Saturday, May 26, 2012

Walter Wellman Arctic Expedition Race for the North Pole

By Walter Wellman.

Polar bear looking at Arctic camp
The Wellman Polar Expedition of 1898-9 was characterized by one of the most remarkable tragedies and one of the finest deeds of human courage ever recorded. The hero who did this rare deed lives in the little town of Tromso, Norway; and it was at this far northern port that the mem­bers of the expedition, four Americans and five Norwegians, assembled in June, 1898. On the 26th day of that month we sailed in the expedition steamer "Frithjof," a stanch ship specially built for hard work in heavy ice. At Archangel, Russia, we took on board eighty-three draught dogs which Alexander Trontheim, of Tobolsk, had procured for us in sub-Arctic Siberia, among the Ostiaks, who live near the mouth of the River Ob. A two-thousand-mile journey across mountains, tundras, steppes, and rivers had the faithful Trontheim brought his pack, assisted by others and a caravan of reindeer.

From Archangel we steamed northward through the White Sea to the Arctic Ocean, and in a week met the pack-ice at the sev­enty-seventh parallel of latitude. Out first onslaught upon the frigid bulwarks with which the well-nigh impregnable Pole is sur­rounded was not encouraging. We found no opening, but did soon discover that our bunkers were running low of coal, and so we steamed back to Norway for reinforce­ments. Then north again, and soon we were once more struggling with the pack-ice. A week of ramming, shoving, crowding, shiver­ing through leads and openings, forcing them often where they did not exist, varied by fre­quent fogs in which it was necessary to lie to because we could not see a ship's length ahead, brought us at last near the shores of Franz Josef Land. Happy indeed were we all when, on July 27th, we first beheld the glacier-capped mountains of this remote region. To our imaginations it presented itself as a para­dise of opportunity. Next day, with anxious hearts, we anchored at Cape Flora, which for three years had been the headquarters of the Jackson-Harmsworth (English) expedition. Here it was that Nansen and Jackson had had their dramatic meeting two years before - a chance encounter which doubtless saved the lives of Nansen and his faithful comrade, Lieutenant Johansen. Here, too, we had hoped for another meeting. When last heard from, Andree's balloon was drifting in this direction from Spitzbergen, and as he knew of the existence at this point of a good house amply stocked with provisions, it was not im­possible he had been able to make his way hither the previous autumn. Grievous was our disappointment when we saw the doors and windows of Jackson's house all boarded and barred, for we realized that thus ended all reasonable expectation that the brave Swedes were to be seen again among the living.

From Cape Flora we vainly endeavored to push our ship northward through a strait, and later tried to steam round the southeast­ern islands where the Austro-Hungarian ship "Tegetthoff " was lost in 1874, and thus to the north. But finding the way everywhere blocked with heavy ice, we finally decided to establish our headquarters at Cape Tegetthoff, Hall Island, latitude 80.05; and there we set up our little hut, and landed our stores, equipment, and dogs.

Fighting off a walrus attack
This was the last of July. In three days the ship sailed for Norway, and we were left alone for at least a year in the wilderness of ice. We were the only human inhabitants of that vast region, and our nearest neighbors were Russians and Samoyedes in Nova Zembla, 500 miles to the southward. A month or two of working weather remained before the winter should come down upon us, and we lost no time in setting our column in motion. Two days after the ship left us, a party under the command of the meteorologist, Mr. E. B. Bald­win, of the United States Weather Bureau, set out to establish an outpost farther north, the farther the better. They started with sledges, two small boats, dogs, and provisions, travers­ing a solid sheet of comparatively smooth ice upon bay and strait. The outlook was prom­ising. But conditions often change with sur­prising rapidity in the Arctic, and in less than forty-eight hours this party found the apparently sound and safe ice breaking up un­der their feet and drifting rapidly out to sea in strong off-shore winds. They had to leap from one floating floe to another, now and then hurriedly launching their small boats, only to pull them up again as quickly as possible to save them from being crushed in the ice. Nothing but desperate, even heroic, work enabled them to escape with their lives and outfit and reach the solid land. Along the shore, over rough stones and precipitous glacier-debris, now moving a part of their loads short distances by boat in open water, again taking to the ice-covered mountain­side for a hazardous journey over fissures and crevasses, they struggled for fully a month. Then the on-coming winter and the broken, drifting ice which filled the channel before them compelled a halt for good.

This was at Cape Heller, a little south of the eighty-first parallel of latitude. Only once had human feet trod these shores, and that was a quarter of a century before, when Payer, the discoverer of Franz Josef Land, passed nearby on a sledge trip. A few miles to the westward, on the other side of the sound, Nansen and Johansen had spent the winter of 1895-6 in a little hut or cave. Our men at once set to work to establish a post. The first thing was to build a hut. For this work they had better tools than Nansen and his comrade, but no better materials - only such as the country afforded. They gathered rocks and piled up the rough walls of a house. Two pieces of drift-wood, brought from Si­berian rivers by current and tide, formed the ridge-pole. The dried skins of walrus which were killed in the bay served for a roof. A chimney was built at one side and upon a hearth of flat rocks small bits of dried drift-wood and hunks of walrus blubber were burned, not for purposes of heating, but to boil the coffee and soup and fry the savory steaks of polar bear. Tons of walrus meat were cut in small squares out of the huge car­casses of fifteen of the sea-horses, and stored away in an ice-house (good refrigera­tor) for the sus­tenance of the forty dogs during the long winter. A ton of condensed food for human use was accumulated here, most of it designed for the sledging parties the next spring. With blocks of snow and ice the men built huge walls around the hut, to afford some protection from the winter's storms, making the camp look very much in­deed like a fort; and so they named it Fort McKinley.

Arctic burial of Bernt Bentzen
In getting our supplies our men had some lively adventures hunting walrus in the bay near Fort McKinley. As a rule the walrus is a harmless brute. His attentions to the hu­man beings who invade his realm are usually confined to swimming about the boat for half an hour or longer, alternately diving and coming to the surface again. When­ever his ugly head appears above the water, curiosity and good-nature are seen bulging from his little round eyes. He acts as if this visitation of human beings, with their boat and oars and things, was a sort of circus got up for his special amusement. But wound a cow or calf, and you may have a different story to tell. That is what our men did one day. They shot a mother walrus that had a calf under her flippers, and they were trying their best to secure the two carcasses before they should sink in the bay. Suddenly they were surrounded by five or six big bulls, roaring and snorting in their anger at this murderous attack upon their tribe. One bull walrus, with his weight of from twelve hundred to fifteen hundred pounds, which he is able to throw half out of water and with his huge tusks, a foot and a half in length, which may rip the boat and cap­size it is a dangerous foe when you are out in a craft only fifteen feet long. But here were half a dozen, all ferociously angry, and all making for the one small boat in boat, in which our three men sat. The lives of those men depended upon the manner in which they met the onslaught. Fortunately they were experienced walrus-hunters, and not a man of them lost his nerve. Bernt Bentzen, he of the mighty shoulders, gave a few strokes with the oars, and sent the boat flying so that the enemy might not all be able to board at the same instant. Paul Bjoervig, who knows walrus as well as he knows his own children, told Mr. Baldwin, who had the one gun in the party, when and where to shoot, that not an instant or a bullet might be wasted; and he, good shot, quick as a cat, emptied the chamber of his Winchester with telling effect. Bull after bull retreated with a ball in his eye, the only spot worth hitting in a walrus, for his skin is an armor-plate of gristle and blubber four inches in thickness. The bay was red with blood, the waters were lashed into foam, and the bellowing of the bulls filled the air with a horrid din. They came finally faster than Mr. Baldwin could take care of them. Then Bernt and Paul rose up, each with an oar in his hands, and beat the beasts over the head. Every time one of the ugly snouts rose by the side of the boat, with the wicked tusks gleaming white, there was an oar to meet it, or perchance a leaden ball. For fully a quarter of an hour the battle raged, and then, to the great relief of our weary men, the enemy sud­denly withdrew, one by one, leaving two of their number floating lifeless upon the bay.

Late in October, pursuant to his instruc­tions, Mr. Baldwin prepared to return to Harmsworth House, our headquarters at Cape Tegetthoff. He called for two volunteers to remain at the outpost during the winter to care for the dogs and guard the stores and equipment. All the men offered themselves. Paul Bjoervig and Bernt Bentzen were chosen whereat Emil and Olaf Ellefsen and Daniel Johansen were grievously disappointed. As for Bjoervig and Bentzen, they were de­lighted. Neighbors and comrades at home, adventurous spirits both, this chance of spend­ing an Arctic winter together in a snug little hut, well stocked with things to eat and plenty of tobacco to smoke, was to them the realiza­tion of a dream. Nor was their ardor the out­growth of any callow inexperience. Bjoer­vig had been in the Arctic almost every summer for twenty years, and with the Well­man expedition of 1894 and other parties had earned reputation as a daring, faithful ice-pilot. Bentzen had already passed three years in the white north as a member of Dr. Nansen's crew on the "Fram."

Arctic explorer Walter Wellman
On the last day of October, Mr. Baldwin and his three men arrived at headquarters, and the seven of us settled down for the winter in a little canvas-covered, decagonal house about fifteen feet in diameter. Our beds were reindeer-skin sleeping-bags spread out upon the floor. Our dining table was the top of a biscuit box, and our dishes a plate and mug for each man. Plenty of good food we had, including American flapjacks and oatmeal every morning, and fresh bear-meat in stews or steaks every evening. Finally the darkness came on and many storms and the great cold. For 126 days and nights the sun was below the horizon. Throughout December it was just possible to distinguish midday from mid­night. Our hut was drifted over with snow. Seen from the outside, there were just two things about it which indicated a human habitation - a diminutive black stove-pipe protruding from the apex of the rounded, snow-heaped roof, and a black, yawning hole in "the front yard." Through this hole we crawled like foxes to their burrow, in order to make our way through two sheds, or storehouses, and four doors to the living-room within. How cheery were the sparks flying from that bit of a stove­pipe through the long night! And right comfortable were we in our lair, though at times the tiny stove in the center of it had to struggle against a zero tem perature at the outer edges of the apart­ment.

The much-dreaded Arctic night passed quickly. If anyone suffered in spirits, he managed to conceal his misfortune. There was plenty to do. We had both work and sport. Many bears fell before our rifles. In the bright moonlight it was fine to strap on a pair of ski and take a run over the crisp snow or coast down the glaciers on the moun­tain slopes nearby. The scientific work demanded attention - meteorology, observa­tions in magnetism studies of the brilliant aurora borealis. There was the housekeep­ing to be attended to, and the dogs to look after. Above all, the sledge journeys were to be prepared for.

To make ready for a sledge trip seems a simple thing, but it is like organizing an army corps for campaigns far from base in an enemy's country. Day or night the leader of the expedition had but one thought, one dream, and that was to arrange the count­less details for the field work with the fewest possible mistakes and the greatest possible number of things that made for strength and security. A thousand pictu­resque or interesting incidents of this win­ter in the darkness were almost forgotten in the concentration of mind and effort upon the arrangements for the sleigh trips. One journey was to be made to Fort McKinley and beyond, straight northward, as far as we ­could go before diminution of supplies and advancing summer commanded return. This was "the dash for the North Pole" which formed one part of our general expeditionary plan. The other journey, subsequently successfully carried out, compassed the second part of our general plan, which was to explore the then unknown eastern part of the Franz Josef Land archipelago.

Acutely did we realize that, if we were to beat all records in our approach to the Pole and have our chance actually to reach it in case we found unusually favorable conditions, we must get up right early in the Arctic morning.  The records of the past had been established by trips from bases much farther north.  Thus Lockwood and Brainard, of the Greely party, who had carried the stars and stripes to 83.24, had set out from headquarters at 81.40.  Dr. Nansen and Lieutenant Johansen, who had reached 86.14, had started from the “Fram” at 84.04.  To eclipse the latter achievement, we should have to travel 440 miles.  But this much at least we all believed we should do, barring accident, if only we could get an early start.  Consequently, on the morning of February 18th, while I was standing in the hut for a last flash-light photograph, one of my Norwegians stuck his head in at the door and called out:  “Everybody is ready sir.”

"And so am I."

Walter Wellman at the end of his Arctic ordeal
Saying good-by to my American comrades, not quite sure that I should ever see them again, I went out, and took my place at the head of the little caravan. Each of the three Norwegians had a sledge and team of dogs in charge. A snowstorm was raging, but we were ready to start, and could not stop for a little storm.  I led the way, “tracking” for the dogs as best I could in the semi-darkness and snow-laden air.  The sun had not yet risen, but in the middle of the day was near enough to the horizon to give us a gray, hazy dawn light.  The snow was soft, and we sank in to it to the ankles and often to the knees.  Underneath there were frequent ridges and protuberances of rough ice to trip the weary feet.  A strange experience it was, this stumbling along like drunken men in the gloom, unable much of the time to see far enough ahead to make course by landmark, and compelled, therefore, to pick our way with compass constantly in hand.  Where it was smooth enough we used Norwegian ski with advantage, but in the rougher spots snowshoes were of no avail. Upon our feet we had finsko, or moccasins of reindeer skin; and though these are the best of all foot wear for Arctic use, their soles are so slippery that, traveling such a road as ours, one was lucky if he did not fall sprawling oftener ­ than once in ten minutes. Still, we made progress. And though we had set out in the ­ midst of the Arctic winter, fully a month earlier than the earliest sledging start hith­erto made in high latitudes (that of Dr. Nansen from the "Fram"), and though we had all sorts of weather, from blinding snowstorms to drifting blizzards, the sun finally showed his smiling face above the horizon, the hours of light lengthened, and we struggled patiently on.

Fort McKinley was our first goal.  There we were to take on more sledges and dogs, and increase our load of provisions.  How had our men there passed their winter of exile?  These were important questions, for upon the dogs and stores at the outpost we depended or an increase of our sledging strength in the race against time and distance to the North.  The plan was to send Bjoverig and Bentzen back to headquarters, and in the early days of March to set out with four teams and sledges, and my present party, toward the Pole.

Bjoverig and Bentzen had been promised that we would raise their sledge in February, and eager were we all to keep our word.  The storms delayed us, and at one or two camps the wind blew so hard that pitching our tent was out of the question, and we had to be content with pegging down its corners and crawling under – any place to escape the fury of the icy blasts.  When better weather came, we made hard marches, and on the afternoon of the 27th we had the satisfaction of seeing the ridge behind the Fort loom up in the white distance.

Soon the dogs at the Fort set up a shout of welcome to their approaching brethren, and the latter, just to show what they could do when they had a personal object in view, started off at a rapid run, dragging the sledges, men, and all after them, although hitherto they had crawled at a snail’s pace and had made progress at all only when helped by their drivers.  At the foot of the hill the men stopped and held the excited teams, that I might walk on before and be the first to greet the two exiles.  But aside from an overturned boat, half buried in the snow, a collection of empty biscuit and provision tins, and a groups of dogs chained to the top of a bank of ice, I could see nothing whatever indicating a human habitation.

"The but is just before you, sir, right be­hind the dogs," said Emil Ellefsen.

There is not an atom of superstition in my mental composition. I never had a presentiment or anything of that sort. But it is the plain truth that, as I picked my way up the rough snow-bank and through an array of shaggy dogs all howl­ing and leaping and straining at their leashes, I knew something had gone wrong at the hut.

That instant a rough human figure emerged from the mouth of a tunnel leading down into the snow-bank. The man held a rifle in his hand. He was dressed in furs. His face was as black as a stoker's.

"Bjoervig, how are you?"

"I am well, sir, but - but poor Bent­zen is dead."

We stood silent for a moment, hands grasped, and looking into one another's eyes. A tear trickled down upon Bjoer­vig's black cheek and froze there. Then his countrymen came up, and when he told them the news, these simple-hearted fellows were as dumb as I had been. It was Bjoervig who did the talking. We only listened and watched him, being but dimly conscious of the true nature of the tragedy within the shadow of which we stood. Bjoervig talked and laughed and cried by turns. But he did not forget his hospitality. "Come in, sir, come in and have some hot coffee. You must be tired from your journey."

He dived down into the mouth of the tun­nel, pulling me after him. First we entered a little cavern where a mother dog lay nurs­ing a hairy, squeaking brood. Hardy puppies these, opening their eyes and gulping milk in a temperature seventy degrees below freezing. The mother dog licked Bjoervig's hand, and growled at me. Now we went down upon our hands and knees, and crawled through an opening in the rock wall of the hut. A bearskin was hung there for a door. Once inside, I tried to stand erect, and bumped my head against the ice with which the ceiling was covered. It was so dark in there I could see nothing, and Bjoervig led me to a seat.

"Sit down, sir, sit down and rest yourself, and I'll have the coffee ready in a moment."

At one side of the hut, in a niche in the rocky wall, a bit of fire was smoldering. Bjoervig put on a few pieces of dried drift­wood and a big hunk of walrus blubber, and the flames burst out. Very cheerful and bright the fire looked, but not a par­ticle of heat did we get from it. What was not used in boil­ing the coffee went up the chimney. Three feet from the flames the rocks were white with a thick coat of frost, and all the walls and the roof glittered like a bed of diamonds. It was a strange little den, and to me it seemed colder than out of doors. The brilliant fire was but mockery. Fairly well illumined was the end of the hut where we sat, but beyond was a gloomy recess from which the light of the flames was cut off by a pier of rocks which served as a support for the roof. There was no window.

Bjoervig told me about Bentzen. The poor fellow had been taken ill early in November. All through that month and December he had been unable to get out of the house, and most of the time he lay in his bag. Occa­sionally he was delirious. Death came the day after New Year's. Paul paused, and for lack of something else to say I asked him where he had buried the body.

"I have not buried him, sir," was the re­ply. "He lies in there," pointing to the dark end of the hut.

"Why did you not bury him, Paul?"

"Because, sir, I promised him I wouldn't."

I shall never forget that moment. At first the words did not appear to me to mean very much - only that a dead man had not been buried. Gradually the full proportions of the tragedy dawned upon my conscious­ness. This man with the black face who was cutting up walrus meat and feeding the fire had been compelled to pass two months of the Arctic night in this cavern with no other companion than the body of his friend. I lit a little oil-lamp - a bicycle lamp it was - and made my way into the dark end of the hut. On the floor at my feet lay a one-man sleeping-bag, empty, with a blanket tumbled over it, and showing signs of occupancy the night before. Just beyond, within arm's reach, lay a similar bag. This one was occupied. The flap at the top had been pulled carefully over the face of the sleeper within. Bag and contents were frozen as hard as a rock. There, side by side, the quick and the dead had slept for eight weeks.

As I looked at this weird scene amid the shadows under the scintillating roof of hoar­frost, and thought of the long days that were as nights and the long nights that were no darker than the days, and of the ordeal it is for any one of us when compelled at home to sit even for a single night with com­panions in a brilliantly lighted apartment by the side of a dead friend, and of this living man who had for months lain there abso­lutely alone by the dead, I marveled that Paul Bjoervig was still sane.

Just then the men came in from giving the dogs their supper, and I heard Bjoervig talk­ing to them. He had not known what was the matter with Bentzen. In his delirium the sick man had talked of his home and wife in Norway, of the green hills there, of Dr. Nansen and Captain Sverdrup and the cruise of the "Fram"; at times he was once more in the ward-room of that famous ship; again he was after bear or walrus with Bjoervig and the boys in our little Lapp boat; now he was on a sledge trip to the Pole "with Mr. Wellman."

"That was the hardest of all for me," said Bjoervig, "when poor Bentzen was out of his head and I couldn't do anything for him. Once he caught me crying, though I tried not to let him see, and he brightened up and said: 'Paul, what's the matter with you? I'm all right. I'll be well in a week or two. See what an appetite I have.' And he got up and boiled some coffee and cooked some bacon, and sat here eating and laugh­ing, just to cheer me up, and then he fell over in a faint. I dragged him to his bag, and - and he's there yet."

"And how did you happen to promise him not to bury him?"

"Oh, he was low-spirited one day, and he called to me. 'Say, Paul, I'm not going to die up here, but if I do, old fellow, promise me you won't try to bury me out in the snow.' `I'll promise you that on one condition, Bernt,' said I, and that is that, in case I die first, and my chances are just as good as yours, you'll not bury me, either.' Bernt smilingly agreed, and so we made our bargain. He was silent for a few minutes, and then he looked over at me and said: 'Paul, I don't want the bears and foxes to get me.'"

"And what could induce you to go through such an experience again, Paul? asked Olaf.

"Well, if it's money you're talking about, there isn't enough in the Bank of England. But if I had to do it over as a matter of duty, why, I'd just do it, that's all."

My heart went out to this brave fellow who had kept his promise through such an unprecedented ordeal. I felt as if it were my duty to say something to him, to give some ex­pression to the homage that was deep in my soul. But I could not put my thoughts into words, and so I took his hand in mine there before his comrades, and said nothing. And one after another we all shook his hand, with­out speaking, and we felt rather queer, and the silence was becoming painful, when Bjoervig himself spoke up:

"The coffee is ready, sir."

After supper we brought in our sleeping bags and spread them on the floor, crawled in, and were soon asleep. During the night I chanced to get awake, and looking out of
the corner of the bag I saw Bjoervig sitting by the niche in the wall, now and then put­ting a piece of blubber on the fire, smoking his little pipe, and his eyes fixed on the flames. He did not sleep any that night, and the next night I gave him morphine.

Next day we found a spot by the side of a big rock where the wind had scooped out a pocket. In it we laid the body of Bernt Bentzen. We built a cairn of rocks over it, taking care to make the wall thick and heavy. As I took my place at the head of the grave to speak a few words of tribute to the bravery and faithfulness of the dead man, who had met his fate and was now to find eternal rest in the Arctic which he so well loved, the men stood round with bared heads and two or three of our dogs nestled against the black grave set in the all-white landscape. The mercury fell to forty-four below zero that day, and a strong wind was blowing from off the mountain. The weather was too bitter to work outdoors, and so we kept in shelter. Missing Bjoervig and feel­ing a little anxious about him, I went out to the grave, and found him there, hard at work. He had put up a neat cross and marked it, "B. Bentzen - Dod 2/1, '99." For hours he kept at his self-appointed task, patiently thinking up all the little interstices between the rocks which covered the grave, "Because I want to make sure the bears and foxes don't get him," he said.

Though only a sailorman, Paul Bjoervig has a great love for poetry. There are few good bits of verse in the Scandinavian lan­guages with which he is not familiar. He has an extraordinary memory, too, and he told us that in his long vigil through those two dark and dreadful months he had calmed and comforted himself by reciting aloud, over and over, all the poetry he could remember. He did not admit, but nevertheless we all be­lieved, that but for this solace of poesy, this vent for an overwrought consciousness, we should have found upon our arrival at Fort McKinley one dead man and one mad one. We took Paul with us when, on March 7th, we set out on our northern sledge journey.

It was a hard life, this sledge-traveling in the far north. For eleven successive days we had continuous temperatures ranging from forty to forty-eight below zero. The winds were worse than the cold. One needs all his vitality, all his endurance and resolution, to work with might and main in the rough ice throughout the day and then sleep at night in a frost-filled bag, which in an hour or two becomes puddly and soggy from the thawing produced by the heat of the body. But for myself, I felt better day by day, hardier, bet­ter able to cope with the work and the ex­posure. It was glorious thus to feel one's strength, to fear nothing in the way of hard­ship or exertion, to carry a consciousness of superiority to all the obstacles which nature had placed in our path. I was never happier than in these hard days.

March 20th had come, and we were nearing the eighty-second parallel on the east coast of Crown Prince Rudolph Land. From this on we should have plenty of light, and everything was going well. We had made the expected rate of travel. Our loads were getting lighter and more easily handled. The dogs were better trained and much more ser­viceable than at the beginning of the journey. Better still, ahead of us, glistening in the sun, we could plainly see the outlines of islands hitherto unexplored and unknown. Eager in­deed were we to get to them, and beyond them out upon the great Arctic Sea, to 84°, 87°, 88°, - and even ninety did not seem wholly impossible in case we were willing to take a little risk about ever getting back again.

But pride goeth before a fall. On this very morning which marked the end of the Arctic night and the dawn of the brighter day, a little accident happened. It was a trivial thing in itself, tremendous in its conse­quences. My sledge, carrying 500 pounds of weight, had stuck in a rough place. As usual, I called to the dogs and threw my weight into the harness. A lunge forward, and down into a little crack in the ice - a tiny little crack such as we had crossed every day by the scores - went my right leg. The momentum threw me forward upon my face, and my shin-bone received the full force of the thrust. At first I thought the leg was broken in two or three places, so great was the pain. For a few moments I felt faint. But when I had picked myself up and found that I had nothing worse than a bruise and sprain, I counted myself very lucky, and went on my way as contented as if nothing had hap­pened. Next morning of course I was sore and lame, and the prudent thing would have been to stop for a week or ten days and get all right again. But I kept going, the leg getting worse and worse, and I suppose I should have been rash enough to go so far that I never could have gotten back had not something else happened. Fortunately, this "other thing did happen, and it came down upon us like a thief in the night, in the shape of an ice-pressure which acted just like an earthquake under our camp and destroyed sledges, dogs, stores, and instruments in the twinkling of an eye, and came within an ell of getting all of us.

It is easy to fight. It is glorious to strug­gle. The hardest thing in the world to do is to surrender. But there was just one course left open for us, and that was a re­treat to headquarters as speedily as possible. By heroic work, rapid progress was made; and though delayed by a three days' storm at Fort McKinley, we arrived at Harmsworth House on April 9th, and to at least one of our party the little hovel seemed a palace.

After a fortnight's rest, the Norwegians took to the field again, in charge of Mr. Baldwin, the meteorologist. Up to this time the eastward frontiers of the archipelago were unknown, and their extent was a moot ques­tion among geographers. As a result of Mr. Baldwin's trip the map is complete. Upon the new lands found by my party in the ex­treme north, upon those found by Mr. Bald­win in the east, and also upon a number of islands surveyed the following July in our steamer, we had the pleasure of placing the names of a few American scientists and public men who had in one way or another displayed a friendly interest in the expedi­tion. Another important part of our work was the correction of the maps made by Payer and Jackson. The former had ex­tended Wilczek Land much too far north, and was unaware of the separate existence of Whitney Island. Running far northward from Wilczek Land, Payer thought he saw an enormous glacier - Dove glacier – indicating a land of continental dimensions to the east­ward. Dr. Nansen had in part disproved this conjecture; we disproved it wholly, and completed the map of that region with approximate accuracy. In the southwest, where Frederick Jackson thought he saw from a distance two islands, named Brady and Royal Societies, we found nine islands.

From April 9th to July 27th was a long and dreary wait, especially for the man who was compelled to lie all the time upon the floor and who could get out-doors only when on rare good days he was carried out to bask in the sunshine while lying upon the roof of the storehouse. But everything save the universe itself comes to an end, and one bright, happy morning the good steamer "Capella," chartered by my brother Arthur, steamed up to Harmsworth House. In a few hours we were aboard, reading letters from home and on the way thither ourselves.

Originally published in McClure's Magazine in February of 1900.

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