stefansson-wrangel-09-25-006-058

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- 59 -

as well all be indoors. We did not stand watch and we knew every moment of
the night that it was only chance whether we lived through. We did but that
was no credit to us. The ice all around us was so broken up and tumbled about
during the night that the footprints of a bear which had been a mile away in
the evening were only about three hundred yards away the next morning. The ice
had not only telescoped to that extent but nearly every cake of it had been
turned one or many somersaults during the night, except fortunately the one
that our tent stood on. The percentage of danger on such a night is doubtless
equal to that of a severe battle. That we can admit this and still maintain
that polar exploration is not very dangerous depends on the fact that such
gales do not come more than once in several years.

In a two-year diary Knight uses now for the first time the
expression "blowing a howling gale." Presumably this was as bad a gale as the
one I have just tried to describe. The weather had been good the previous
day and it is possible that the party took no special precautions in select-
ing their campsite. It is also possible that with the best judgment no
exceptionally safe camp was available. The first is the more likely supposition
for one does not take precautions every day against events not likely to
occur more than once or twice in a decade.

The distance from Wrangell Island to Siberia is so short
and the conditions of the journey so familiar to all polar travelers, that we
know one of two things must have happened. The party broke through treacherous
ice in the day's travel or they lost their lives at night under conditions
where ability and experience count for almost nothing and chance is everything.

It lessens the tragedy of the rest of Lorne Knight's
story that during a month or two he did not consider that there was danger and
that when he realized the danger he took it philosophically. His diary is
cheerful and Ada Blackjack says that his manner was cheerful to the end.

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