stefansson-wrangel-09-25-008-016

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- 16 -

be the key to the tragedy which he never suspected but which we know must
have occurred in one of two ways. The gale may have broken up the ice in such
chaotic fashion that death resulted immediately, either by the party being
thrown into open water or crushed between the massive tumbling floes; or else
death came, without warning or even premonition, through the form of accident
that has been responsible for more polar tragedies than any other - breaking
through thin ice and drowning. Even in mid-winter the ice on the northern
sea is in constant slow motion, the floes drifting before the wind and
current, spinning around sluggishly and leaving patches of open water between.
The danger comes when these patches freeze over and especially if the newly
formed and treacherous ice is covered by a white and uniform blanketing of
snow that has settled upon it fluffily in a calm. On some afternoon, the
party may have traveled too far into the evening twilight and may have failed
to recognize danger because of the combined disguise of snow and darkness.
If the ice broke when the sledge was far from any solid floe, their death was
catastrophically sudden. If they were near some heavy ice the sledge and
outfit may have been lost while some or all of the men were temporarily
saved. The former is the likelier alternative and less painful to con-
template. But in any case, we have reason to believe that Crawford, Galle
and Maurer faced the situation as bravely on the sea ice as Knight did on
the land.

There can be no braver document than Lorne Knight's
diary after he realized that death was coming. It softens the tragedy a
little to know that for the first two or three months he considered himself
no less safe than he thought his comrades were. When he realized his danger
he took it stoically. What he wrote is cheerful and Ada Blackjack says that
his manner was cheerful to the end. There is not a whimper in the whole

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