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All communications regarding this manuscript should be addressed to

CHRISTY & MOORE LTD., Literary Agents. THE OUTER TEMPLE, LONDON, W.C.2.

Telegrams: Lecturing, London. Telephone: CITY 7659.

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Chapter VI. How the The Outfitting and the Voyage to Wrangell

At Nome the party gave the finishing touches to their simple outfit; all decisions were based upon the extensive Arctic experience of Knight and Maurer. They never reported to me exactly what they were taking and I never worried about the omission, for my views were the same as theirs. What these were can best he made clear by repeating a story which Knight used to tell when trying to explain the Arctic to people who had never been north. I have told the story myself in print but never so fully as I shall now, for the lesson of it has never been so pertinent.

In the late winter of 1917 Knight found himself one of a party of four who were traveling with two dog teams at about 80.5° North Latitude and 110° West Longitude. There were two other white men in the party, Harold Hoice and myself, and an Eskimo boy of about twenty, Emiu or Split-the-Wind. For both Knight and Noice it was towards the end of the second year of their Arctic experience. Although Emiu was an Eskimo, he had really no more experience than they, for he had been brought up in the city of Nome and had hunted only rabbits and ptarmigan somewhat as a farm boy might hunt rabbits and grouse farther south. I was in command and It was my ninth winter of polar travel. Both officially and by experience I was in command and our general course was planned by me. Apart from that general consideration, our progress and success depended about equally upon each one of us four.

According to the devious course one would have to travel by reason of the configuration of lands and seas, we were when the trouble came upon us about seven hundred miles from our

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own nearest ship and about the same distance from the nearest other human beings, the Eskimos of Victoria Island. We were on the open ocean, a hundred and forty miles from the last land we had seen, Meighen Island, and more than a hundred miles northwest of the nearest land, Ellef Ringnes. The ice we were traveling over was in sluggish motion, the direction depending upon the winds which not only drove it before them but also broke it into fragments, some the size of a piano, some as big as a farm and the largest perhaps fifteen or twenty miles across. Most of this ice had been formed the previous year and was heavy; but some was only a few days old, thin and treacherous. There were also long lanes of open water between the floes, yards or miles in width and vast, manycornered areas here and there. Although Some of the floes were a hundred feet thick and they averaged only a little heavier than a good deal heavier than the polar ice as a whole. say four or five feet. The average thickness of winter ice in the Beaufort Sea would be about four or five feet.

The ice was exceptionally heavy, but we did not realize that so much through its appearance as through the comparative scarcity of seals and the entire absence of polar bears. It was one of the poorest game districts I had ever traversed, and the poorest ever seen by my companions. But they were cheerful, for they relied upon our uniform experience that on the polar sea the areas devoid of game, while possible anywhere, are never of very large extent. One can always find game by merely traveling doggedly ahead in any constant direction. Vacillating and zigzagging might confine you within such an area but a straight course would will certainly take you out.

But in this case consistent constant progress became impossible, for two of our party of four were became seriously ill. Both Knight and Noice had been complaining of lassitude, pain in their

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joints, discomfort and gloom. This Their gradually developing pessimism was especially disturbing to me, for both were normally of smooth and optimistic temper. That the Eskimo boy was also becoming pessimistic did not worry me, for he was of the mental type which takes its color readily from others. Through two years I had found him contented when others were contented and depressed when they were depressed.

Gloom is an early symptom of scurvey and so we began to suspect that disease. In any case, there was something so seriously wrong that we had it seemed wiser to turn back. The illness alone would not have led us to that decision, nor would the scarcity of game without the illness. But the combination of the two stopped us, although we had been pressing forward eagerly on one of the most important journeys of our five-year expedition. We had already penetrated far into the undiscovered ocean. To the pure scientist it is of equal importance to find land or to find the absence of land in an area being explored. One fact is as significant as the other for a larger knowledge of the earth. But there are few so purely scientific that fame is meaningless. The point of view of the crowd is that the discovery of land is success but the discovery of the absence of land failure. They forget that the explorer can not alter what he finds and should not be held responsible for anything but a true report of the nature of his discovery. It seemed to all of us that we had the approval of the crowd almost within our grasp for the signs of land not far ahead were becoming more numerous every day. We saw ourselves as its discoverers and my companions were reluctant to turn back. But the decision was mine and I believed our lives were in danger. So we turned

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and began the struggle back towards land Ringnes Island.

I have frequently heard Knight tell the story of the turning back and the vicissitudes of the journey. towards land. He always emphasized how sorry he was that I decided to retreat go back, saying he thought arguing that we could have continued safely and that we might have made as successful a cure of his disease on the new land we would have discovered ahead as on the already known land to which we did return. That was the optimism of the real explorer. In that respect, among others he was better fitted to command than I whose orders turned us back.

The return to land across a hundred and twenty-five miles of chaotic ice was both difficult and in reality dangerous. Frequently we had to make long detours to get around open water and to find a place where the floe we were on touched the next floe to the southeast of us so that we could step across. The illness of the two men was steadily developing, but and we were afraid to pause although for we needed fresh meat for the cure. We might have secured it a hundred miles from land, by camping and hunting as we had often done before. But game signs were few, and I felt that under the particular conditions, we had better not risk a delay at sea, but press on towards rely either on the scale of the shore lead for a better prospect of seals. or the caribou of the land. If the shore lead were closed were closed when we got to it we would search for caribou on the land just beyond.

It became clearer every day that the disease was scurvy. I had held for many years the theory that scurvy could be cured by fresh meat and we had more or less proved it already on the expedition. According to that theory, Emiu and I were in no danger from the disease, for we had been eating fresh meat all winter. The other two had been living away from us on groceries or else on fresh meat, the antiscorbutic value of which had been destroyed by over-cooking. Had we found a large patch of level ice with indications of seals, or open water with seals swimming in it, we should have camped to hunt and attempt attempt the cure. with seal meat.

Last edit 25 days ago by Samara Cary
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