The Twillingate Sun, August 2, 1884.
Further Particulars of the Disaster
Transcribed by George White in 2003
We were fortunate enough to meet Lieutenant GREELEY again this morning at the Office of The United States Consul, and to obtain from him some additional information, respecting the frightful experiences of his party after their arrival at Baird Inlet and Cape Sabine, from Lady Franklin Bay. The Lieutenant, who is every inch a gentleman, wears an open, manly expression of countenance, and at once impresses one with a fixed belief in his sincerity, candor and sterling worth generally. He seemed to shrink from a recital of the tale of suffering and death already briefly told in these columns, but nevertheless, when asked for “something more”, he expressed himself willing to furnish us and our numerous readers, with all the particulars relating to this subject possible under present circumstances.
In answer to a question as to how they spent their last terrible winter up there near Cape Sabine, Lieutenant Greely informed us that the party lived from the 1st of November to the 23rd of May in a miserable stone hut, 25 by 17 feet, the walls being only high enough to barely allow the men to sit up in bed. From August 9th, the date on which the journey South was commenced until their rescue, they never had more than enough fuel for cooking purposes, this being wood which they utilized as stated, twice a day. By the use of a pattern stove, an ordinary barrel was made to do the daily cooking for twenty-five men, and on no occasion was a larger supply available. For light they were compelled to make use of a miserable Eskimo lamp containing a single wick, dipped in seal oil, which burnt about eight hours a day.
The sun was lost sight of on the 25th of October and did not again make its appearance until February 16th. Even then, no warmth whatever could be derived therefrom, as its rays did not strike the wretched hut until the 1st of March, owing to the high hills which intervened. The only news received by the party from the outside world during all this time was gleaned from scraps of paper taken from a box of lemons, landed by the steamer Proteus before she got crushed by the ice. These pieces of paper were dried and carefully handled, so as to admit of their being kept and read over and over again by all the party.
The lemons were frozen and in a good state of preservation. It is hardly necessary to say, they proved of inestimable value to the men in their present weak and debilitated condition. Every Sunday, Lieutenant GREELY gave a quarter of a lemon to each person. Bread and meat were issued daily. Other stores were served out every Thursday. The meals on Sunday were slightly larger than on other days. This arrangement was decided upon, simply with a view to break the monotony and leave something for the poor fellows to look forward to at the end of each week.
Lieutenant GREELY, it appears, never lost his presence of mind for a moment, nor can we discover a solitary instance, even under the most trying circumstances, in which he acted otherwise than in such a manner as to inspire his companions with the utmost confidence in his ability to do everything that mortal man could do for them at such a terrible place. Notwithstanding his own great weakness of body and anxiety of mind, he labored hard to call off the attention of his men from a contemplation of the frightful situation in which they were placed; and with that object before him, he inaugurated a series of lectures and other intellectual amusements, all of which had a highly beneficial effect for the time, on the flagging spirits of the party.
The Lieutenant himself, managed to fill in two hours a day by lecturing on subjects of personal interest, including “The United States – Their Products,” &c., Each State supplied data for one or more lectures, and at the close of the Lieutenant’s two hour talk, other members of the party expressed their views on the various matters brought under their consideration by the lecturer.
Mr. George W. RICE, photographer, about whose self – sacrificing and noble hearted conduct we shall have occasion to refer at some length presently, occupied another hour daily, either in reading some suitable selection or in relating the most amusing and attractive recollections of his happier days. Then Doctor PAVY would follow at times, with an historic lecture of much merit, although delivered to such a small and ghastly audience, and thus six days of the week were occupied.
The seventh, they devoted to the hearing of each other’s experiences. On Saturday, the moving experiences by flood and field, in the lives of the party, were recalled and repeated, the program being arranged so as to enable each person to speak in turn. In this way the dreary weeks and months dragged slowly and hopelessly along, without leaving a ray of hope to light up the souls of that doomed company of victims to the cause of science.
The most trying position of any individual member of the party was that occupied by Sergeant BRAINARD, the clerk in charge of the provisions. Placed in a similar position, not one man in ten thousand perhaps, would have displayed the same amount of moral courage that he continued to manifest every day, until death removed him from his post of duty. While issuing rations to the party, which was the work that befell his lot, he found himself, day after day exposed to the temptation to partake of more than his share of the rapidly decreasing supply, but, he acted with heroic fidelity, and never in one solitary instance abused the confidence reposed in him by his comrades. Indeed, he must have made use of less food than the allotted amount, as the supplies under his care turned out, on the approach of spring, fully 10% more than the most sanguine of the party had ventured to anticipate.
And here we are reminded of the sorrowful and reverential manner in which Lieutenant GREELY refers to the death of Mr. George W. RICE, the photographer of the party. To use Lieutenant’s own words: “He was one of the noblest and most heroic men that ever lived!” Mr. RICE, graduated by a lawyer and being naturally clever, had in prospect a brilliant professional career, but having embarked on this ill – fated expedition, he sacrificed everything, including life itself. The brave and generous fellow wore himself out in the service of the party, and laid all he had to offer upon the altar of friendship.
He died in an attempt to bring from Bafin Inlet one hundred and twelve pounds of English beef brought up from Cape Leabella [?] and abandoned when Sergeant ELLISON's feet and hands were so badly frozen. This meat, if obtained, would have saved the lives of seven or eight more of the party, and realizing this, Mr. RICE volunteered to attempt its recovery, in spite of all the dangers by which the hazardous undertaking was surrounded. As soon as the result became known, every one of the party recognized the fact that poor RICE had sacrificed his life in their behalf, and of all the sad deaths that occurred among them, his was the most deeply, and if possible, the most deservedly deplored.
But why make distinctions? – They were a band of heroes, every one of them! As such, they suffered and died without a murmur, we mean the nineteen whose names appeared in those columns yesterday. Here is a list of the survivors. They are still alive, but not because they spared themselves in any way, or displayed less heroism than their deceased comrades in suffering and privation: - Lieut. Adolphus W. GREELY, Henry BIEDERBICK, Francis LONG, David L. BRAINARD, Maurice CONNELL.