusting generosity and of personal self-sacrifice, but 
more often between those of kindred race than between 
the civilized man and the aborigine. 

Giving written orders on the traders to tide over the 
winter for the natives, Jarvis pushed on, leaving Artisar- 
look and his herders to follow with the deer. Mean- 
time the Heutenant had adopted the native garb, say- 
ing: "I had determined to do as the people who lived 
in the country did— to dress, travel, and live as they did, 
and if necessary to eat the same food. I found the 
only way to get along was to conform to the customs 
of those who had solved many of the problems of exist- 
ence in the arctic climate." His clothing consisted 
of close-fitting deerskin trousers and socks, with hair 
next t« the skin; deerskin boots, hair out, with heavy 

286 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

seal-skin soles; two deerskin shirts, one with hair oilt 
and the other with hair toward the skin; close hoods, 
with fringing wolfskin, and mittens, the whole weigh- 
ing only about ten pounds. In stormy weather he 
wore an outer shirt and overalls of drilling, which kept 
the drifting snow from filling up and freezing in a mass 
the hair of the deerskins. 

The five days' travel to the Teller reindeer station, 
near Cape Prince of Wales, were filled with most bitter 
experiences. The temperature fell to seventy-two de- 
grees below freezing; the sea ice over which they trav- 
elled became of almost incredible roughness; while fear- 
ful blizzards sprang up. With increasing northing the 
days became shorter and the exhausted reindeer had 
to be replaced by dogs. Much of the travel was in 
darkness, with resultant capsizings of sledges, frequent 
falls, and many bodily bruises. Of one critical situation 
he reports: "The heavy sledge was continually capsizing 
in the rough ice. About eight o'clock at night I was 
completely played out and quite wilUng to camp. But 
Artisarlook said No! that it was too cold to camp 
without wood (they depended on drift-wood for their 
fires), and that the ice-foot along the land was in dan- 
ger of breaking off the shore at any minute. In the 
darkness I stepped through an ice-crack, and my leg to 
the knee was immediately one mass of ice. Urging 
the dogs, we dragged along till midnight to a hut that 
Artisarlook had before mentioned. A horrible place, 
no palace could have been more welcome. Fifteen peo- 
ple were already sleeping in the hut, the most filthy 

Relief of American Whalers at Point Barrow 287 

I saw in Alaska, only ten by twelve feet in size and 
five feet high. Too tired to care for the filth, too tired 
even to eat, I was satisfied to take off my wet cloth- 
ing, crawl into my bag, and to sleep." Failure to find 
the house and to have his frozen clothing dried would 
have cost the lieutenant his Hfe. 

On arriving at Teller station he had a new problem 
to solve — to win over the agent. He had high hopes, for 
although this representative of a missionary society was 
living on the outer edge of the world, yet he had be- 
come familiar with the vicissitudes of the frontier, and 
from vocation and through his associations was readily 
moved to acts of humanity. Jarvis set forth the situa- 
tion to Mr. W. T. Lopp, the superintendent, adding that 
he considered Lopp's personal services to be indispensa- 
ble, as he knew the country, was famihar with the cus- 
toms and characteristics of the natives, and was expert 
in handling deer. Lopp replied that "the reindeer had 
been builded on by his people as their wealth and sup- 
port, and to lose them would make a break in the work 
that could not be repaired. Still, in the interests of 
humanity he would give them all, explain the case to 
ti^.e Eskimos, and induce them to give their deer also 
[aggregating about three hundred]." Lopp also gave 
his own knowledge, influence, and personal service, his 
wife, with a noble disregard for her own comfort and 
safety at being left alone with the natives, "urging him 
to go, believing it to be his duty." 

It is needless to recite in detail the trials and troubles 
that dail}' arose in driving across trackless tundras 

288 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

(the swampy, moss-covered plains), in the darkness 
of midwinter, this great herd of more than four hun- 
dred timid, intractable reindeer. Throughout the eight 
hundred miles of travel the reindeer drivers had to 
carefully avoid the immediate neighborhood of Eskimo 
villages for fear of the ravenous, attacking dogs, who, 
however, on one occasion succeeded in stampeding the 
whole herd. For days at a time the herders were at 
their wits' ends to guard the deer against gaunt packs 
of ravenous wolves, who kept on their trail and, despite 
their utmost vigilance, succeeded in killing and maiming 
several deer. A triumphal but venturesome feat of 
Lopp's was the driving of the herd across the sea-floes 
of the broad expanse of Kotzebue Sound, thus saving 
one hundred and fifty miles of land travel and two 
weeks of valuable time. 

While there were eight skilled herders, Lapps and 
Eskimos, the most effective work was that done by a 
little Lapp deer-dog, who circled around the herd when 
on the march to prevent the deer from straying. If a 
deer started from the main herd the dog was at once on 
his trail, snapping at his heels and turning him toward 
the others. Very few deer stra3^ed or were lost, and 
three hundred and sixtj^-two were brought to Barrow 
in good condition. 

Travelling in advance, following the shore line by dog- 
sledge, Jarvis and McCall were welcomed with warm 
generosity even by the most forlorn and wretched 
Eskimos, who asked them into their huts, cared for their 
dogs, dried their clothes, and did all possible for their 

Relief of American Whalers at Point Barrow 289 

safety and comfort. The relief party, however, suffered 
much from the begging demands of almost starving 
natives, from the loss of straying dogs, and the deser- 
tion of several unreliable native employees. They were 
quite at the end of their food when they reached, at 
Cape Krusenstern, their depot. This had been brought 
up across country from Unalaklik through the great 
energy and indomitable courage of Bertholf, whose jour- 
ney and sufferings were no less striking than those of 
his comrades. 

Inexpressible was the joy of the party when, fifty 
miles south of Point Barrow, the masts of the Belvederey 
a whale-ship fast in the ice, were sighted. Four days 
later they were at the point, their marvellous journey 
of eighteen hundred miles ended and their coming wel- 
comed as a providential relief. 

They found conditions frightful as regards the shel- 
ter, health, and sanitation of the shipwrecked whalers. 
Three ships had been lost and another was ice-beset 
beyond power of saving. The captains of the wrecked 
ships had abandoned the care and control of their men 
as to quarters, clothing, food, and general welfare. Pro- 
visions were very short, and the seamen were depending 
on their safety through successful hunting among the 
caribou herds in the neighborhood of Point Barrow, 
which were rapidly disappearing. 

Jarvis at once took charge of the situation. Dr. 
McCall found the seamen's quarters in a most horrible 
condition, its single window giving but a feeble glimmer 
of light at mid-day, and its ventilation confined to the 

290 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

few air draughts through cracks in the walls. Eighty sea- 
men occupied for sleeping, shelter, and cooking a single 
room twenty by fifty feet in size, wherein they were so 
badly crowded that there was scarcely room for all to 
stand when out of their bunks together. Moisture was 
continually dropping from the inner ceihng and walls, 
which were covered with frost. Their bedding was 
never dry, sooty grease was coated over all things, and 
no place was free from great accumulations of filth and 
its accompaniments. The whalers were "scarcely rec- 
ognizable as white men, " and large numbers of them 
would without doubt have perished of disease but for 
the opportune arrival of the relief party. 

Order, cleanliness, decency, and discipline were in- 
stituted, the men were distributed in light, airy rooms, 
their clothing was washed and renovated, and inter- 
course with the natives prohibited. By inspection, 
precept, and command the general health greatly im- 
proved. At every opportunity individual men were 
sent south by occasional sledge parties. Hunting was 
systematized, but it failed to produce enough food for 
the suffering whalers. Recourse was then had to the 
herds driven north by Lopp and Artisarlook, and 
with the slaughter of nearly two hundred reindeer 
suitable quantities of fresh meat were issued. Out of 
two hundred and seventy-five whalers only one died 
of disease. Captain Tuttle by daring seamanship 
reached Icy Cape July 22, 1898, and took on board 
the Bear about a hundred men whose ships were lost. 

With generous feeling Jarvis gives credit in his re- 

Relief of American Whalers at Point Barrow 291 

port to the whaling agent, A. C. Brower, and to "the 
goodness and help of the natives [Eskimos], who denied 
themselves to save the white people," subordinating 
with true heroic modesty his work to all others. 

Gold and commerce have peopled the barren Alaskan 
wastes which were the scenes of this adventurous jour- 
ney with its unique equipment and its cosmopolitan 
personnel of Eskimo, Lapp, and American. 

While these men worked not for fame but for the 
lives of brother men, yet in Alaskan annals should stand 
forever recorded the heroic deeds and unselfish acts 
of Jarvis and McCall, of Bertholf and Lopp, and of 
that man among men — Eskimo Artisarlook. 



" Blest river of salvation! 
Pursue thy onward way; 
Flow thou to every nation. 
Nor in thy richness stay; 
Stay not till all the lowly 

Triumphant reach their home; 
Stay not till all the holy 

Proclaim — The Lord is come !" 

— S. F. Smith. 

A MONG the heroic figures in the history of the 
y\ human race there should be none to connmand 
greater admiration than the typical missiona- 
ries who, in foreign lands and among uncivilized tribes, 
have devoted their lives to the good of man and to the 
glory of God. Of the countless many through the ages 
may be named a few whose labors, actuated by a spirit 
of lofty endeavor, particularly appeal to the imagina- 
tion and love of the people. Such men were Schwarz and 
Carey, in India; Livingstone, in Africa; Egede, in Green- 
land; Eliot and Whitney, in America. Of earnest mis- 
sionaries in North America there are many worthy of 
special notice, and among these are not a few of French 
birth whose memories remain fragrant through heroic 
deeds and unselfish labors. Their work has entered 
into the life of the people, though Pere Marquette is 
perhaps the only one whose deeds have affected the 
growth of a nation. Of French missionaries in late 


296 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

years whose activities have been exerted within the 
arctic circle may be mentioned M. Emile Petitot, who 
served fifteen years in the arctic regions of Canada, 
principally in the water-sheds of the Anderson, the Mac- 
kenzie, and the Yukon. Apart from his labors of piety 
and of love among the Indian tribes of northwestern 
Canada, M. Petitot, in a dozen or more volumes, has 
contributed largely to our knowledge of the customs, 
of the beliefs, of the methods of life, and of the human 
qualities of the aborigines among whom he has labored. 
Stationed on the shores of Great Slave Lake in 1863, 
in the autumn of the following year he descended the 
Mackenzie and proceeded via Fort Simpson for mis- 
sionary labors at Fort Good Hope. With his experi- 
ences in such voyages, and especially with his visit to 
the shores of the polar sea, this tale is principally con- 

Coming from the highly civilized and elaborately 
circumscribed life of France, M. Petitot was vividly im- 
pressed with the enormous and underlying difference in 
the methods of life in the two countries, the more so 
on account of his youth. He says of this : "It is well to 
know the advantages of an isolated life. There is an 
entire exemption from taxes, tithes, levies in kind, quit- 
rents, poll-taxes, tariffs, customs duties, town duties 
(octroi), inheritance-taxes, land rents, forced labor, 
etc., etc." 

On the other hand he finds in the northern wilds 
** Perfect security, unchanging peacefulness, liberty to 

The Missionary's Arctic Trail 297 

plant, to cut, to clear land, to mow, to reap, to fish, 
to hunt, to take and to give, to build and to tear 
down" — in short, unrestricted personal liberty of action 
as of thought. 

In changing his station to the far north he made his 
first voyage down the magnificent Mackenzie, which in 

Peti tot's Trail, 



Liverpool Bay Region. 

the area of its drainage basin, its outflow, its length, and 
its wondrous scenery is scarcely surpassed by any other 
river of the world. His first stage of travel brought 
him to Fort Simpson, where he came in contact with 
the chief factors or agents of the Hudson Bay posts to 
the north, w^ho gathered there in early autumn to bring 
the winter furs and to obtain the annual supply of 

298 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

food and of trading goods known as their outfit. For 
these men it was the hoHday season of the year, the 
only break in the fearful monotony of their isolated 
lives, when they see their kind and speak their native 


The final glass had been drunk, the precious outfit* 
had been stowed safely under cover, the final word said, 
and then the Indian steersman dexterously turned his 
paddle. The voyage to the real north thus began, and 
the missionary's happiness was complete, though he 
travelled with six Indians, the factor staying behind. 
Drifting throughout the night, he could scarce believe 
his eyes when the sharp air of the cold morning awoke 
him. Ke had left a land of green trees and now the 
foliage of the elms that bordered the Mackenzie were 
as yellow as straw. The single night of polar cold had 
checked the life-giving sap with the same startling 
rapidit}' with which it had been caused to flow by a 
spring day of warm, invigorating sunshine. 

Then the priest, with the mountains in view, realized 
the justness of the poetic Indian name, the Giant of 
the Highlands, given to the "noble Mackenzie, with 
its vast outflow, its great length, its immense width, and 
its majestic mountainous banks." 

The river could be as terrible as it was majestic; and 
then came the first touch of terror from the north, a 
tornado storm known as the "white wind." Whirling 

* M. Petitot tells us that the yearly outfit for the chief factor was, ia 
pounds, 600 ilour, 800 sugar, 200 each of rice, raisins, and salt, 100 tea, 
20 chocolate, 10 black pepper, and liberal amounts of twisted or nigger-head 

The Missionary's Arctic Trail 299 

downward from a cloudless sky, its furious force lashed 
the water into waves, tilled the air with sand and gravel, 
and barely missed sinking the boats as they were 
rushed to the bank. There, standing in water to their 
waists, the voyageurs held fast to the ends of the boats 
until a brief lull made possible their discharging. For 
a night and a day the storm-bound travellers were thus 
imprisoned on a narrow ledge in wretched plight — with- 
out fire, drenched to the skin, unable to sleep, shivering 
under the biting northerly gale. 

Near their destmation they had to run the fearful 
rapids of the Ramparts, the most dangerous of the many 
swift currents of the Mackenzie. Their skiiFs flew with 
frightful velocity, plunging down descents that were 
falls in low stages of water and being helplessly whirled 
around and around. Three danger spots were passed 
under conditions that made the missionary hold his 
breath, while admiring the dexterity and composure 
of the Indian steersman. It seemed an interminable 
eight miles, this series of rapids walled in by the tow- 
ering, precipitous Ramparts, with only tv/o points of 
refuge in its inhospitable cliffs even for a canoe. 

Petitot soon made himself at home at the mission 
of Fort Good Hope, situated on the arctic circle. He 
found the Hare Indians alert, loquacious, companion- 
able, warm-hearted, and childlike in their sympathies 
and feelings. Speaking of the free, happy Indian life 
he says: "How can such misery be combined with such 
contentment with their lot? How does the sweet pride 
of a free man inspire their abject nomadic life.' Ask its 

300 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

secret from the bird which flies warbling from shrub to 
shrub, waving its swift wings, drying its rain-wet plu- 
mage in the sun, tranquilly sleeping on a twig, its head 
under its wing." 

Learning the Hare language, baptizing the babes and 
teaching the adults, he also put up buildings, cared for 
the sick, and in his garden raised potatoes and turnips 
under the arctic circle. But ever keeping ahve that 
wandering spirit which had its influence in his choice 
for a missionary life, Petitot was not content. 

With his work well in hand he learned with sadness 
from some of his Indian flock of the wretched condi- 
tions under which the Eskimos of Liverpool Bay were 
living. Fired with his usual zeal for the wretched, 
untaught savages, and perchance impelled somewhat 
by a desire to explore the country to the north, Petitot 
decided to make a midwinter journey to the polar sea. 
The agent, Gaudet, pointed out the dangers of travel in 
winter when the cold was excessive, sometimes ninety 
degrees or more below freezing, but when the priest 
insisted he accompanied him to Fort Anderson (or 
Eskimo) both men following on snow-shoes the dog- 
team that hauled their camp outfit over the two hun- 
dred and fifty miles of snow-covered country. 

Fort Eskimo, in 68° 30 N., on Anderson River, was 
the most northerly of the Hudson Bay posts, and its 
factor, MacFarlane, saw with surprise the arrival of 
this young French priest with the alert bearing and 
splended confidence of his twenty-five years. It must 
be a matter of Ufe or death that brought him. What 

The Missionary's Arctic Trail 301 

was his mission? The factor could scarcely trust his 
ears when he heard that the object was a missionary 
visit to Liverpool Bay. 

MacFarlane told him that the country was so wild 
that Fort Eskimo was palisaded, flanked with bastions, 
and loop-holed for rifle-fire, owing to the desperate 
character of the surrounding and hostile tribes. Mean- 
while four Eskimos had come to the fort from Liverpool 
Bay, including In-no-ra-na-na, called Powder Horn by 
the traders. The priest had hoped to meet this native, 
whom the factor said was known to be the greatest 
scapegrace on the arctic coast. Learning that Petitot 
was unfamiliar with the Inuit language, and was travel- 
ling unarmed, his anxiety increased and he told him 
that a journey into this unknown country with this sav- 
age brute would prove fatal. It was pointed out in 
vain that the Eskimos were bandits and outcasts — true 
pirates who, glorying in theft, violence, and fraud, 
viewed their unbridled passions as so many human 
virtues that showed the true man (Inuit).* 

The pen portrait of In-no-ra-na-na, whom the mis- 
sionary had chosen as his guide, is worth reproduction 
as a type of Eskimo dandy no longer seen. "He was 
a handsome man, well made, of large size, good pres- 
ence, fine face, and had a nearly white complexion. He 
wore an elegant suit of reindeer-skin, its hair outside, 
stylishl)^ cut and made. It can be compared only to 
the costume of our ancestors in the time of Henry IV. 
The close coat, old French breeches, and tightl}' fitting 

*The Eskimos call themselves Inuits, that is, the men of the whole world. 

302 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

boots were of a beautiful brown skin of the summer coat 
of the deer bordered with a triple trimming of sea-otter, 
white wolf, and of the caribou, whose long reddish hairs 
surrounded his figure like a flaming aureole. Similar 
fringes around his arms and his legs set them off as by 
so many phylacteries. A head-dress hollowed out of 
the scowling head of a wolf surrounded his naked and 
closely shaven skull, which the Inuit could, if needful, 
partly cover with a small hood made of the head of a 
reindeer on which still remained the ears and budding 
horns of the animal." The usual labrets (ornaments 
inserted through slits made in the cheeks) of walrus 
ivory protruded from the great gashes in his face and 
hideously completed his dress. 

As nothing could shake the priest's resolution. Fac- 
tor MacFarlane decided to send as a companion a 
baptized Loucheux Indian, Sida-Jan, usually known 
as General Bottom, who spoke a little Inuit. He 
would save the situation and maintain the missionary's 
dignity by acting as his cook, dog driver, and camp 
servant. Moreover, as the brutal, powerful In-no-ra- 
na-na was actually going north the factor bribed him 
by giving goods to the amount of twenty beaver-skins* 
to guard the priest from insult or injury at the hands of 
his fellow-savages. Thus having done his best Mac- 
Farlane cried out, as the whip cracked and the dogs 
jumped to their traces, "May God protect your days 
among the bad people." 

*The beaver-skin was the standard coin of the Hudson Bay territory, 
its value in our money being fifty cents. 

The Missionary's Arctic Trail 303 

Eskimo fashion, tliev ran over the crisp, crackHng 
snow in single file, the leader I-you-ma-tou-nak (the 
itchy) breaking the trail, followed by the great chief 
In-no-ra-na-na (Powder Horn), Sida-Jan (Bottom), 
and Petitot. When asked why they always thus 
marched in single file the Inuits answered: "The best- 
fitted leads and the others form the tail. It is the 
order of the ducks and cranes who plough the air, of 
the reindeer in migration, and of the buffalo or musk- 
oxen changing their pasture-grounds." 

The calm cold was not felt, though the mercury was 
frozen, until the leader stopped short on the middle ice 
of the frozen Anderson, over which their route lay, and 
began to unload his sledge while the others were busy 
cutting through the snow for water. Petitot had a 
Hudson Bay sledge with steel-clad, smooth bottom, 
while the native sledges ran on two rough, solid side 
runners of wood. These runners drag fearfully when 
not shod with ice, which coating usually wears off in 
a few hours of land travel. So throughout the day, 
from time to time the Eskimo sledge was turned 
upside down, and its ice runners renewed by frequent 
wettings of the injured surfaces, the water freezing as 
it was applied. 

As they were about camping the first night they met 
two young Inuits who had a stone lamp and fresh 
whale blubber — essentials for a warm meal — so the 
two parties joined forces to build a snow hut. Warned 
by the factor not to endanger his life or impair his 
dignit)' by working with his hands, the poor priest 

304 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

nearly froze as the house was reared, his undergar- 
ments, damp with the perspiration of travel, chilling his 
body bitterly. He tells us how deftly two of the na- 
tives carved from the snow-drifts on the river wedge- 
shaped slabs. The builder skilfully laid the blocks in 
spiral fashion, slicing them to fit and matching them 
quite closely with his snow-knife. The master-workman 
sprinkled with water the rising walls, which when fin- 
ished formed a dome-like structure of dazzling white- 
ness, though hermetically sealed. Then with a few 
strokes of the snow-knife a door-way was carved out 
and to the windward of it was built a circular snow 
wall. Meanwhile an Eskimo built of snow inside the 
hut the customary divan — a raised shelf where the 
natives sleep — whereon were arranged the bear and 
reindeer skins for bedding. Close by the door was 
suspended the black pot-stone lamp, and directly op- 
posite was placed the proverbial chamber-pot — always 
present in the Inuit huts. 

After being brushed for the twentieth time with the 
reindeer wisp, to remove every particle of snow from 
his fur garments, Petitot seated himself in a corner of 
the divan, a place of honor. When all the Inuits were 
within the hut they carefully drew up the circular 
snow wall to the very door-way and poured water over 
the crevices. When it froze the six travellers were in 
a hermetically sealed snow house, there being no 
window or other opening through which a breath of 
wind could come. 

The missionary's sufferings were intense that first 

The Missionary's Arctic Trail 305 

night of arctic travel. Smoky soot from the dirty 
lamp and the nauseous effluvia from his unkempt bed- 
fellows were bad enough, but the excessive heat and 
impure air became quite unendurable. The outside 
cold was about eighty degrees below freezing, while 
the inside temperature was about eighty degrees above, 
so that the inner snow-blocks sweat freely, the glob- 
ules of water forming on the surface ready to shower 
down on them at the slightest shock. 

The Inuits stripped as usual to the skin, but the 
shame-faced priest felt obliged to keep on his clothes, 
removing his outer fur garments only. He says: "I 
slept feverishly in cat-naps, with constant nightmare. 
Tormented by my garments, perspiring terribly from 
the heat, crowded between my companions like a packed 
herring, sickened by unhealthy odors, and suffocated by 
unbreathable air, what fearful agony I suffered that 
night! [He adds:] Save their odor and their nudity, 
the company of the inmates was not disagreeable. Nor 
did the food prove less repulsive, especially the opal- 
ine, greenish-white whale blubber, which, cut into long, 
thin strips, forms a choice delicacy known to the Inuits 
as ortchok. The native with his left hand holds the 
dainty morsel above the greedily upturned open mouth 
which it at once fills. Gripping the ortchok fast with 
his teeth, with a knife in his right hand he cuts it off 
as near the lips as he can, swallowing it with a gurgle 
of joy." 

When Petitot asked for cooked blubber his host 
promptly pulled out the melting piece from the smok- 

3o6 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

ing, dirty lamp, and was surprised that such a delicacy 
was refused. When later tasted the raw blubber was 
found to be insipid, though the fresh oil therefrom was 
not unlike olive oil in its flavor. 

As a kind of dessert they drew on their small supply 
of congealed seal-oil, so rancid as to be offensive. To 
this food neither time nor circumstance reconciles the 
white man. 

The meal over the natives took to the soothing even- 
ing pipe, and graduall}' began the talk of the day and of 
the morrow. Mindful of the precious store goods in his 
pack and of his promise to the factor. Powder Horn 
chanted the glory of Fort Anderson, and then sang to 
the young stranger Inuits the praises of the missionary, 
whom he proclaimed to be the Son of the Sun; despite 
his protestations, transforming the priest into a demi- 

The long day's march had seen the scattering groves 
dwindle and fail — first the bankerian pine, followed in 
order by the balsam poplar and the aspen. Now as 
they broke their morning camp the canoe birch was a 
stunted, wretched shrub scarcely attaining the dignity 
of a tree, and even this was gone when they made 
their next camp near the Anderson delta, leaving here 
and there unsightly and rare specimens of the hardy 
larch and the arctic spruces. 

Next day they parted company with the young na- 
tives, who carried with them the pot-stone lamp, much 
to the priest's annoyance, as he was nearly frozen when 
they entered the igloo on the river ice. Powder Horn 

The Missionary's Arctic Trail 307 

under pressure showed his ingenuity in providing a sub- 
stitute. Picking up a piece of drift-wood, he hollowed it 
out lamp-shaped, and covered its bottom and sides with 
pebbles and flat stones. As moss was lacking for the 
wicking, he plucked a pinch of hair from his deerskin 
sleeping-robe, twisted it into a mesh, and the lamp was 
ready. During the night a violent gale buried the igloo 
in a snow-drift. The river ice was under such storm- 
pressures and it oscillated so strongly and continuously 
to and fro that they all feared that the river would open 
and swallow them up. Throughout the whole night 
the roaring of the wind, the groaning of the ice, and the 
quivering of the igloo made sleep impossible. 

As they passed the river's mouth the third day the 
landscape was one of frightful sterility. Snow became 
thin and scanty, the ice was rougher, and the bare spots 
of ground seemed to have no signs of vegetation, trees 
and shrubs failing utterl}^. Nature was worse than 
dead with its apparent desolation. Here both man 
and beast was doomed alike to a constant and eternal 
struggle for bare existence in this adverse environment. 

The lack of material and the ingenuity of the Inuits 
in wresting a bare subsistence from this forlorn coun- 
try was indicated by a most efficient fox-trap made 
entirely of ice. 

Long after dark the wearied sledge dogs with loud 
bowlings broke into a rapid run, and were welcomed 
with fierce yells from the rival teams of the Eskimo vil- 
lage, a dozen large snow houses on the shores of Liver- 
pool Bay. So dim was the light and so strange the 

3o8 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

garments and the attitudes of the native women, fur- 
clad and crawHng on all-fours from the huts, that the 
missionary could scarcely distinguish them from the 

Introduced to the people of the village by his Inuit 
protector as the Son of the Sun, he was made welcome 
after the manner of the country. His efforts at conver- 
sions did not bear visible fruit, though the natives lis- 
tened gravely to his sermons on kindness and goodness, 
on chastity and honesty, on wifely fidelity and moth- 
erly love. 

Doubtless he was best remembered in after days, as 
he himself suggests, "As the man who ate when a little 
pocket-sun [chronometer] told him; who guided himself 
on the trail by a hve turning-iron [compass]; who made 
fire by rubbing a bit of wood on his sleeve [matches]; 
and who by looking hard at something white [prayer- 
book] made it possible for the Inuit to catch black 
foxes — the most valuable of all their furs.'* 

Father Petitot made his plans the following summer 
to renew his efforts to improve the method of life of 
these wretched and remote natives, and to instil in 
them moral lessons which his later acquired knowledge 
of the Eskimo dialect would facilitate. An epidemic, 
however, destroyed many of the Inuits as well as of the 
Indian tribes in the Mackenzie region, thus preventing 
a renewal of the missionary's crusade against immoral- 
ity and misery. 

Nevertheless the adventurous midwinter mission of 
Father Petitot, in facing fearlessly the danger of death. 

The Missionary's Arctic Trail 309 

in enduring uncomplainingly its physical tortures, and 
in taking up a daily life, Inuit fashion, under such al- 
most revolting conditions, displayed the heroism of the 
true missionary. While Petitot's self-sacrifice, in the 
way of physical comforts and of personal sufferings, is 
not the most remarkable in the annals of the church in 
arctic history, yet it may well serve as an example for 
the aspiring and altruistic souls who are willing to do 
and to dare for the welfare of their fellow-man. 



**0n Fame's eternal camping ground 
Their silent tents are spread, 
And glory guards with solemn round 
The bivouac of the dead." 

— O'Hara. 

A MONG the startling and too-often believed stories 
/■^k of the polar regions are many which have their 
origin as whalers' *'yarns." Spun for the pur- 
pose of killing time and of amusing hearers, by 
repetition and circulation they attain the dignity of 
"reHable personal accounts," Among such credited 
"yarns" in the early seventies was one to the effect 
that the missing records of the proceedings and dis- 
coveries of the lost squadron of Sir John Franklin 
were to be found in a cairn which was located near and 
easily accessible from Repulse Bay. Told and retold 
with an air of truth, it became the foundation on which 
was based the Schwatka-Gilder search of King William 
Land. This expedition sailed under the favoring au- 
spices of the American Geographical Society of New 
York on the whaler Eothen, from which landed at 
Repulse Bay the party of five — Lieutenant Frederick 
Schwatka, United States Army, W. H. Gilder, H. W. 
Klutschak, F. E. Melms, and Eskimo Ebierbing, known 
as Joe (see p. 196). 

In establishing their winter camp near Chesterfield 

314 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Inlet they adopted as closely as possible native methods 
of life as to food, clothing, and shelter. In the inter- 
vals of hunting trips they ran down the several ''yarns " 
on which their search had been planned, and were dis- 
mayed to find that they were entirely unfounded. 

Schwatka was not the man to turn back without 
results, and so he determined to visit the regions in 
which the Franklin party had perished, hoping that he 
might be able to throw new light on the disaster. If he 
had been deceived as to the Franklin records being 
cached at a particular point, he possibly might find 
them elsewhere, as records must have been somewhere 
deposited for safety. It was a daring venture, but there 
might be a possibility of more thoroughly examining 
King William Land when snow-free. 

The more striking phases of Schwatka's unique and 
successful experience in the search are told here.* 

During the winter there was much visiting to and fro 
with the Eskimos camped near them. They soon found 
that there was a bright side to life among the Inuits, 
and that the natives indulged in games of skill much 
as we do. Gilder tells of the men playing the game 
of nu-glew'tary which demands a quick eye and alert, 
accurate movements: "A small piece of bone is sus- 
pended from the roof by a line made of walrus hide, 
and a heavy weight dangles below it to keep it from 
swinging. The bone is pierced with four small holes, 
and the players stand around, armed with small sticks 

* See map. on page 177. 

Schvvatka's Summer Search 315 

with which they jab at the bone, endeavoring to pierce 
one of the holes. Some one starts the game by offering 
a prize, which is won by him who pierces the bone and 
holds it fast with his stick. The winner in turn offers 
a prize for the others to try for." It is not a gambhng 
game, but by prizes it encourages the acquirement of 
keen eyesight and accurate aim, so needful to success 
in hunting. 

With the opening of April, 1879, Schwatka's party 
took the field, crossing the land in as straight a line as 
they could to Montreal Island, near the mouth of Back 
River. Twelve Eskimos — men, women, and children — 
were added to the party, and with their forty-two dogs 
they hauled about two and one-half tons, of which less 
than one-fourth consisted of provisions of a civilized 
character — bread, pork, beef, coffee, tea, etc. — being 
food for one month only. Travel overland was very 
difficult owing to the rocky region traversed, which 
stripped the runners of their ice-shoes. He says: "The 
ice is put upon the runners the first thing in the morning 
when coming out of the igloo, which was built every 
night. The sledge is turned upside down, and the 
water, after being held in the mouth a little while to 
warm it, is squirted over the runners and freezes al- 
most immediately. Successive layers are applied until 
a clean, smooth surface is acquired, upon which the 
sledge slips over the snow with comparative ease." 

Of the Ook-joo-liks they met with Gilder says: "In- 
stead of reindeer gloves and shoes they wore articles 
made of musk-ox skin, which had a most extraordinary 

3i6 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

effect. The hair of the musk-ox is several inches long, 
and it looked as if the natives had an old-fashioned 
muflP on each hand. They explained that it was al- 
most impossible to get near enough to kill reindeer with 
arrows, their only weapons." 

An old Ook-joo-lik said that he had seen a white man 
dead in a ship which sank about five miles west of Grant 
Point, Adelaide Peninsula. Before the ship sank the 
Inuits obtained spoons, knives, etc., from her, and the 
story seemed true from the number of relics of the Ere- 
bus and Terror in their possession. 

The explorers visited Richardson Inlet, where they 
were told that a boat had been found by the natives 
with five skeletons under it. The most important in- 
formation was gained from a Netchillik woman who 
said that on the southeast coast of King William Land 
"she with her husband, and two other men with their 
wives, had many years ago seen ten men dragging a 
sledge with a boat on it. Five whites put up a tent on 
shore and five remained with the boat. The Inuits 
and the whites stayed together five days, the former 
killing several seals and giving them to the white men." 
The whites attempted to cross to the main-land, and 
the Eskimos remained all summer on King Wilham 
Land and never saw the whites again. She also said 
that "the following spring she saw a tent standing 
at the head of Terror Bay. There were dead bodies in 
the tent and outside — nothing but bones and clothing. 
Near by were knives, spoons, forks, books, etc." 

While elated at his success in learning from the Ook- 

Schwatka's Summer Search 317 

joo-liks these incidents, which added much to the re- 
ports of Rae and McClintock as to the fate of Crozier 
and his comrades, Schwatka was not content. With 
a courage bordering on rashness he decided to cross 
Simpson Strait to King WiUiam Land and thoroughly 
search for records while the ground was free from snow. 
This meant passing the summer on this desolate island, 
for he could not hope to recross the strait, save by 
chance, until the autumnal colds should form new ice. 

He had just learned that the island was so barren of 
game in 1848 that one hundred and five men had there 
perished of starvation. Some of the natives told him 
that the same fate awaited the white men of to-day. 
Yet such was the dominating power of this fearless 
soldier that not only did his white comrades go forward 
zealously but several Eskimos followed, including his 
hunter, Too-loo-ah, of whom it was said: "There is a 
legend in his tribe that he was never known to be tired." 

Among the hunting feats of the natives was the spring 
duck-hunting, when the birds are moulting and unable 
to fly. Fitted with his spear the Eskimo carries his 
kayak to the remote lake where the birds feed. Cau- 
tiously advancing until the flock is alarmed, he makes 
a furious dash toward the largest bunch. When within 
some twenty feet of the struggling birds he seizes his 
queer-looking spear, with its three barbs of unequal 
length, and with an expertness gained from long prac- 
tice hurls it at a bird, which is nearly always killed, 
impaled by the sharp central barb. The wooden shaft 
of the spear floats the game until the hunter reaches it. 

3i8 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Scarcely had the party marched a single day on the 
ice-pack of Simpson Strait when some would have 
turned back, the crossing being doubtful. Gilder re- 
cords: "We would sink to our waists and our legs 
would be dangling in slush without finding bottom. 
The sledge often sank so that the dogs, floundering in 
the slush or scrambling over the broken ice, could not 
pull. Then we gathered around to help them, getting 
an occasional footing by kneeling on a hummock or 
holding on with one hand while we pushed with the 
other. Yet through the skill and experience of our 
Inuit dog driver we made a march of ten miles." In 
this journey even the athlete, Too-loo-ah, was so ex- 
hausted that the party had to rest the following day. 

Schwatka with Gilder and his other white companions 
then made a most exhaustive search of the island, the 
Eskimos aiding in the intervals of the hunt or while 
going to and fro. The search revealed four despoiled 
graves, three skeletons, Crozier's original camp and 
his daily bivouacs during his fatal southward march, 
the Erebus Bay boat, and the record deposited by 
McClintock in 1859. Especially interesting was the 
grave of Lieutenant John Irving, one of Franklin's 
officers. Evidently the body had been wrapped in his 
uniform and then encased in canvas as if for burial at 
sea. A personal medal of Irving's and other articles 
identified the remains. Unfortunately none of the 
Franklin records or traces thereof were anywhere found. 

It is not to be thought that these marches and dis- 
coveries were made otherwise than with great suffer- 

Schwatka's Summer Search 319 

ing, with danger even of starvation. More than once 
they were entirely without food, and as a rule they lived 
from hand to mouth. 

Gilder relates this semi-humorous experience: "While 
Klutschak was cooking the last of our meat he left the 
fire a few minutes. The dogs breaking from their fast- 
enings poured down on the culinary department like 
an army of devouring fiends. Too-loo-ah, knowing the 
state of our larder, slipped out under the end of the 
tent, stark naked from his sleeping-bag, and by a 
shower of stones sent the dogs away howling." 

Their greatest discomfort arose from the lack of 
shoes and stockings, their outer foot-gear being soon 
worn-out beyond repair, while hard travel had rubbed 
all the hair from their stockings. Under these condi- 
tions walking was often physical torture, which fre- 
quent moccasin patching only sHghtly relieved. Fi- 
nally they had to send to the base camp at the south 
end of the island, where the two native women were, 
to obtain foot-gear for their return journey from Cape 
Felix, the northernmost point of King William Land. 

While sledging along this point Too-loo-ah discovered 
a bear on the ice of Victoria Strait far to the north. 
Dumping his load he urged his dogs forward, plying 
the whip until the team sighted the as yet unconscious 
bear. With wolf-like ferocity and swiftness the excited 
dogs rushed madly forward, the empty sledge swing- 
ing from side to side on the rough ice-floes or splashing 
through the pools or tide cracks that lay in the road. 
When within a mile or so of the bear he saw his coming 

320 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

enemies, and with his lumbering, rocking gait rushes off 
at a speed that astonishes a novice who notes his awk- 
ward motions. Ook-joo-hk leaning forward cuts the 
traces with his sharp hunting-knife, freeing in a bunch 
the yelping dogs who run swiftly after the fleeing animal. 
Soon the dogs are at bruin's heels, snapping and biting 
him so that he is obHged to halt and defend himself. 
A battle royal now occurs, the defiant, growling bear, 
rushing and striking fiercely at his enemies. The old 
and experienced dogs attack him either in the rear or by 
side rushes when his attention is given to another quar- 
ter, and when he turns they elude the clumsy brute with 
great dexterity. Now and then an untrained youngster 
attacks directly, only to receive a blow from the power- 
ful paws that either kills or maims him. 

Soon Too-loo-ah came up almost breathless from his 
haste, and waited for a chance to get a shot without 
killing a dog. Gilder tells us of the unusual experi- 
ence of the native at this time: "The bear disregarding 
the dogs made a rush for the active young hunter that 
almost brought his heart into his mouth. Recovering 
his composure in good season, he sent three bullets from 
his Winchester rifle, backed by a charge of sevent3^-five 
grains of powder behind each, right into the animal's 
skull, and the huge beast lay dead almost at his feet.'* 

At times their hunger, when meat was lacking, was 
appeased by a small black berry called by the natives 
parazvofigy which was not only pleasing from its wel- 
come spicy and pungent tartness, but was really life- 
supporting for a while at least. 

Schwatka's Summer Search 321 

While making thorough search of every ravine or 
hill-top for records or for relics, "The walking devel- 
oped new tortures every day. We were either wading 
through the hill-side torrents or lakes, which, frozen 
on the bottom, made the footing exceedingly treacher- 
ous, or else with seal-skin boots, soft by constant wet- 
ting, painfully plodding over sharp stones set firmly in 
the ground with the edges pointed up. Sometimes as 
a new method of injury, stepping and slipping on flat 
stones, the unwary foot slid into a crevice that seem- 
ingly wrenched it from the body." 

Under stress of hunger and in due time they came 
to eat the same food as their native hunters. We are 
told that **In the season the reindeer are exceedingly 
fat, the tallow (called by the Inuits tudnoo) lying in 
great flakes from half an inch to two and a half inches 
thick along the back and over the rump. This tallow 
has a most delicious flavor and is eaten with the meat, 
either cooked or raw. The intestines are also encased 
in a lace-work of tallow which constitutes a palatable 
dish. Indeed, there is no part of any animal used for 
food but what is eaten by the Eskimos and which we also 
have partaken of with great relish. A dish made of the 
contents of the paunch, mixed with seal-oil, looks like 
ice-cream and is the Eskimos' substitute for that con- 
fection." It has none of the flavor, however, of ice- 
cream, but, as Lieutenant Schwatka says, may be more 
likened to locust, sawdust and zvild-honey. 

After the breaking up of the winter floes in the strait 
the hunters gave much time to the pursuit of the rein- 

322 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

deer and killed many. Too-loo-ah gave a new instance 
of his courage and of his resourcefulness as a hunter. 
Going to the beach to find some drift-wood for fuel 
he left his gun in camp. Near the coast he came 
upon a she bear with her half grown cub. Knowing 
that the game would escape if he went back for his rifle, 
"he drove the old bear into the sea with stones and 
killed the cub with a handless snow-knife." His great 
pleasure was in the slaughter of reindeer, of which great 
herds appeared during the late summer, while Schwatka 
was awaiting the coming of cold and the formation of 
ice on Simpson Strait for the crossing of his heavy- 
sledges. Too-loo-ah indulged as a pastime in seal-hunt- 
ing in these days of prosperity. When he got a seal 
one of his first operations was "to make a slit in the 
stomach of the still breathing animal, and cutting off 
some of the warm liver with a slice or two of blubber, 
the hunter regaled himself with a hearty luncheon.'* 
Now and then the keen scent of a dog or his own hunt- 
er's instinct discovered a seal igloo on the floe. This is 
a house built for their young near the air-holes where 
the mothers come for breathing spells. Gilder says: 
"Here the baby seals are born and live until old enough 
to venture into the water. When a hunter finds an 
occupied igloo he immediately breaks in the roof in 
search of the little one, which remains very quiet even 
when the hunter pokes his head through the broken 
roof. The young seal is easily killed with the spear, and 
the hunter waits for the mother who is never absent a 
long time from her baby. The young seal is usually 

Schwatka's Summer Search 323 

cut open as soon as killed and its little stomach ex- 
amined for milk, which is esteemed a great luxury by 
the Eskimos." 

Gilder gives an account of their camp life while wait- 
ing on events. "We ate quantities of reindeer tallow 
with our meat, probabl}- about half of our daily food. 
Breakfast is eaten raw and frozen, but we generally 
have a warm meal in the evening. Fuel is hard to 
obtain and now consists of a vine-like moss called ik- 
shoot-ik. Reindeer tallow is used for a light. A small, 
flat stone serves for a candlestick, on w^hich a lump of 
tallow is placed close to a piece of fibrous moss called 
mun-ney which is used for a wick. The melting tallow 
runs down upon the stone and is immediately absorbed 
by the moss. This makes a cheerful and pleasant light, 
but is most exasperating to a hungry man as it smells 
exactly like frying meat. Eating such quantities of 
tallow is a great benefit in this climate, and we can 
easily see the effects of it in the comfort with which we 
meet the cold." 

It was most interesting to see the southward migra- 
tion of the reindeer, which began as soon as the ice on 
Simpson Strait would bear them. They went in herds, 
and by the middle of October the country was practi- 
cally bare of them. 

Of their own trip southward Gilder writes: "The 
most unpleasant feature of winter travelling is the wait- 
ing for an igloo to be built, which is done at the end of 
every day's march. To those at work even this time 
can be made to pass pleasantl}', and there is plenty that 

324 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

even the white men can do at such time. Another task 
that the white men can interest themselves in is the un- 
loading of the sled and beating the ice and snow out of 
the fur bedclothing. The Eskimos do not use sleeping- 
bags for themselves, but instead have a blanket which 
they spread over them, while under them are several 
skins, not only to keep the body away from the snow, 
but also to prevent the body from thawing the snow- 
couch and thus making a hole that would soon wet the 
skins. On the march the bed-skins are usually spread 
over the top of the loaded sledge, the fur side up, because 
it is easy enough to beat the snow from the fur, while 
it might thaw and make the skin side wet. Continued 
pounding will remove every vestige of ice without dis- 
turbing the fur, if the weather is sufficiently cold." 

Of the dogs he says: "Twice the dogs had an interval 
oT eight days between meals and were in condition for 
hard work. That they could Hve and do any work at 
all seemed marvellous. I am constrained to believe 
that the Eskimo dog will do more work, and with less 
food, than any other draught animal existing." 

Of the travel he adds: **The weather is intensely 
cold, ninety-seven degrees below freezing, with scarcely 
any wind. It did not seem so cold as when the wind 
was blowing in our face at fifty degrees below freez- 
ing. We were so well fortified against the cold by 
the quantities of fat we had eaten that we did not 
mmd It. 

Conditions of travel were very bad in December, 
when they had to lie over for hunting, game being so 

Schwatka's Summer Search 325 

scarce. But January, 1880, was their month of trial, 
the temperature sinking to one hundred and four de- 
grees below the freezing-point on one occasion, while 
they were harassed by a violent blizzard of thirteen 
days' duration. Wolves later attacked their team, 
killing four dogs in their very camp. Indeed, Too-Ioo- 
ah had a most narrow escape when surrounded by a 
pack of twenty wolves. "He jumped upon a big rock, 
which was soon surrounded, and there fought the sav- 
age beasts off with the butt of his gun until he got a 
sure shot, when he killed one. While the others fought 
over and devoured the carcass of their mate he made 
the best of his opportunity to get back into camp." 

Through famine, cold, and wolf raids the teams be- 
gan to fail. **It was almost our daily experience now 
to lose one or more dogs [in fact, they lost tvventy-sevep 
on this trip]. A seal-skin full of blubber would have 
saved many of our dogs; but we had none to spare for 
them, as we were reduced to the point when we had to 
save it exclusively for lighting the igloos at night. We 
could not use it to warm our igloos or to cook with. 
Our meat had to be eaten cold — that is, frozen so solid 
that it had to be sawed and then broken into conven- 
ient-sized lumps, which when first put into the mouth 
were like stones. Sometimes, however, the snow was 
beaten off the moss on the hill-sides and enough was 
gathered to cook a meal." 

In the last stages of famine the party was saved by 
the killing of a walrus. Of conditions existing at this 
time Gilder records: "All felt the danger that again 

326 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

threatened them, as it had done twice before when they 
had to kill and eat some of their starving dogs. People 
spoke to each other in whispers, and everything was 
quiet save for the never-ceasing and piteous cries of 
the hungry children begging for the food that their 
parents could not give them. " 

In this laudable effort to find the Franklin records 
Schwatka and his comrades passed through experiences 
unsurpassed in arctic life by white men, and that with- 
out loss of life or with other disaster. They adopted 
Eskimo methods of dress, travel, shelter, and life in 
general. As an expedition it surpassed in distance of 
travel and in length of absence from civilized life, or 
of external support, any other known. It was absent 
from its base of supplies for a year (lacking ten days), 
and travelled three thousand two hundred and fifty 

The success of Schwatka is important as showing 
what can be done by men active in body, alert in mind, 
and firm in will. He acted on the beUef that men of 
force, well armed and intelligently outfitted, could 
safely venture into regions where have lived for many 
generations the Eskimos, who hold fast to the country 
and to the method of life of their ancestors. 

The most striking phases of the journeys of Schwatka 
and his white comrades evidence heroic qualities of 
mind and unusual powers of endurance which achieved 
sledging feats that have excited the admiration of all 
arctic experts. Such success, however, could have 
been obtained only by men of exceptional energy, 

Schwatka's Summer Search 327 

practically familiar with field work, and gifted with 
such resourceful minds as at times can dominate ad- 
verse conditions that would involve less heroic men in 
dire disaster. 

The Franklin Search by Schwatka, Gilder and Klut- 
schak was quixotic in its initiation, ill-fitted m its 
equipment, and rash in its prosecution. It was re- 
deemed from failure through the heroic spirit of the 
party, which gained the applause of the civilized world 
for its material contributions to a problem that was 
considered as definitely abandoned and as absolutely 
insoluble. Such an example of accomplishment under 
most adverse conditions is worth much to aspiring 
minds and resolute characters. 



"Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple. 
Who have faith in God and Nature, 
Who believe, that in all ages 
Every human heart is human, 
That in even savage bosoms 
There are longings, yearnings, strivings 
For the good they comprehend not, 
That the feeble hands and helpless, 
Groping blindly in the darkness, 
Touch God's hand in that darkness; — 
And are lifted up and strengthened." 

— Longfellow. 

IT is now well known that the first country of the 
western hemisphere to be visited by Europeans was 
Greenland — nearly a thousand years ago. The 
European settlement, the Christianization, and the 
abandonment of southern Greenland, covering a period 
of three centuries, has lately received interesting and 
exhaustive treatment by a famous arctic expert who 
has brought together all existing data. Foreign to 
these investigations are the facts associated with the 
discovery during the past hundred years of three Inuit 
tribes of Greenland previously unknown to the world. 
It seems astonishing that nine hundred years of Green- 
land's history and of its exploration should have passed 
without revealing the existence of the Eskimos of Etah, 
of Omevik, and of Angmagsalik. This narrative dwells 
more particularly on the finding of the tribe of Ang- 


332 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

magsalik, on the coast of East Greenland, by Captain 
G. Holm, Royal Danish Navy, through whose heroic 
efforts and wise recommendations the tribe is now 
under the protecting influences of the government of 
Denmark and has become a Christian, well-cared-for 

In 1818 Captain John Ross, R.N., in an attempt to 
discover the northwest passage, though verifying the 
discredited discoveries of Baffin in 1616, failed in his 
special effort. However, he added a new people to the 
knowledge of the world through meeting in the neigh- 
borhood of Cape York, Baffin Bay, eight of the Inuits, 
now known as the Etah or Cape York Eskimos, whom 
he fancifully designated as the Arctic Highlanders. 
Elisha Kent Kane was the first to have familiar rela- 
tions with and give detailed information about these 
isolated natives, the tribe in 1854 consisting of one 
hundred and forty persons. In later years the Etahs 
have been frequently visited by explorers, whalers, and 
hunters. As the most northerly inhabitants of the 
world at the present time, they naturally have engaged 
the earnest attention of all who have met these hardy, 
kindly, and resourceful people. Kane's fear of their 
extinction was groundless, as against the number of 
one hundred and forty, given by him, Peary's census 
figures of 1897 show two hundred and thirty-four, an 
increase of ninety-four in forty years. Rasmussen re- 
lates that within the memory of man, but evidently 

* See map on page 235. 

The Inuit Survivors of the Stone Age 333 

since Kane's time, fourteen Eskimos from the region of 
Baffin Land have joined the Etah natives. It is rea- 
sonable to believe that the origin of the Cape York 
Eskimo was through similar migrations probably two 
or three centuries earlier. 

Prior to the nineteenth century practically the only 
known Eskimo people of Greenland consisted of those 
under Danish protection, who occupied the entire ice- 
free west coast from Cape Farewell 60° N. to Tasiusak, 
73° 24' N. Traditions of the existence of tribes of 
natives on the east coast have long prevailed, but up 
to the nineteenth century there were known only a few 
individuals, quite near Farewell, which were visited by 
Wall(j) in 1752. 

Still among the Inuits of extreme southern Green- 
land were numerous and curious traditions of the in- 
habitants of the east coast, one to the effect that far to 
the northward were some light-haired people of Euro- 
pean complexion. Another tale oft told in winter gath- 
erings was one, doubtless in ridicule, of the occasional 
Inuit who, holding fast to a barren land, came west only 
to trade and never to live. It is a beautiful legend 
showing true and abiding love of home and country. 
Dr. Rink thus translates it: "A man from the east 
coast of Greenland from love of his home never left it 
even during the summer-time. Among his principal 
enjoyments was that of gazing at the sun rising out of 
the ocean. But when his son grew up he became de- 
sirous of seeing other countries and above all of accom- 
panying his countrymen to the west coast. At length 

334 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

he persuaded his father to go with him. No sooner, 
however, had they passed Cape Farewell and the fa- 
ther saw the sun about to rise behind the land than 
he insisted upon returning immediately. Having again 
reached their island home, he went out from his tent 
early next morning, and when his people had in vain 
waited for his return they went out and found him 
dead. His delight at again seeing the sun rise out of 
the ocean had overpowered and killed him." 

The first definite knowledge of the Eastern Inuits 
came by accident, through the boat voyage of Captain 
W. A. Graah, who under the directions of the King of 
Denmark was searching for the ruins of the East Bygd 
— the colony of Scandmavians of the twelfth to the 
fifteenth century. During this search, which extended 
to within sight of Cape Dan, Graah found no less 
than five hundred and thirty-six Inuits living at about 
twenty different places. Of these more than one-half 
had never seen a white man. 

Graah says of them: "The affection the Eastlanders 
have for their children is excessive. . . . Notwithstand- 
ing the little care bestowed on them, the children con- 
duct themselves so as to seldom merit reproof. . . . 
The East Greenlanders look on begging, especially for 
food, as a disgrace. ... As soon as a boy can creep 
about alone his father gives him a little javelin, which 
he is taught to throw at a mark. He thus speedily ac- 
quires that dexterity in the management of his weapon 
on which in after years he is to principally depend for 
his own and his family's subsistence. When he grows 



The Inult Survivors of the Stone Age 335 

older he is provided with a kayak, and learns to battle 
with the waves, to catch birds, and to strike the seal. 
When the youth comes home for the first time with a 
seal in tow the day is made a holiday and the friends 
and neighbors invited to a feast, at which, while he re- 
counts all the circumstances of the chase, the maidens 
present lay their heads together to choose a bride for 

"Their intercourse with each other is marked with 
singular urbanity; they are modest, friendly, obliging, 
and forbearing. 

"When the howling of the dogs proclaim the arrival 
of strangers the people hurry to the shore to welcome 
them and to invite them to their houses. The wet 
clothes of the visitors are taken from them and hung up 
to dr}'. Dry ones are lent in their stead, and if a hole 
is discovered in their boots the landlady sets to work 
straightway to patch it. 

"They are a gentle, civil, well-behaved set of people 
among whom one's life and property are perfectly secure 
as long as one treats them with civility and does them 
no wrong. Their veracity and fidelity are beyond im- 

"The northern lights they take to be the spirits of 
the dead playing ball with the head of a walrus." 

The principal encampments were between Kemisak 
and Omevik, beyond which place to the north, said the 
natives of Kemisak, there were no inhabitants. The 
Eskimos numbered two hundred and ninety-five and 
were called the Omivekkians. 

336 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Of their environment in favorable places and their 
amusements Graah reported: "The cove had fields of 
considerable extent, covered with dwarf willows, juni- 
per berry, black crakeberry, and whortleberry heath, 
with many patches of fine grass. The stream, abound- 
ing in char, had its source in the glaciers of which sev- 
eral gigantic arms reached down from the height in the 
background. Flowers everywhere adorned the fields. 
Three hundred paces from the sea the cliffs rise almost 
perpendicularly, with snow-clad summits, far beyond 
the average height. The natives had here assembled 
to feast upon the char, plentiful and of large size, the 
black crakeberry, and angelica, gathering them also 
for winter use. They give themselves up to mirth and 
merrymaking. This evening, to the number of two 
hundred or more, they began by torch-light their tam- 
bourine dance, a favorite festival. " 

Graah believed that there were no natives living to 
the north of Cape Dan, and that, when the greater part 
of the Eskimos seen by him moved to West Greenland, 
in the course of a few years, the whole coast was de- 
serted. This belief was seemingly, though erroneously, 
confirmed by the fact that, while Clavering saw a few 
natives in 74° N., Scoresby, Koldewey, Ryder, Na- 
thorst, and the Duke of Orleans, in their explorations, 
saw no living native on the east coast. 

It remained for the expeditions of Hall, Nares, 
Greely, Amdrup, Holm, and Mylius-Erichsen to prove 
by their united observations that there was not only 
an Inuit settlement on the east coast, but that such 

The Inuit Survivors of the Stone Age 337 

natives are the descendants of the true Children of the 
Ice, who have crossed Grinnell Land, skirted northern 
Greenland, and thus come eventually to their present 
habitat. Their fathers were formerly inhabitants of 
the most northerly lands of the globe, of the lands of 
Grant, Grinnell, Greenland, and Hazen (or Peary). 

Brief and transient may have been their occupation 
of many of the various encampments during their devi- 
ous wanderings in the long migration, covering nearly 
two thousand miles of travel. Their summer tent- 
rings and stone winter huts dot the favoring shores of 
every game-producing fiord from Cape Farewell, in 
60° N., northward to Bronlund Fiord, Hazen (Peary) 
Land, 82° 08' N., on the nearest known land to the 
north pole. 

They travelled leisurely, seeking fruitful hunting 
grounds and living on the game of the land or of the 
adjacent sea. They thus netted the salmon of the gla- 
cial lakes, searched the valleys for deer, snared the 
ptarmigan, lanced the lumbering musk-ox, speared the 
sea-fowl, caught the seal, slaughtered the walrus, and 
they are beHeved to have even pursued in kayaks and 
lanced the narwhal and the white whale. 

While Mylius-Erichsen and his heroic comrades ob- 
tained the definite information as to the extreme north- 
ern limit of Inuit habitation of all time, and paid the 
price of such data with their lives, it was with equal 
bravery but happier fortune that Captain G. Holm 
rescued from oblivion, and thus indirectly raised to hap- 
pier life, the struggling descendants of the iron men and 

338 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

women whose unfailing courage and fertile resource- 
fulness had wrested food and shelter from the most 
desolate and the most northerly land environment of 
the world. 

Once, in i860, there came to the Cape Farewell trad- 
ing station an Inuit who had lost his toes and finger- 
tips. Though just able to grasp a paddle with his 
stumpy fingers, he was an expert kayaker and threw his 
javelin with the left hand. He said that he v/as from 
a place called Angmagsalik, and that between eight 
hundred and a thousand natives dwelt in that vicinity. 
For nearly a quarter of a century this report of the ex- 
istence of an unknown tribe of Inuits remained unveri- 
fied. In 1883, however, the exploration of this part of 
East Greenland was made by a Danish officer of ex- 
tended and successful experience in the governmental 
surveys of southern Greenland, who fully recognized the 
hazardous and prolonged nature of such an expedition. 
The Inuits said that many lives had been lost in at- 
tempting the shore-ice of the east coast, and that a 
round trip to and from Angmagsalik — "Far, oh! so far 
to the north!" — took from three to four years. 

Thoroughly familiar with the native methods of 
life and of travel, this officer, Captain G. F. Holm, 
Royal Danish Navy, adopted the safest, indeed, the 
only, method of coast transportation — in the umiak. 

The umiak (called the woman's boat, as it is always 
rowed by women) is a flat-bottomed, wooden-framed, 
skin-covered boat about twenty-five feet long and five 
feet wide. Only the framework, thwarts, and rowing 

1 he Inuit Survivors of the Stone Age 339 

benches are wooden, the covering being well-dried, 
blubber-saturated, hair-free skins of the atarsoak 
(Greenland seal). Resembling in appearance the parch- 
ment of a drum-head, the seal-skin becomes quite 
transparent when wet so that the motion of the water 
is seen through it. Sometimes a light mast carries a 
spread seal-skin for sail, but as a rule the boat is pro- 
pelled by short, bone-tipped paddles which, in the 
hands of several strong women, carry the umiak thirty 
miles a day through smooth, ice-free water. When 
going near the ice a heavy seal-skin is hung before the 
bow to prevent the delicate boat skin from being cut. 
When a little hole is worn through, the women deftly 
thrust a bit of blubber through it until the boat is 
hauled up on the shore, which must be done daily 
to dry the sea-saturated covering. These boats can 
transport from three to four tons of cargo, and are so 
light that they can be readily carried on the women's 
backs overland. 

Holm knew that his journey must entail at least one 
winter among such natives as he might meet, so that 
his equipment was very carefully selected, with a 
view to the gifts and trading which are so dear to 
the native heart. The northward journey was full of 
incident and of interest. Not crowding his women 
rowers, Holm tarried here and there for the hunt; be- 
sides, he wished both to gather information from an 
occasional encampment and also to cultivate loyalty 
in his reluctant crew by permitting his women to show 
their west-coast riches to the east-coast heathen. 

340 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Here seal were killed and there the polar bear was 
chased, while the sea-fowl, the narwhal, and the white 
whale were the objects of pursuit to the eager native 
hunters, who accompanied the umiaks in their hght, 
swift-flying kayaks. 

In voyaging there was the usual danger from sharp 
ice cutting the umiaks and necessitating repairs, and 
from lofty bergs and ancient hummocks as they crossed 
the ocean mouths of the ice-filled fiords, and alas! too 
often there were tedious, nerve-racking delays when 
on desolate islands or rocky beaches the umiak fleet was 
ice-bound for days at a time. 

Wintering near Cape Farewell, Holm, with Garde 
and Knutsen, put to sea May 5, 1884, his umiaks being 
rowed by nineteen women and five men, while seven 
hunters followed in kayaks. Garde devoted himself 
to the precipitous, ice-capped coast, and between 60° 
and 63° N. found nearly two hundred living glaciers 
that entered the sea, seventy being a mile or more 
broad. In Lindenows Fiord, 62° 15' N., were found 
almost impenetrable willow groves near old Scandina- 
vian ruins. Fine new ice-fiords were discovered which 
put forth innumerable numbers of icebergs, the highest 
rising two hundred feet above the sea. 

The western Eskimos were alarmed either at the ice 
diflficulties which lengthened the voyage, or feared the 
angekoksy or magicians of the east coast, and nineteen 
of them insisted on turning back. Holm was obliged 
to send them back under Garde, but with determined 
courage to fulfil his duty as an officer of the Danish 

The Inult Survivors of the Stone Age 341 

navy, he went on with twelve faithful women and men, 
although he was not half-way to Cape Dan. 

As before told, Graah turned back in sight of Cape 
Dan, believing that he had reached the limit of human 
habitations. Great then was Holm's surprise to here 
find the last of the three missing polar tribes, who to 
the number of five hundred and forty-eight individuals 
were occupying the fertile hunting-grounds of the archi- 
pelago of Angmagsalik, which consists of about twenty 
ice-free islands to the west of Cape Dan, about 65° 31 
N., adjacent to the beautiful Sermihk ice-fiord. In 
this district the tides and currents keep open the in- 
land water-ways, so that seals are plentiful and easily 
taken, thus making it an Inuit paradise. Holm and 
Knutsen here wintered, 1884-5, and in their ten 
months' residence with these people gathered a vast 
amount of ethnographic and historic material pertain- 
ing to the lives of these extraordinary Inuits, who had 
never before seen a white man.* 

This missing polar tribe pertains to the stone age 
of the world, its weapons being almost entirely of bone, 
while its methods of hunting follow Hnes long since 
abandoned by Inuits who have had contact with whites. 
Their high sense of fidelity was shown by Navfahk, 
who was placed in charge of stores left for the winter at 
Kasingortok. That winter his family suffered from 

• The data relative to this expedition is not available in English, but 
has been published in full in vol. IX, " Meddelelser om Gronland (Com- 
munications on Greenland)," in Danish text. With its generous policy tke 
Danish Government has taken these natives under its fatherly protection, so 
that their future welfare is assmred against exploitation, degradation, and 
early extinction. 

34- True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

lack of food, but all through these days of terrible dis- 
tress and prolonged hunger the stores of the white man 
were untouched by this faithful Eskimo. 

Of these natives Rasmussen says : "There is no people 
with a history which, as regards the bitterness of its 
struggle for existence and the eeriness of its memo- 
ries, can be compared with that of the Eskimo. . , . 
His mind can be calm and sunny like the water on a 
summer day in the deep, warm fiords. But it can 
likewise be savage and remorseless as the sea itself, the 
sea that is eating its way into his country," 

Of their endurance of cold Poulsen records: "Inside 
the house both grown-up people and children wear, so 
to speak, nothing, and it does not inconvenience them 
to walk out into the cold in the same light dress, 
only increased by a pair of skin boots. I remember 
seeing two quite young girls walking almost naked on 
the beach, fifteen minutes' walk from the house, 
gathering sea-weed, though the temperature was about 
twenty-four degrees below the freezing-point." 

As a dumb witness of their method of life in their 
permanent homes may be mentioned the house at 
Nualik, more than a hundred miles to the north of 
Angmagsahk (discovered by Amdrup), where an entire 
settlement of twenty or more perished, probably of 
ptomaine poisoning from semi-putrid meat (a dehcacy 
among the Eskimos as is semi-putrid game with us). 

"On the platform along the back wall, as shown 
by the skeletons, the inhabitants had once lain com- 
fortably between the two bear-skins, the upper one 

The Inuit Survivors of the Stone Age 343 

with the hair down. On the five lamp-platforms stood 
the lamps and the stone pots. The drying-hatches 
above them had fallen down, but remains of bear- 
skin clothes still la}^ on them. Under the platform 
there were chip-boxes and square wooden* cases, and 
on the stone-paved floor large urine and water tubs. 
In front of one of the small side platforms there was 
a blubber-board and a large, well-carved meat-trough, 
and scattered about the floor lay wooden dishes, blood- 
scoops, water-scoops, besides specimens of all the bone 
utensils which belong to an Eskimo house. 

"Near the house stood four long, heavy stones, 
placed edgewise, on the top of which the uviiak rested 
(protected thus from the dogs). Scattered around 
were kayak frames and their bone mountings, hunting 
and other implements. Amongst the big heap of bones 
outside the house were the skulls of narwhals, dogs, and 
bears. Among the utensils was a blood-stopper orna- 
mented with a neatly cut man's head, which, recognized 
b)'' old Inuits at Angmagsalik, identified this party as a 
northerly migrating band from the main settlement." 

Of the after life a glimpse is given by the talk of an 
east-coast Inuit to Rasmussen: "On a lovely evening 
a broad belt of northern lights shot out over the hills 
in the background and cast a flickering light over the 
booming sea. Puarajik said: ' Those are the dead play- 
ing hall. See how they fly about I They say that they 
run about up there without clothing on.' " 

* The wood was obtained from the drift-wood along the east coast, sup- 
posed to come from Asia, along the line of drift shown by the voyage of the 

344 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Of the seamy side of life he adds : " But in the winter, 
when people were gathered together, the larders were 
full, and desires centred on the shortening of the long, 
idle winter nights, things would be quite different [from 
the happy, industrious life of summer]. Much food 
and sitting still, the desire to be doing, the craving for 
change made people pick quarrels. Old grievances 
were resuscitated; scorn and mocking, venomous words 
egged on to outbursts of anger; and in winter feasts 
regrettable incidents occurred. Men and women, ex- 
cited and goaded on by others, forgot all friendly feel- 
ing, and on most extraordinary pretexts often chal- 
lenged each other to insult-songs, fought duels, and 
committed most appalHng murders." 

It is evident that among the people of the stone 
age there exists the same inclination to exploit and 
perpetuate deeds of individual and warlike prowess, 
that appears not only in modern history as a whole 
but also in news of current publication. 

Acts of kindness, deeds of heroism, and displays of 
the fair and humble virtues that sweeten daily life 
are entirely absent from the old Inuit traditions. Yet 
these "True Tales" depict the honesty of Navfahk, the 
humanity of Kalutunah, the fidelity of Bronlund, and 
the devotion of Mertuk. 

The total omission of similar tales of admirable 
and humane conduct from the legends and the folk- 
songs of the Inuits of the stone age doubtless depends 
in part on the savage superstitions, wherein magical 
powers and forces of evil are greatly exalted, and in 

The Inuit Survivors of the Stone Age 345 

part on the disposition to dwell on the unusual and 
the terrifying. 

So there are reasons to believe that the survivors of 
the stone age in East Greenland exhibit in their daily 
life human qualities of goodness and of justice that 
were characteristic of their rude and virile ancestors. 

Such, though inadequately described, are the newly 
found Inuits of the Angmagsalik district of East Green- 
land, the sole surviving remnant of the untutored 
aborigines of the north polar lands. Their human 
evolution is of intense interest, as it has been worked 
out under adverse conditions of appalling desolation 
as regards their food and their travel, their dress and 
their shelter, their child-rearing and their social rela- 

That the world knows the last of the missing polar 
tribes, and that this remote, primitive people is now 
being uplifted in the scale of humanity, must be cred- 
ited to the resolute courage, the professional zeal, and, 
above all, to the sympathetic human qualities of Cap- 
tain Holm and his faithful officers and assistants. 



"And truly he who here 
Hath run his bright career. 
And served men nobly, and acceptance found, 
And borne to Hght and right his witness high, 
What better could he wish than then to die?" 

— Arnold. 

THE Myllus-Erichsen arctic expedition of 1905 
sailed for the east coast of Greenland in the 
ship Danmarky commanded by Captain Trolle, 
Danish Royal Navy. Its purpose was to continue the 
remarkable surveys of the Danish government by com- 
pleting the coast-line of northeast Greenland. From 
its winter quarters at Cape Bismarck, 76° 14 N., 
autumnal sledge parties established advance depots of 
suppHes in order to facilitate the travel of its survey- 
ing party the following spring. 

The field work was under charge of Mylius-Erichsen 
personally, a Danish explorer of abiUty and experi- 
ence, already distinguished for successful work in 
northwestern Greenland. It was planned that near 
the eighty-second parallel of north latitude the main 
party should be divided, so as to complete the work 
that season. Lieutenant Koch was to outline the south- 
eastern shore-lines of the land to the north of Green- 
land, while Mylius-Erichsen was to carry his surveys 
inland until they joined those of Peary, thus filling in 


350 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

the totally unknown regions of extreme northeastern 

This plan was carried out in the spring of 1906, the 
two parties separating at Northeast Cape, whence 
Koch struck courageously north on May i, with food 
for fourteen days only. Game fortunately came to 
him and he was enabled to advance his country's 
colors to an unprecedentedly northern latitude for 
Denmark, 83.5" N., and by his explorations to com- 
plete the survey of the most northerly land of the globe 
— originally named Hazen Land, which is now known 
as Peary Land. The brilliant discoveries, tragic expe- 
riences, and heroic struggles of Mylius-Erichsen and 
his topographer Hagen, and the fidelity unto death 
of his Eskimo dog driver, Jorgen Bronlund, are briefly 
outlined in this narrative. 

After the long winter of sunless days and bitter cold, 
it was with high hopes and cheery hearts that the long 
line of dog-drawn sledges followed Mylius-Erichsen as 
they wended their way northward at the end of March, 
1907. With ten sledges and nearly a hundred dogs 
much was to be done by the resolute men who feared 
neither cold nor famine, the dangers of the sea-ice, 
or the hardships of the trail. 

Their courage and strength were soon tested by 
difficulties and perils of unexpected character, for they 
thought to find the ordinary ice-foot along the shore, 
which could be followed inward or outward as the 
character of the ice dictated. But there was no ice- 

The Fidelity of Eskimo Broniund 351 

foot. Along Glacier Gulf for the distance of one hun- 
dred and forty miles the glacial ice-cap of Greenland, 

'ip Denmark. 

Amdrup and Hazcu Lands, Greenland. 

known usually as the inland ice, moves summer and 
winter — with unbroken vertical front, hundreds of 


True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

feet in height — slowly but unceasingly into the Green- 
land Sea. Between the steady southward drift of the 
vast ice-fields from the Arctic Ocean and the seaward 
march of the glacier the shore ice was found to be of 
almost incredible roughness. Magnificent, and une- 
qualled elsewhere in the world, was the sight of this 
towering sea-face, but scores upon scores of miles of 
ever-dominating ice-cliffs through their weeks of strug- 
gle grew to be unwelcome, so that their end at Lam- 
bert Land was hailed with joy. 

Here came unexpected food, which did much to 
make the completion of the survey possible. As 
they were crossing the smooth fiord ice, Bronlund's 
keen and practised eye saw far shoreward tiny specks 
of moving animals, and he shouted loudly ^' Nanetok I" 
(A bear!). They proved to be two mother bears with 
cubs. In a trice the teams were stopped, the trace- 
toggles slipped from the few dogs that were used to 
bear-hunting, who started excitedly on the jump for 
the already fleeing game. Soon catching up with the 
lumbering animals, slow-moving on account of the 
cubs, the dogs, followed their usual tactics of nipping 
sharply the hind legs of the bear, who stops to drive 
off the dog or stumbles forward with the dog fast at 
his legs. Meantime Bronlund and Tobias, the two 
Eskimo dog drivers, quickly threw off the sledge loads 
on the floe and drove on with such speed that the 
hunters were soon within shot. The bears skinned and 
the dogs fed, the northward march was renewed in high 
spirits, for the slow travel had sadly reduced their food. 

The Fidelity of Eskimo Bronlund 353 

They were nearly in despair on reaching the south 
shore of Mount Mallemuk, as the open sea made it 
impossible to pass around it. With exhausting labor 
they finally were able to clamber up a projecting point 
of the seaward-flowing glacier, but their first support- 
ing sledge here turned homeward. 

Difficult as had been the ice and the glacier-scaling, 
they came to a real danger when around Mallemuk 
they were driven far out on the ocean in order to pro- 
ceed northward, for the inland ice was impossible of 
passage and great areas of open water gave way slowly 
seaward to new ice. This was so thin that it bent 
and crackled as sledge after sledge tried in separate 
and fearsome order a passage that threatened to en- 
gulf them at any moment. Yet they came safely to 
Amdrup Land, 80° 43' N., whence the last supporting 
party returned, charged to explore on their homeward 
journey the unknown fiords to the north of Lambert 
Land, where their spring discoveries of new lands had 

Pressing on after the return of the supporting sledges, 
Mylius-Erichsen was surprised and disappointed to 
find that the coast continued to trend to the north- 
east, and not to the northwest, as indicated by all 
charts since Peary crossed the inland ice to Navy Cliff. 
This northeasterly trend greatly increased the length 
of the journey needful to complete the survey of the 
entire east coast. Their equipment had been planned 
for the shorter distance, and it was evident that this 
forced detour would soon leave them without food for 

354 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

themselves or for their dogs unless more game should 
be found. 

They thought that this extension would never end, 
but it was finally reached at Cape Northeast, 82° 30' N., 
12° W., no less than 22° of longitude to the eastward 
of Peary's location of the Greenland Sea in his dis- 
coveries of 1892 and 1895. The new cape was half- 
way between Navy Cliff and Spitzbergen, thus nar- 
rowing by one-half the largest connecting waterway 
of the Arctic and the Atlantic Oceans. It was a mag- 
nificent discovery, for which some of these explorers 
were to pay with their lives. 

Myhus-Erichsen and Koch counselled seriously to- 
gether, and well they might. They had been on the 
march more than a month; commg summer, with a dis- 
integrating ice-pack, and the dreaded Mallemuk moun- 
tain precipices, sea-washed at their base, were to be 
faced on their homeward journey; and to crown all 
they had provisions for only fourteen days. 

Imbued with the high Danish spirit, they duly 
weighed, with national calmness, the pros and the cons, 
only asking each other how and what, with their piti- 
ful means, they could further do for the glory of Den- 
mark. The heroic loyalty of both men found full ex- 
pression in the decision that it was their bounden 
duty to go forward, and to finish the survey with which 
they were charged, regardless of possible dangers and 
personal privations. So Koch marched northward, 
while Mylius-Erichsen turned westward toward Navy 
Cliff, nearly two hundred miles distant. The west- 

The Fidelity of Eskimo Bronlund 355 

ward explorations had been made much more impor- 
tant by the unexpected easterly extension of Green- 
land, which kft a great gap in its northern shore-line 
that must at all hazards be surveyed. Starting with 
Topographer Hagen and the Greenlander dog driver, 
Bronlund, Erichsen reached a great inland fiord (Den- 
mark), which he naturally took for the one charted by 
Peary as bordering the Greenland Sea. Though this 
detour carried him a hundred miles out of the direct 
route to Cape Riksdag, it was not wholly without re- 
sults. Twenty-one musk-oxen were killed, which re- 
stored the strength of the dogs, whose gaunt frames 
already alarmed the party. 

Here with astonishment they saw signs not alone 
of the beasts of the earth and the birds of the air, 
but everywhere were indications of their master — 
man himself. As they skirted such scanty bits of 
land as the inland ice had spared, they found along 
every bay or inlet proofs of former human life. There 
were huts and household utensils, — left as though 
suddenly, — circles of summer tents, fragments of ka- 
yaks and sledges, stone meat-caches, fox-traps, and 
implements of land hunt and sea chase, in which both 
reindeer and whales were in question. They were 
mighty hunters, these children of the ice, men of iron 
who inhabited the most northern lands of the earth, 
and had there lived where these white voyagers of 
heroic mould were destined to perish. 

The signs of human life continued beyond Denmark 
Fiord to the very shores of Hagen Fiord, thus clearly 

35^ True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

establishing the route of migration over which the 
Eskimo of Arctic America or of the Bering Strait re- 
gion had reached the east coast, and possibly West 
Greenland, coming from the north.* 

The turning-point of Erichsen's fortunes came at 
Cape Riksdag, where he met Koch's party returning 
from the north. His discoveries and surveys of south- 
eastern Hazen Land (Peary), where he reached 83° 
30' N., and his tales of game, encouraged Mylius- 
Erichsen to go on, though he had food for eight days 
only for the men, eleven for the dogs, and a few quarts 
of oil for cooking. 

Another fiord (Hagen) was discovered, which proved 
fatal to the party, as Mylius-Erichsen felt that Navy 
Cliff, reported as overlooking the Greenland Sea, must 
surely be therein. He turned north on learning his 
error, only to eat his last food on June 4. He felt 
obliged to cover his mistake by going still to the west 
to Cape Glacier (Navy Cliff) yet 9° of longitude inland. 
Peary had there escaped starvation by large game, 
and Erichsen went forward knowing that without 
game death awaited him. Now and then they shot a 
polar hare, a bare mouthful for three starving men and 
t .venty-three ravenous dogs. June 14, 1907, Mylius- 
Erichsen connected his surveys with Navy Cliff.f 

* The discoveries of Lieutenant (now General) Greely around Lake Hazen, 
of Lockwood and Brainard in northwest Greenland and Hazen Land, prove 
that the route followed was via Greely Fiord, past Lake Hazen, across Kennedy 
Channel, over Hall Land, probably through the upper valley of Nordenskiold 
Inlet, and along the shores of Peary Channel to Denmark Fiord. 

t According to the lately published report of the gallant Danish explorer, 
Mikkelsen, the recovered records of Mylius-Erichsen show that the insu- 

The Fidelity of Eskimo Bronlund 357 

He had a right to a feehng of pride and of exultation, 
for his magnificent series of discoveries, covering 5° 
of latitude and 22° of longitude, completed the survey 
of northeastern Greenland. Thus had these advent- 
urous men given tangible form to the hopes and as- 
pirations that for so many years had stirred the im- 
agination of Danish explorers. These discoveries had 
involved outward sledge journeys of more than seven 
hundred miles, although the party was only outfitted 
for a distance of three hundred and thirty miles. 

Lieutenant Trolle tells us how startlingly sudden 
was the change from winter to summer at the Dan- 
mark, Cape Bismarck. **The temperature of the snow 
had risen to zero (32° Fahrenheit), and then in one 
day it all melted. The rivers were rushing along, 
flowers budding forth, and butterflies fluttering in the 
air. One day only the ptarmigan and raven, the next 
the sanderling, the ringed plover, geese, ducks, and 

Mylius-Erichsen and his comrade had a similar ex- 
perience just as they turned homeward. Almost in a 
day the snow-covering of the sea-floe vanished, as if 
by miracle. Here and there water-holes appeared — 
the dreadful fact was clear, the ice-floes were breaking 
up. Forced now to the coast-land, it was plain that 
return to their ship was no longer possible. They 
must summer in a barren, ice-capped land, and wait, 
if they could live so long, until the frosts of early 

larity of Greenland was not discovered by Peary at Navy CHlT. Peary 
Channel is only a fiord indenting northeastern Greenland, which extends 
northward as shown in the attached map of Amdrup Land. 

358 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

autumn should re-form the great white highway of 
arctic travel. 

Mylius-Erichsen hoped that the outlying valleys of 
his newly discovered Denmark Fiord would afford 
enough game to enable them to live, at least long enough 
to permit them to reach some one of their depots where 
they could deposit the records of their surveys. They 
reached the fiord about the end of July, but alas! the 
big game of the past spring was gone! Now and then 
they killed a stray musk-ox and, like famishing creat- 
ures, men and dogs ate for once their fill. Again and 
again food failed utterly, but when death came too 
near they killed, with sad hearts, one of their faithful 
dogs, until nine of them had been eaten. 

In the recovered field-journal of Bronlund, under 
date of August 7, we read: "No more food! It is im- 
possible to travel and we are more than nine hundred 
kilometres [five hundred and sixty miles] from the 
ship." On the 8th Erichsen started for the southern 
end of the fiord, thinking that in its ice-free valleys 
the chances of game would be increased. As it was 
necessary to travel on the ice-floes they started across 
the ice, changing from one floe to another when forced 
to do so. Unfortunately they were driven offshore 
and found themselves adrift. Day after day, kept sea- 
ward by wind and tide, they strove in vain to reach 
shore, but it was sixteen days before this was accom- 
plished. When they landed on August 24, Bronlund 
writes: "We still have fourteen dogs, but no food. 
We have killed one of these animals and eaten half of 

The Fidelity of Eskimo Bronlund 359 

him; the other half will serve as our food to-morrow. 
The half of a dog for three men and thirteen dogs is 
not too much to digest, and after eating it we are as 
hungry as before." 

When land was reached Erichsen and Hagen applied 
themselves to hunting. Hare after hare and ptarmi- 
gan after ptarmigan were pursued and killed. But 
alas! the valleys were searched in vain for musk-oxen 
or reindeer, and it was feared that the big game of the 
region was exterminated. 

Throughout these awful days of suspense and of 
hunger neither Mylius-Erichsen nor Hagen failed to 
maintain their courage and cheerfulness. In the inter- 
vals of needed rest between the long, exhausting hunt- 
ing tramps, they kept on the even tenor of their way. 
Erichsen wrote a little poem to distract the attention 
of his companions from their present surroundings. 
Faithful to the last to his favorite vocation, Hagen made 
with care and pride beautiful sketches of the country 
traversed and of the lands newly discovered. Thus 
passed away the brief polar summer, but further de- 
tails are lacking since Bronlund's journal has no entries 
from August 31 to October 19. 

Meanwhile, Koch had made safely his homeward 
journey, and, although the anxiety of the officers at the 
ship was somewhat lessened by the news that game 
had been found in the far north, yet they were neverthe- 
less uneasy as to the dangers of Erichsen's home travel. 
Koch, it seems, had found an open and impassable sea 
at Mount Mallemuk, so that he was driven to the in- 

360 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

land ice. He there found himself obliged to cross a very 
narrow glacier, where its seaward slant was so nearly 
perpendicular that a single sHp would have precipitated 
men and dogs into the open sea, hundreds of feet below. 
Later it was decided to send a search party north, 
under mate Thostrup. Nor was this autumnal march 
without danger, even apart from the perils of travel 
along the coast, where the men nearly perished by break- 
ing through the new ice. At Jokel Bay Thostrup was 
driven to the inland ice, the only possible route. At all 
times difficult, this travel was now made especially dan- 
gerous by the fact that the old glacial surface was not 
yet covered by the hard-packed winter drifts. Thos- 
trup's whole sledge party on several occasions barely 
escaped falling into the fearful crevasses, seen with 
difficulty in the semi-darkness of the sunless days. 
As it was, several of the dogs were lost when, a snow 
bridge crumbHng, the animals fell into a crevasse. Their 
seal-skin traces breaking, the dogs dropped to the bot- 
tom of the ice-chasms, which were sometimes two hun- 
dred feet or more deep. With kindly hearts the Eskimo 
drivers tried to shoot the poor animals, and put them 
out of their misery, but did not always succeed. As 
Erichsen had not reached the coast the journey was 
without result. Thostrup found untouched the caches 
of Lambert Land and Mount Mallemuk, and turned 
southward on October 18, unconscious that a hundred 
miles to the westward his missing shipmates, facing 
frost and famine, were valiantly struggling against fate 
and death. 

The Fidelity of Eskimo Bronlund 361 

The condition of the arctic Crusoes of Denmark Fiord, 
though there were doubtless days of cheer and hope, 
grew gradually worse, and by the middle of October 
had become terrible, if not hopeless. Although the 
autumnal ice was now forming, Mylius-Erichsen knew 
that in their state of physical weakness the long journey 
of five hundred miles to the ship, around Cape North- 
east, could never be made. Hagen agreed with him 
that the single chance of life, feeble though it was, lay 
in crossing the ice-capped mountain range, direct to 
the depot on Lambert Land. Of course, the height of 
the ice-cap, the character of its surface, and the irregu- 
larities of the road were all unknown quantities. 

The state of their field outfit for the crossing of 
the inland ice betrayed their desperate condition. In 
general, their equipment had practically disappeared 
under stress of travel and of hunting. To the very last 
they had carried their scientific outfit and instruments. 
It was a sad day when they recognized that the only 
way of repairing the great rents in their skin boots was 
through the use of the sole-leather case of the theodo- 
lite. Even that had quite gone, and without needle, 
thread, or leather, they could only fold wraps around 
their boots, now in shreds, and tie them on with such 
seal-skin thongs as had not been eaten. The tent was 
badly torn, and, with the sleeping-gear — on which had 
been made sad inroads for dog-food and patches for 
clothing — afforded wretched shelter against storm and 
cold. For transportation there were four gaunt dogs — 
the last that ravenous hunger had spared — to haul the 

362 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

remnants of a disabled sledge. The winter cold had 
set in, with almost unendurable bitterness to the en- 
feebled, shivering men. The weak arctic sun, now 
skirting the southern sky at mid-day, was leaving them 
for the winter, so that the dangers of crevasses and the 
difficulties of glacier-travel must be met either in total 
darkness, or, at the best, in feeble, uncertain twilight. 

Discarding everything that could be spared, they 
reached the inland ice on October 19, the day the sun 
went for the winter, and barefooted they travelled 
across this glacial ice-cap one hundred and sixty miles 
in twenty-six days. Their shipmate. Lieutenant A. 
Trolle says: "When I think of the northerly wind and 
the darkness, when I consider that every morning they 
must have crawled out of their dilapidated sleeping- 
bags, though they could have had one desire, one crav- 
ing — that of sleeping the eternal sleep — then my mind is 
full of sorrow that I shall never be able to tell them how 
much I admire them. They would go on, they would 
reach a place where their comrades could find them and 
the results of their work. Then at last came the end, 
the death of Mylius-Erichsen and Hagen a few miles 
from the depot, and the last walk of Bronlund, crawling 
along on frozen feet in the moonshine. With the sure in- 
stinct of the child of nature, he found the depot, ate some 
of the food, wrapped himself up in his fur, and died.'* 

By Bronlund's body was found Hagen's chart of 
their discoveries, and his own field-journal in which the 
final entry runs: "I perished in 79° N. latitude, under 
the hardships of the return journey over the inland 

The Fidelity of Eskimo Bronlund 363 

ice in November. I reached this place under a waning 
moon, and cannot go on because of my frozen feet and 
the darkness. The bodies of the others are in the mid- 
dle of the fiord. Hagen died on November 1 5, Mylius- 
Erichsen some ten days later." 

The courage and self-sacrifice of Mylius-Erichsen 
and Hagen for the advancement of the glory of their 
country were based on conditions readily understood. 
Officials of high ideals, long in public service, honored 
with important duties, they possessed those heroic 
qualities which throughout the ages have impelled 
chosen men to subordinate self to the common weal. 
Of such has been said: 

"Gone? In a grander form they rise! 
Dead ? We may clasp their hands in ours, 
And catch the light of their clearer eyes. 
And wreathe their brows with immortal flowers." 

These young explorers instinctively knew that their 
deeds of daring would give them fitting and enduring 
fame. Their faith in their country was justified by the 
tribute that Denmark promptly erected. 

But with Jorgen Bronlund, Greenlander, it was quite 
another tale. The virtues of self-sacrifice and of fidelity 
unto death are practically ignored in the traditional 
myths and tales of Greenland, which represent the 
literature, the religion, the history, and the poetry of 
the Eskimo people.* 

• Among f.vo hundred Eskimo tales and traditions given by Rink and 
Rasmusscn there does not appear to be a single one wherein the qualities of 
aelf-sacrifice and absolute fidelity are the essential or main ideas. 

364 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Bronlund had long foreseen the outcome, as appears 
from his journal entry: "We are all dead!" From this 
early acceptance of his coming fate, and from the Es- 
kimo racial trait of calm acquiescence in destiny, it 
would be natural that in the field the native would 
have first succumbed. 

But, charged with a solemn, vital mission, evidently 
receiving the commands of his leader as the voice of 
God, this Inuit was faithful even over fear of death, 
and by his heroic efforts, freezing and starving, insured 
the fame of his comrades and so added to the glory of 
his distant fatherland (Greenland is a colony of Den- 
mark), unknown to him. 

Both through the dictates of his noble soul, and also 
inspired by his leader, he rose to sublime heights of 
heroic action. All must indeed die, but he would to 
the last moment of his life be true to his sledge-mates, 
Erichsen and Hagen. Without doubt their last words 
were a charge not to fail to place in the cache at Lam- 
bert Land the field-charts and his own journal, so that 
Denmark might know that her sons had fulfilled their 
allotted duty. 

They mistook not their man, and the fame of Den- 
mark's officers was insured by the heroic efforts and un- 
failing fidelity of their humble subordinate, the Inuit 
dog driver, Jorgen Bronlund — Greenlander. 

Among the striking features of the beautiful city of 
Copenhagen are statuary by the famous Thorwaldsen 
and other great sculptors, which proclaim the fame 
and preserve the memory of kings and statesmen, of 

The Fidelity of Eskimo Bronlund 365 

authors and admirals — men great in war and in peace, 
in civic worth and in learning. It is to the honor 
of the city that lately there has arisen a unique and 
striking memorial to commemorate worth and fidelity 
in fields far beyond the sunset, remote from commer- 
cialism and from civilization. Thus Denmark keeps 
fresh in the hearts and in the minds of her people the 
heroic struggle unto death of Mylius-Erichsen and of 
Hagen, and of the Danish Eskimo Bronlund. Such 
steadfast sense of duty and heroic powers of accom- 
plishment are not the heritage of Denmark alone, but 
of the nobler men of the wide world. 



"Deeper devotion 

Nowhere hath knelt; 
Fuller emotion 

Heart never felt." 

— Goethe {Dwight's translation) . 

RARELY, if ever, has there been recorded in his- 
tory a more varied and adventurous life than 
that of Mertuk, wife of Hans Hendrik, who 
came into Hterature through the magical pen of Elisha 
Kent Kane as the "pretty daughter" of Shung-hu, 
an Etah Eskimo. She was born (and reared) as a 
veritable Child of the Ice, being one of the members 
of the northernmost tribe of the world, — a people, in 
the last century, of absorbing interest as a surviving 
offshoot of the Stone Age. 

Mertuk married Hans Hendrik, an Eskimo of Mo- 
ravian faith from Danish West Greenland, who was 
practically a deserter from Kane. This northern idyl 
was the reverse of Ruth of the Bible, since for the 
sake of Mertuk, Hans abandoned his family and his 
country, willingly separating himself from the com- 
forts and certainties of civilized life for the vicissitudes 
and inconveniences of an archaic environment. De- 
spite a lovely wife, Hans soon discovered the wretched 
discomforts and unwelcome methods of life on the 



True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Etah coast, where hunger and physical sufferings were 
not infrequent attendants on even the most skilful 
and active hunter. 

When the polar expedition of Dr. Isaac I. Hayes 
touched in i860 at Cape York, Hans joined the doc- 
tor's forces taking his wife and child with him; next 
year they emigrated to Danish Greenland when Hayes 
sailed south. 

Ten years later Hans, with Mertuk and three chil- 
dren, joined Hall's north-polar expedition, which made 
a ship's record for the world. At Thank-God Harbor 
was born Mertuk's youngest child, Charles Polaris, 
nearer the pole than any other known infant. With 
undaunted courage and uncomplaining fortitude she 
endured, with her four children (one a babe of three 
months), the fearful vicissitudes of the Polaris drift, 
set forth in another sketch, "The Marvellous Ice- 
Drift of Captain Tyson," carrying her babe in her 
seal-skin hood while dragging a heavy sledge over 
rough ice. 

With quiet dignity, in keeping with her cool equa- 
nimity and her unblanching acceptance of hardships 
in the Vv^hite North, Mertuk accepted the extraordinary 
experiences incident to temporary life in the great 
emporium of American civilization — New York City 
— which she was the first of her tribe to visit. Re- 
turning to Danish Greenland with her children, she 
there passed the rest of her less eventful life, busy and 
happy in the domestic duties pertaining to her family 
and to her Inuit neighbors. 

The Wifely Heroism of Mertuk 371 

The incident of Mertuk's wifely heroism, herein told 
in detail, is drawn from an unpublished diary of Mr. 
Henrv W. Dodge, mate of the schooner United StaUs, 
then wintering under Dr. Hayes at Port Foulke.* 

The sketch of the childhood of this heroic and inter- 
esting woman is based on various passages of explorers 
and writers familiar with the incidents of Etah life. 

Among the forceful and friendly natives of Etah 
sixty years since, in the days of Kane, was Shung-hu, 
famed equally for his qualities as a man and for his 
daring as a mighty hunter. He especially displayed 
his skill in the successful pursuit of the polar bear, 
whether on land along the coast, on the fast ice under 
the frov/ning snow-clifFs of Humboldt Glacier, or on 
the moving ice-floes of Smith Sound. Apart from his 
alert action and dignified bearing, his person was no- 
table through his ample whiskers, on chin and on lips, 
which age and exposure had already softened by their 
silvery coloring. Indeed, he was the only full-bearded 
native in the nation, as is related by Hayes, whose dis- 
tressed and starving boat party was only able in the 
last extremity to reach the Advance through the aid 
of the Angekok Kalutunah and his comrade Shung-hu. 

Among the much-loved children of Shung-hu was a 
daughter, Mertuk, whose mother's name is unknown, 
but she doubtless had that deep affection and tender 
care for her daughter which are common traits of these 
iron women of the Etah coast. 

* See map on page 95. 

372 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

Nature and necessity had made the family lead a 
life of constant wandering, and so the child shared 
the seasonal and oft irregular journeys along the 
shut-in, narrow coast-land between the great Hum- 
boldt Glacier and the sea-beaten cliffs of Cape York. 
It was always a journey for food — birds and bears, 
deer and seals, walruses and narwhals, as time and 
good-fortune dictated. 

Carried by her mother, little Mertuk travelled in 
true native fashion, thrust naked and feet foremost 
into the back part of the ample seal-skin hood. There 
she rode in warmth and comfort, safely seated astride 
of a soft, rounded walrus thong, which passed under 
the arms of the mother and was made fast around her 

Mertuk thus grew and throve, happy and healthy, 
under conditions which to boys and girls of our own 
country would have seemed impossible of endurance. 
Sometimes the tiny child would be thrust out in a 
temperature in which mercury would freeze solid, and 
with laughter felt the biting, stimulating cold that 
only made the hood more welcome as a home-nest. 
It was the way of the wild, which must be followed in 
this country of sunless winters and of blinding bliz- 
zards, which every brave Inuit loved. 

To this Eskimo maiden the whole world was made 
up of a few score men, women, and children of the ig- 
loos, of a dozen kinds of birds in the air, and on the 
cliffs; of white hares, bluish foxes, and reddish deer on 
land; of smooth seals, white whales, horned narwhals. 

The Wifely Heroism of Mertuk 373 

and big-tusked walruses in the sea; and last but by 
no means least the enormous amphibious, sharp-clawed 
bear whose glistening, yellowish-white skin furnished 
material for the furry garments in which her father 
Shung-hu was always clothed. 

At an early age Mertuk came to know the living 
creatures which w^ere the sources of food and the means 
of life. She could tell the seasonal time in which came 
and went the wild fowl, of their breeding and of their 
young. The haunts and habits of the swift-footed 
animals of the glacier-enclosed land were all known 
to her, as well as the favorite resorts of the monsters 
of the bordering icy ocean, which furnished the hides 
and bones, the sinew and ivory, without which there 
would be neither needles and thread for the igloo, nor 
lances and sledges for the hunter. 

It was a land of meat and flesh in which she lived, 
with no bread or vegetables, and the taste of sugar 
and of tea, the flavor of salt and of pepper, were ab- 
sent from her food. She knew not books, matches, 
fire-arms, boats, stoves, crocker}^ nor cloth whether 
of cotton or fibre, of silk or wool. It was a land with- 
out wood, iron, medicines, or stimulants, and equally 
without government, schools, churches, hospitals, or 
even houses — unless one could so name the stone huts, 
the skin tents, or the transient snow igloos. 

Her mother early taught her all the kinds of women's 
work which could make her useful to her tribe or to 
her family, and without doubt instilled in her a sense 
of some of the feminine graces which have softened 

374 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

the harshness of the world in all chmes and in every 
country throughout the ages. Here they were a part 
of the life of the stone age, which the Etahs had in- 
herited untainted by the outside world. 

The daughter's supple fingers soon braided evenly 
and closely the sinews of the narwhal into the tense 
and needful bow-strings, for Shung-hu hunted reindeer 
with bow and arrows. Her strong hands tightly 
stretched the drying seal-skin, through which later 
her bone-needles and sinew-thread were so skilfully 
plied that the skin broke before the seams gave way. 
With deft action and with an unwonted taste she so 
shaped her bird-skin clothing and blue-fox hoods as to 
win praise for her garments from men and women ahke. 
Her skill with the lamp soon became equal to that of 
the oldest expert of the tribe. Choosing and drying 
^he long moss best suited for wicks, she applied a bit 
^f walrus fat to the moss threads, and twisted them 
if}tx> a dense, even roll. While other lamps gave forth 
voldmts of smoke, Mertuk so skilfully trimmed the 
lighted moss-wick that it gave an equal steady flame 
along the fdge of the koodlik (pot-stone lamp). An 
adept in all woman's work, always in health, gay, witty 
and even-tempered, Mertuk came also to be a comely 
maiden — well-formed in figure, fair of face, though 
very tiny in stature. 

But even in this land of Eskimo plenty there come 
seasons of dire distress, when famine stalks abroad and 
slow starvation strikes down the weaklings of the tribe. 
In such a time of want and hunger Hans Hendrik came 

The Wifely Heroism of Mertuk 375 

to the Etah tribe, to aid tiie half-famished folk in the 
hunt of the walrus, then needed to save from lingering 
death the sick men of Kane's ship as well as the strong 
people with Kalutunah and Shung-hu. Mertuk had 
watched from a distance this wonderful youth, who 
spoke Inuit queerly, to the sly amusement of the listen- 
ing Etahs. But he carried a long, strange weapon — 
fire-flashing, ear-splitting, and death-dealing — that 
killed a bear or a walrus at great and unheard-of dis- 
tances. In the brief intervals of the urgent hunt he 
came to Shung-hu's igloo to sleep, to eat their scant 
fare, and to feed his wolfish dogs, which were ever 
fighting with those of Shung-hu. The hunt was fast 
and furious, and with such success that steaks and 
liver, walrus-skin and rich blubber, were again in 

Of the joyous feast after this particular hunt, in 
which Mertuk partook with other famishing Etahs, 
Kane quotes Hans Hendrik, "an exact and truthful 
man," as saying: "Even the children ate all night. 
You (Kane) know the little two-year-old that Awiu 
(possibly the mother of Mertuk) carried in her hood — 
the one that bit you when you tickled her. That baby 
cut for herself, with a knife made out of an iron hoop 
and so heavy that she could hardly lift it, cut and ate, 
ate and cut, as long as I looked at her. She ate a sipak 
— the Eskimo name for the lump which is cut off close 
to the lips [of the eater] — as large as her own head. 
Three hours afterward, when I went to bed, the baby 
was cutting off" another lump and eating still." 

376 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

The work of the hunt proved too strenuous for the 
Danish Greenlander, and finally Hans was worn out by 
exposure and fatigue, while he fell sick from cold and 
wet. In this condition he sought the breek * of Shung- 
hu's igloo for rest until he gained strength to enable 
him to return to Kane, to whom he had sent walrus , 

The care of the strange Inuit fell on Mertuk. Prompt 
and gentle in her ministrations and attentions, jovial in 
her speech, and witty in conversation, she soon en- 
snared the heart of Hans. Indeed, from all accounts, 
she had that peculiar winning bashfulness that is so 
attractive among certain of the children of nature. Be- 
sides her tasteful dress she had a sense of order and of 
cleanliness, not always found among the Etahs. She 
not only kept her long, raven-black hair unmatted, 
but had also gathered her tresses into a tuft on the top 
of her head, where it was fastened by a finely embroid- 
ered seal-skin strap. This gave her a semblance of size 
and height quite needed, for she was only a trifle over 
four feet tall. 

Hans soon took careful notice of his nurse, who 
talked with overflowing mirth, while her busy fingers, 
in the intervals of personal service, unceasingly plaited 
the tough sinew-thread with which arrow-heads are 
secured or other hunting implements perfected. Deft 
and quick, busy with work, careful of her little brothers, 
she seemed to be the maiden suited to his taste, al- 

*The raised bench or platform of stone, earth, or snow, in the back part 
of the igloo, on which the furs and skins are arranged for bedding. 

The Wifely Heroism of Mertuk 377 

though the claims of other women were presented to 
him during his stay. Before he was strong, he had 
asked that she should become his wife. Most of her 
maiden comrades had sobbed and lamented when the 
time came for them to change the care-free, petted, and 
joyous child life for the onerous duties of an Etah 
matron. But Mertuk's heart glowed with happy feel- 
ings, and she sang with joy when the great Eskimo 
hunter, who had killed three of the five great walruses, 
asked that she would be his wife, 

Kane relates the story of the courtship as follows: 
**Hans, the kind son and ardent lover of Fiskernaes,* 
has been missing for nearly two months. I am loath 
to tell the tale as I believe it, for it may not be the true 
one at all, and I would not intimate an unwarranted 
doubt of the consistency of boyish love. Before my 
April hunt, Hans with long face asked permission to 
visit Peteravik, as he had no boots and wanted to lay 
in a stock of walrus hide for soles. I consented. 

"He has not returned and the stories of him that 
come from Etah were the theme of much conversation 
and surmise. He had given Nessark's wife an order 
for a pair of boots, and then wended his way to Peter- 
avik (the halting-place), where Shung-hu and his 
pretty daughter had their home. This explanation 
was given by the natives with man}'' an explanatory 

* Kane says of him: "I obtained an Eskimo hunter at Fiskernaes, one 
Hans Christian (known elsewhere as Hans Hendrik). a boy of eighteen, an 
expert with the kayak and javelin. After Hans had given me a touch of his 
quality by spearing a bird on the wing, I engaged him. He was fat, good- 
natured, and except under the excitements of the hunt as stolid and un- 
impressive as one of our Indians." 

378 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

grin; for Hans was a favorite with all, and as a match 
one of the greatest men of the country. 

"The story was everywhere the same. Hans the 
faithful, yet I fear the faithless, was last seen upon a 
native sledge, driving south from Peteravik with a 
maiden at his side, and professedly bound for a new 
principality at Uwarrow, high up Murchison Sound. 
Alas! for Hans the married man. Lover as he was, and 
nalegak (chief) by the all-hail hereafter, joy go with 
him, for he was a right good fellow." 

Though Hans said that his mother-in-law "had al- 
ways behaved to me like a tender mother," and that 
**the amiability of these unbaptized people is to be won- 
dered at," yet life went hard with the married couple 
among "the unchristened natives of the North." 

Touching at Cape York in i860. Dr. Hayes found 
Hans and his wife living there. Of their quarters. 
Dodge, in his unpublished journal says: "Their shelter 
was a seal-skin tent, six by eight feet in size and six feet 
high, in which lived Hans, Mertuk, the baby, and the 
mother-in-law. The hreek of large stones took up, 
with the bedding, two-thirds of the space, leaving scant 
room for the cooking utensils; a small stone pot hung 
above the blubber-fed stone lamp." 

He continues: "Mertuk was with him, having at her 
back a baby not a year old. I must admit that Hans 
would not have been inexcusable for being allured by 
a pair of black eyes to cast in his lot with the roving 
tribes of the North. She is by far the handsomest 
native woman that we have yet seen, being much 

The Wifely Heroism of Mertuk 379 

prettier than any woman of the mixed races of Danish 
Greenland. She is very small but is finely featured, 
and has hands and feet as delicate as a child's. Not- 
withstanding the general harshness of the Etah lan- 
guage, her voice is quite musical, and she has the most 
gleeful, ringing, bell-like laugh that I have ever heard." 

Taking his wife and babe along, Hans joined the 
expedition of Dr. Hayes as hunter. In midwinter, as 
elsewhere related in "Sonntag's Fatal Sledge Jour- 
ney," Hans went south as dog driver, with the astron- 
omer, to buy dogs for the sledge journeys of the com- 
ing spring. After a month Dr. Hayes, becoming greatly 
alarmed at their protracted absence, decided to send 
Dodge, the mate, south to trace the missing men. 
But deep as may have been the anxiety of Hayes for 
Sonntag, it did not equal the anguish of Mertuk's 
soul as to the fate of her loved Hans. 

The theory that the people of the stone age are 
purely animals, struggling only for food, for clothmg, 
and for shelter, finds no support in the conduct of 
this tiny, ignorant, heathen woman, whose heart was 
filled with ideals of love and of duty. 

Living under conditions of ease and luxury far sur- 
passing anything of which Mertuk's mind had before 
been capable of imagining, this tiny, uncivilized woman 
resolved to quit her abode of warmth and light for p:erc-' 
ing cold and utter darkness, to abandon her abundant 
food and comfortable berth for a chance bit of frozen 
seal meat and a snow igloo. And for what reason? To 
find a missing husband, in search of whom a party was 

380 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

to take the field. To non-polar people no words can 
convey an adequate idea of the dangers to be met, of 
the privations to be endured. It was a period of sun- 
less days (the sun had been gone for more than a 
month), in the excessive cold of midwinter, at the 
season of fearful blizzards, along an uninhabited stretch 
of coast of utter desolation, in following which one 
must pass the dreaded Cape Alexander either on the 
outer moving ice-pack or along the treacherous ice- 
foot at the base of its precipitous cliffs. And no one 
knew better than Mertuk the misery and hardships, 
the sufferings and perils which must be faced on such 
a journey. 

The tale of this woman's heroic resolution is thus 
told in his journal by Dodge, whom Hayes sent south 
to trace Sonntag's trail: 

"Here let me introduce a little episode which might 
be useful to poets and novelists as an example of 
woman's constancy and devotion, showing perhaps 
that the true woman's heart beats the same in all 
ages, countries, and climes. It reveals itself equally 
strong in a Gertrude watching the livelong night be- 
neath a scaffold, and in a simple, untutored savage, 
going out alone under the shadow of an arctic night, 
ca.Trying a child upon her back and looking for a lost 

"Mrs. Hans [Mertuk] had discovered by some means 
that a searching party was being organized to discover 
the fate of the missing men. Being fearful that she 
would be detained if her intentions were known, she 

The Wifely Heroism of Mertuk 381 

left the vessel an hour in advance of us, hoping that 
she would be allowed to keep on when she should be 

"This information was not pleasant for me, as those 
best acquainted with Eskimo character felt sure that she 
would not turn back, unless forcibly compelled to do so. 

**Her intention was not suspected, however, and it 
was not until I was on the point of starting that one 
of the Eskimo told Jansen, the Dane, that Mertuk 
had gone in search of her husband. 

"When we were on our way, two and a half miles 
from the ship, I discovered some distance ahead a 
little form, plodding through the snow, which I knew 
must be Mrs. Hans. In half an hour more we had 
overtaken her, and I must admit that it was an affect- 
ing sight to look upon this little woman, barely four 
feet tall. 

"With her child only a year old on her back, Mertuk 
plodded bravely along through the snow, into which 
she sank knee-deep at almost every step, impressed 
with the idea that the dearest one on earth to her was 
somewhere in the vast desolation before her, and fired 
with the feeling that she must find him or perish too. 

"As my companion. Christian Petersen the Dane, 
could make her understand him, I told him to tell her 
that she could not go on but must go back, while we 
would go on and look for Hans, explaining the reasons 
for her return. But to all his arguments Mertuk simply 
said that she must find Hans or die — and resolutely 
she set her face toward the south. 

382 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

"While Christian talked to her I stood by, leaning 
on my rifle, awaiting anxiously the result of a discus- 
sion that I could not understand, except as I read the 
woman's face. We could not spare the time to go back 
with her. She could not accompany us, for our pace 
was too rapid for her and besides we must not be de- 
layed in our mission. If she followed us she would be 
soon worn out with fatigue, carrying her child through 
the soft, deep snow; and if she sat down to rest, her 
fate was certain when overcome by sleep or through 

When Petersen said that he could do nothing with 
her, as she obstinately declared that she was going on 
for her husband. Dodge, greatly disturbed, was per- 
plexed as to what action he should take. Fortunately 
there came to his mind a thought, kindred to that so 
forcefully and beautifully expressed by Tennyson in 
his Hnes, "Home they brought her warrior dead," and 
he continues: 

"Finding that Christian's arguments were likely to 
prove unavailing, I stepped up to Mertuk, lifted up a 
corner of the reindeer skin that she had thrown over 
her seal-skin hood, and pointed to the tiny bab}^ who 
was sleeping quietly, and said [in English]: ^Ij you go on 
the child will die.' She could not understand my words, 
which the Dane did not translate, but something in 
her heart must have disclosed their meaning. For the 
first time she showed signs of irresolution, and her eyes 
filled with tears. Carefully covering the child's face, 
I brushed from the mother's hair and eyebrows the 

The Wifely Heroism of Mertuk 383 

frost-feathers that had already formed through the 
awful cold. Looking steadily into her eyes, and talk- 
ing in a low, firm voice, I told her that I would look 
faithfully for Hans, and bring him back to her if he 
could be found. 

**I shall never forget the expression of her counte- 
nance, the moonbeams streaming down on her eager, 
upturned face. Her Hps were sHghtly parted, and her 
whole soul seemed to be shining through her expressive 
eyes, which were fastened fixedly on mine. 

"When I ceased speaking, she answered, talking in 
an eager, impassioned strain, which made her meaning 
plain enough, though her speech was in an unknown 
tongue. Finally she pointed to the south and said that 
she would go on, but the trembling tones of her voice 
did not show the same firmness as it had done before. 
Christian would have interpreted, but it was unneces- 
sary; the woman and I understood one another, and I 
felt that the victory was won. 

"Again I spoke to her in the same tone as before, 
and as she listened her eyes were once more dimmed by 
tears. I was sure that her determination was wavering. 
Now pointing first to the child, and then in the direction 
of the ship, I told her that she must go back. Though 
she felt my meaning she stood for a moment, most reso- 
lute in her attitude, gazing intently into my eyes, until 
she must have seen something forbidding in my unre- 
lenting face." 

Dodge later writes; "To fully appreciate the impres- 
sive effect of this most dramatic incident, the condi- 

384 True Tales of Arctic Heroism 

tions under which it occurred should be remembered. 
We were far out of sight of the ship, were some distance 
off shore on the main ice-pack of Smith Sound, the 
moon was shedding a dim, ghost-like glare upon us, and 
it was the coldest day of the winter, the thermometer 
indicating seventy-five degrees below the freezing 

He humorously adds regarding his forceful language 
in ordering Mertuk back to the ship: 'T will not swear 
that the vigorous words froze as they came from my 
mouth, but after I finished there were pendant icicles 
an inch long to my whiskers and mustache. " 

As to Mertuk, orders, arguments, and requests, 
whether in pantomime English or in Danish-Eskimo 
dialect, would have utterly failed of effect, had she not 
been stirred by frequent allusions to her baby — Hans's 
child, who must be saved from danger of deatli. To 
the mother, cold, hunger, and privations were as 

Long and bitter was the conflict in Mertuk's heart 
between her motherly affection and her wifely devotion. 
Should she do alone her duty to her infant, or should 
she put the child's life aside in her arctic quest for her 
missing hunter husband? To the last her heart was 
undecided. Now she turned to the north, taking a 
fev.* steps toward the ship, then she flew bank on the 
trail after the searching party, which had now moved 

Finally, with a gesture as of despair at adverse and 
inexorable fate, she slowly took up her lonely march 

The Wifely Heroism of Mertuk 385 

back to the ship — where food, warmth, and shelter 
awaited at least the child of Hans. 

On shipboard Mertuk did not cease to bewail her 
weakness in returning from the search until the very 
day when Hans, who by no means hastened his return, 
came back to fill her heart with that sweet content 
which was absolutely insured by his presence alone. 

By modern standards this woman of the stone age 
was low in the scale of humanity — uncouth, ignorant, 
a heathen, and even brutish in a way. 

This tale of an Inuit girl is, however, but a loose 
leaf from the history of woman, which indicates that 
the spirit of altruistic devotion is an attribute im- 
planted by God in the primitive races, and not, as 
some would fain have us believe, the golden fruit of 
developed humanity. 

A century since an American poet paid due homage 
to a beautiful belle, who later became his wife, in 
verse that aptly depicts the lovable traits of Mertuk, 
the daughter of Shung-hu. 

"Affections are as thoughts to her, 
The measures of her hours; 
Her feelings have the fragrancy, 
The freshness of the flowers." 


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