stefansson-wrangel-09-25-006-056

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- 57 -

have expected for them a speed of ten miles a day when weather did not prevent
traveling. The ice between Wrangell and the mainland breaks frequently, so
we would have expected numerous detours to get around patches of open water
or young ice, lengthening the total traveling distance from ninety to perhaps
a hundred and fifty miles. At ten miles a day this would make fifteen
traveling days. Actual delays in camp to wait for the freezing of water are
rare in January because of the intense frost that bridges a lead in fifteen
to thirty hours, although common enough in the milder months of April and
November.

In normal weather the competent judge would have foreseen
only one danger to life, that of walking on thin ice and death by drowning.
In ten years of ice travel I have had a dozen narrow escapes and most of my
companions have had several. This included Knight who to my knowledge had had
several narrow escapes. I am not sure that Maurer had ever actually been in
danger from thin ice but I know that he understood the conditions and the
theory. But with a party who are in a great hurry the danger is correspondingly
increased. They might travel late into the gathering twilight some afternoon.
Perhaps there was a light snowfall the day before, which spread a white
covering over treacherous ice that would otherwise have given warning through
its color, gray or black. We have quoted above Knight's entry where he
describes himself and Crawford making a road through several hundred yards of
rough ice to reach what they thought a broad expanse of solid ice but found
to be treacherous young ice covered with a recent snowfall, thus compelling
them to return. The traveling party may have met exactly such conditions in
worse light and may not have realized their danger until too late. Again,
they may have recognized the danger, may have estimated it carefully, tried it
because they were in a hurry and erred as it is always humanly possible to do.

On pp. 295-298 of "The Friendly Arctic" I am, fortunately,

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