Confronted with unanimous opposition, Greely said he would wait another forty-eight hours, and unless there were "remarkable changes in our drift," he would order the move to Greenland. He confessed regret for being alone in his opinion. But, he wrote, "my duty to the expedition, the government and myself demands that I lose no time in such emergency." Unable to divine just how much weight this formal explanation could have among the men, he went further, disclosing a more nagging fear, calling attention to the "continued criticism of our movements which showed a mutinous disposition." Those who shared the tepee with him were excepted. His remark applied "to the other detachment. I heard mutinous talk through the canvas." Out of the commander's sight, Kislingbury scribbled his private view. It was heartfelt: "God knows there is not one here who had not done his level best to please him [Greely]. Great God, does he call it doing his duty to attempt his ridiculous plan of abandoning half our supplies and moving over floating ice because he has heard the men talking about him? Bah!"
More days passed. Snow, dense fog, and a steadily vanishing sun ruled out noontime observations. "It is terrible to float in this manner," wrote Pavy, "in the snow, fog and dark. This seems to me like a nightmare in one of Edgar Allan Poe's stories."
But the nightmare was only beginning.
In the months to come, the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition would engage in a battle of man against nature, and man against man, unlike any they had ever known: an epic of human achievement and human frailty, of heroism, hardship, bad luck, and worse judgment. Before it was done, their story, and those of their would-be rescuers, would encompass starvation, mutiny, suicide, shipwreck, execution-and cannibalism.
The facts have been only partly known until now and full of dark riddles, but freshly discovered journals, reports, and personal correspondence, as well as already public materials, have come together to provide, for the first time, the intimate, day-to-day details of the men's thoughts and feelings, and of the events of that ill-fated voyage, from controversial birth to bizarre and tragic finale.
So follow in the wake of men who left their homes or Army posts and who had no idea how cruelly the Arctic could play games with them. They would be tested in an environment that is to this day as forbidding as any on our planet: the bleak and convoluted shores of northern Ellesmere Island; the treacherous winds and currents of Kane Basin and Smith Sound; the ice-clad rocks of Bedford Pim Island; the inhospitable soil of Cape Sabine; the no-man's-land of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition.
Reprinted from Ghosts of Cape Sabine: The Harrowing True Story of the Greely Expedition by Leonard F. Guttridge by permission of Putnam Pub. Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Leonard F. Guttridge. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
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