The Twillingate Sun, August 2, 1884.
Terrible Tidings from The Far North
Transcribed by George White in 2003.
Return of the GREELY Relief Expedition. – Rescue of Lieut. GREELY and Five of his Companions. – Shocking Death of the other Nineteen. – Records of Observation and Exploration all Saved.
The terrible result of another reckless attempt to add something more to the cause of science, has just been revealed to us by the return of the GREELY Relief Expedition. Between 9 and 10 o’clock this morning, the flagship of the fleet – the steamer Thetis, Captain SEELY, - followed by the steamers Bear and Loch Garry, - made their appearance in the Narrows and slowly steamed into port. Their unexpected appearance of course, caused a good deal of speculation, as no one expected to see them back again, or to even hear of their movements, before the 1st of September at least!
It was not long however, before the result of their mission got whispered abroad, and in a little while the principal facts connected with the melancholy fate of more than two thirds of Lieutenant GREELY’s party became the all – absorbing subject of conversation everywhere. As soon as the Lieutenant landed, we visited him at the office of the American Consul, T.N. MOLLOY, Esq., and obtained from him some information respecting the hardship, suffering and death endured by his brave companions since they started on their disastrous journey South in August last.
They passed the two years without any loss of life or accident. During the time they took observations in all the departments of scientific work and sent expeditions Northeast and Southwest. They first observed the highest yet attained, which they named Cape Robert Lincoln in 83 deg., 25 min., or 9 min. farther North than NARE’s highest point. This point was observed from Lockwood Island, the highest point yet reached. The Island was named after Lieutenant J.B. LOCKWOOD, 23rd United States Infantry Acting Signal Officer, and the point of observation was called Cape Robert Lincoln, after the son of the late President LINCOLN.
The second expedition under Lieutenant GREELY surveyed the country to the Southwest of Grinnell Land, to the Westward of which an open sea or Western ocean was discovered in about 81 deg. N. latitude, together with a large lake in its vicinity.
The party started South on the 9th of August last fall, with the steam launch and three boats, and upon short supply of provisions. It was hoped that the stores on both sides of Kennedy Channel, Smith’s Sound and Smith’s Channel, would have been available. Unfortunately, the upper Channel and Sound were so difficult of navigation, that they had to abandon their boats and take to the ice on foot, over which they made the best of their way South, availing themselves of the rations or stores, deposited at Carl Ritter Bay at Washington Irving Island and Cape Sabine - still proceeding South until they reached Baird Inlet on the 29th of September – a distance of over two hundred miles at least, from the point of departure.
The difficulty to be contended with was the impossibility, either from the excessive weakness of the party, or from the condition of the channel about 25 miles across, to reach Littleton Island, where stores were reasonably expected to be at hand, independently of the large supplies of coal and provisions stored at Port Poulke and the various marked points on the Eastern side of the channel.
In the hope of being near Littleton Island, and within reach of supposed rescue, the party moved back to Cape Sabine where they went into winter quarters on the 15th of October. Here they were discovered by the Thetis and Bear on the 22nd of June last – that is to say seven survivors (including the commander, Lieutenant GREELEY), having lost the remainder of the expedition, 18 officers and men, by scurvy and privation, but chiefly by the latter.
The first man died of scurvy on the 15th of April; the others on the 7th, 29th, and then rapidly, with few intervening days between each. Death appeared in all cases to be easy and painless. They spent at Cape Sabine a period of about eight months. From the 14th of May to the 22nd of June, their subsistence consisted of such material as could be picked up – shrimp, seaweed, rock lichens, and so forth. They were rescued by the Thetis and Bear in the midst of a severe gale. Lieutenant GREELEY and four of the survivors being so completely exhausted at the time, as it was considered extremely doubtful whether they could have existed another twenty-four hours!
We are indebted to Captain Frank ASH, ice pilot of the SS Bear, for the annexed intensely interesting account of the relief voyage and rescue.
Rescue of the Survivors.
The Story as Told by Captain ASH.
We sailed from St. John’s on May 4th, bound to the Arctic, but not knowing how far we should have to go. Had a fair passage to Disco, arriving here on the 15th May. The harbor was still frozen up. We made fast to the edge of the ice about a mile from the village; ice three feet thick. Left Disco on the 21st bound North, accompanied by two whalers; but the next day we lost sight of them in the ice astern. There were then three whalers ahead of us, which we got in company within a few days. On the 29th, we anchored in Uppernavik. At this time, five whalers were in company with us. The Thetis and Loch Garry arrived there the same day. In the evening we all started for the North. The sun never sets at this season and shows a good altitude at midnight; seven whalers in company with us now: Arctic, Aurora, Wolf, Polynia, Vova Zembla, Cornwallis and Irine, all made fast to Duck Island on June 6th, and amused ourselves by visiting each other and shooting everything that came in range with a feather on it!
June 11th - We all left Duck Islands to begin our passage through Melville Bay, and then some got separated. The Arctic, Aurora, Wolf, Thetis and Bear, kept company round the Bay, arriving at Cape York June 18th the Bear first. We started, Lieutenant COLWELL and four men, with sled and light dory, to go on shore and communicate with the natives in case there were any, and to ascertain if there were any news of the GREELY party. The whalers then went on, and shortly after, the flagship ordered us to move, the latter waiting to pick up our men and to meet us at Littleton Island.
The weather here became thick. Here the Aurora got a nip, lowered all her boats and hauled them away from the ship on to the floe. We did not speak to her after, but do not think she was hurt. We all worked North through the fog, and got to Carey Islands on the 22nd June. Landed there and examined the cache left there by Sir George NARES in 1875, and by BEBES in 1882. There is also a whaleboat there in good condition. As soon as the boat returned to the ship, we hoisted her to the davits, and at 11:30 pm., cast off and started for Cape Parry, intending to land there; but as there was ice close to the shore, we changed our course for Littleton Island, passing Cape Alexander at 11 am. The weather was fine. The Arctic, Aurora, and Wolfe also left the Islands and headed across Paffin’s Bay in open water.
We reached Littleton Island about noon, and found the Thetis there, but no sign or word on the Coast of any of the GREELY party. Took on board Lieutenant COLWELL and crew. At 3 pm., cast loose and started for Cape Sabine, the Cape and West shore showing out quite plain in the clear sky. At 7 pm., we made both ships fast to a large heavy floe in Payer Harbor, and some of the officers and men left the ships for the shore in different directions. An officer from the Thetis found the record on Brevoost Island, stating that GREELY and party were all well, and that they left Fort Conger on August 9th and landed on Baird Inlet on the 29th of September, after driving about on the ice nearly three weeks in the vicinity of Cape Sabine, and also where to find his winter camp.
Our steam launch being out and ready, we were immediately sent away for the camp, which was about three miles to the Northwest of Cape Sabine. In the meantime, the Thetis blew her whistle to recall some of her men, and they heard it at the camp, and as we neared it we saw one man make his appearance where he could look down towards the Cape. He saw the boat and came down to where we were going to land. Seeing only the one man and the way he staggered down over the snow, we thought it a bad omen. On jumping ashore the first question was how they all were! His answer was: “There are seven of us left yet.”
Sad news and a sudden reverse to our cheerful spirits of a quarter of an hour ago; but it was no time to reflect. We must try to save the living. We jumped into the launch at once and passed some food that we were prepared with, and immediately started for the camp. It was blowing a strong gale of wind at the time. The camp was blown down except a short prop under one end, and the poor fellows had not strength enough to put it up. What a sight to look at! – Six men laying there starving and not able to help themselves! Pointing to one, they said he was dying; but he rallied and is doing well now. We cut a hole in the canvas to give us room and commenced to feed them, serving them all round gradually; not letting them have as much as they wanted.
In the meantime, the launch was sent off to the Bear which was coming near, and the Thetis was also close at hand, to report and bring assistance. Captain EMERY and Doctor AMOS and a crew, came onshore and a fire was made and the sufferers were attended to by Doctor AMOS [Note: this could be AMES. gw.] with plenty of warm milk and other suitable nourishment, and some of the party were soon able to stand up and stagger about.
In the meantime, commander SEELY, (from the flagship), and some of his officers, had arrived on the scene, where everything was being done to relieve them, and he began to superintend the removal of the party to the ship’s stretchers, which were brought on shore, and the men were carried to the boats by the Blue Jackets. Two men were only able to walk, or were strong enough to be led down by a man each side of them, to the boats, and were taken off; some on board each ship. It was then near midnight, the sun shining and the wind blowing a fierce gale, fortunately off the shore, which kept the ice, now not far away, from coming in on us.
We then proceeded, with a good crew from ship, to unearth the dead bodies, and wrap them in blankets over their clothes, and secure them and take them off; a part to each ship. Ten were buried on a ridge of level ground, side by side, about 300 yards from camp, with a very high mountain just on the back. Two others were lying a little distance below the camp, (the survivors not having enough strength to bury them with the rest); making twelve bodies taken on board the ships. Four others were buried on the ice pack from the winter house; but the ice had broken off and taken them with it. EDWARDS an Eskimo, was drowned while out hunting. It was supposed a piece of ice had cut a hole through his kayak and she filled. Sergeant RICE died on the snow, between the camp and Cape Isabella, while he and another man were trying to get rations from the latter Cape.
There were 250 rations left there by BEBEE in 1882. Total number of deaths – eighteen since the party reached Cape Sabine last fall, and another man, J. ELLISON, who was one of the party trying to get these before mentioned rations. He got badly frostbitten during the winter. His both feet dropped off at the ankles and all his fingers dried up hard. I saw a Doctor take them off on board the Bear – all off - both hands, and he also lost the top of his nose. After he was onboard the ship a few days, he seemed to be getting on finely, and was in good spirits, but in a little while he took another change and went wrong in the head, finally going to his long home on the 8th of June, leaving now six survivors of the 25 that started out.
On June 23rd, as nothing more could be done at Cape Sabine, the flagship started, the Bear following, homeward bound. We touched in at Littleton Island and stayed there a few hours. Thence we proceeded to the Southward. Just as we were leaving Littleton Island, an omeek came alongside, full of females, except two men. One old dame was tattooed, as much as we could see of her. Some of the others were good looking, but required a good deal of trimming up, their long hair reaching to the waist, and as black as a Raven’s wing! When they laughed they showed a fine set of teeth, as white as ivory, which many a city belle would envy if she saw them. We gave them some knives and other things that were serviceable to them, which they were highly pleased with. We then waved a good-bye and steamed away.
On the 25th we met some ice at Hakluyt Island and were stopped there awhile; also off Cape Parry, and ten hours inside of Wolslenhohme Island, then passed within two miles of Petowak Glacier, to Conical Rock, where we stopped and left records.
June 27th – Just North of Conical Rock, we passed the other seven whalers steering North. We stopped the ships and Captain DEUCHERS came onboard. He stayed half an hour and then all started again. We were stopped off Cape York, and several times while crossing Melville Bay, by the ice, and at times by the thick fog. We fell in on the 30th with the Alert and Loch Garry 20 miles West of the Devil’s Thumb, fast to a large floe. We also made fast and received our mails. When the chance offered, the flagship took the lead, the other three ships following South.
We had several stoppages, but arrived at Uppernavik on July 22nd, and took on board coals that the Loch Garry had landed there on her way up. The Alert and Loch Gary were then ordered to Disco to await our arrival there.
July 4th – We left Uppernavik and saw no ice on our passage to Disco, where we arrived on the 6th. The Alert and Loch Garry were lying there. The latter hauled alongside the flagship to give her coals. When finished with her, she hauled alongside the Bear, and after supplying us, hauled away and anchored in the harbor. Frederick JANSON, Eskimo, was taken on shore at Godhaven and interred. The burial service was conducted by an Eskimo.
July 8th – Jos. ELLISON who lost both feet and all his fingers by frost bite, last November, died at 3 am. this morning, making 19 deaths and leaving 6 alive. The corpse was prepared and placed in alcohol with the others.
July 19th – The flagship got underway, and steamed slowly out of Godhaven, the other three ships following in line. When fairly outside, the Loch Garry took the Alert in tow, the former ship being fast and the other slow. We took our positions, and with the flagship leading, steamed away for St. John’s, wind North, blowing light breeze, weather fine and water smooth. Nothing of note occurred on the passage. We saw Bacalieu light at 10 o’clock last night, the weather being clear, but thick fog set in at midnight. At 7am., this morning, we began to creep in.
Names of the lost,
When they died:
William H. CROSS, Sgt., G.S. January 18th.
Frederick HAMAN, April 4th.
David LYNN, Sgt., C., April 6th.
James B. LOCKWOOD, 1st. Lieutenant, 23rd inf., April 9th.*
George W. RICE, Sgt. S. Ser., April 9th.
W.F. JEWEL, Sgt., S. Ser., April 12th.
Jeans EDWARDS, Eskimo, April 30th.
William A. ELLIS, Prvt., 2nd C., May 19th.
William WISTLER, Prvt., 9th. Inf., May 21st.
David RALSTON, Sgt., S, Ser., May 22nd.
Edward ISRAEL, Sgt., S. Ser., May 27th.
Fred F. KISLINGBORY, 1st. Lieutenant, 11th. Inf. June 1.
Nicholas SAILOR, Corp., 2nd. C., June 2nd.
Octave PAVEY, Acting Asst. Sgt., June 3rd.
Charles B. Henry, Prvt., 5th C., June 3rd.
Jacob BENDER, Prvt., 9th. Inf., June 3rd.
H. S. GARDNER, Sgt., S. Ser., June 12th.
R.K. SNIDER, Prvt., 1st. Art., June 19th.
Joseph ELLISON, Corp., 10th. Inf., July 8th.
* Reached highest Northern latitude by four miles. Latitude 83 deg., 24.5 min.