stefansson-wrangel-09-30-007

ReadAboutContentsHelp

Pages

stefansson-wrangel-09-30-007-001
Needs Review

stefansson-wrangel-09-30-007-001

APPENDIX VIII IX

A Six Month DRIFT on an ice Floe IN THE BEAUFORT SEA*

(By Storker t. Storkerson, in Maclean's Magazine, March 15 and April 1, 1920.)

When in 1914 I was with Vilhjalmur Stefansson on the first trip across the Beaufort Sea from Martin Point, Alaska, to Banks Island, it was a matter of considerable annoyance to me while/we were living off the country to have to haul heavily meat-laden sleds through the soft snow in the spring. I could never see any necessity after our groceries were gone to have more than one or two days' rations on our sleds, because it appeared to me evident that when we needed meat and stopped to look for it it could always be obtained.

While the Commander and I had the same ideas on the subject, our other companion, Ole Andreasen, continued pessimistic. When he saw a seal he thought we had better get it because no one knew what might happen or when we would see another. So the Commander killed it and a good many besides to please him. This resulted in a great amount of useless hard work as in the latter part of the spring, when warm weather came, the snow was soft and the heavily-laden sled would sink deep in. At times it would take us several hours to travel a quarter of a mile. This could all have been avoided if our comrade had been of the same attitude of mind as the Commander and I. Work would have been considerably less, as the sled would have been lighter, and naturally our speed of traveling would have been greater than it actually was.

This skeptical attitude of each fresh lot of men towards the Commander's plan to live off the country on his exploring trips caused us a good many inconveniences. The new men never were willing to leave camp and start to live off the country right away. They always wanted to have at

*These magazine articles are reprinted here because they show what sort of school it was in which Lorne Knight had been trained for the work of arctic exploration.

Last edit about 1 month ago by Samara Cary
stefansson-wrangel-09-30-007-002
Needs Review

stefansson-wrangel-09-30-007-002

2

starting as much food on the sleds as we could possibly take with us. Once broken into the meat diet these men were all good and if we could have retained them throughout the expedition the later sled trips might have been different in outfit, and I am sure the results would have been better; but, as we were continually breaking in new men, we had to start out from our headquarters each time with the same kind of food that previous Arctic explorers had carried and rely upon teaching our men our method of living off the country gradually. Always when the men returned from the trips they were enthusiastic about the life they had lived and the meat diet. They got to like the kind of meat and they said they had never felt better in their lives.

PREPARING FOR OUR SPRING WORK

What had been the rule for previous years was also to be the rulw the winter of 1917 and 1918. A couple of our men were willing enough to start living on meat right away, but the majority, including of course the new men that were engaged the summer of 1917, said that the meat diet might be all right and, while they had no objection to living it when the time came, they wanted as much other food taken along as possible. Although we knew it to be a waste of energy to haul sleds loaded with rations, we had to do it in order to make our men feel safe and to satisfy their individual food prejudices which depended on the variety of food they had been used to - the less the variety they had been used to the greater the prejudice against trying anything new.

In January the preparations for the spring exploratory work of 1918 were progressing well under the direction of Captain Hadley and it now looked as though we could easily leave headquarters for Cross Island, the starting point we had chosen for the ice journey, at the time we had first planned - . In journeys such as we planned it is

Last edit 2 months ago by Samara Cary
stefansson-wrangel-09-30-007-003
Needs Review

stefansson-wrangel-09-30-007-003

3

important to start by the first daylight after the midwinter darkness so as to have the advantage of the low temperatures which then prevail for cementing quickly together the ice that is broken now and again by the gales.

STEFANSSON TAKEN ILL

Five days later, on January 9th, when the preparations were nearly completed, an Indian messenger arrived from the east, bringing a letter from the Commander saying he had been taken ill at the Mackenzie and now was in bed at Herschel Island, to which place he requested me to come immediately.

So, leaving the remaining work again in the care of Captain Hadley, I started for Herschel Island, where I arrived on January 24th, finding the Commander in bed and suffering from the latter stages of typhoid fever, from which disease, by the account of himself and others, he was gettingbetter but he was still a pretty sick man. Immediately on my arrival he was anxious to talk about the affairs of the expedition and commenced asking how the work of preparing our equipment was progressing and discussing our plans for the proposed work, which had been to start north from Cross Island at north latitude 70.5°, west longitude 148°, with all our available force of men, sleds and dogs, and proceed to north latitude 75° or 76° , thence on a great circle course west towards Wrangel Island or Siberia.* This, I now was told, was not the thing for us to do, as the Commander had received information while up the Mackenzie that the Norwegian explorer. Captain Amundsen, and the American, Captain Bartlett, each on his separate expedition, intended with their ships to go into the ice somewhere to the north or west of Point Barrow and try to drift with the current across the Polar Basin. This meant that they would explore the territory through which we intended to go to Wrangel Island, and, as our object on the Canadian Arctic Expedition was to acquire as

*To understand Storkerson's discussion here, consult the large map published with "The Friendly Arctic" or any large map of the arctic regions.

Last edit about 1 month ago by Samara Cary
stefansson-wrangel-09-30-007-004
Needs Review

stefansson-wrangel-09-30-007-004

4

much scientific information as possible and not to compete with other explorers but to work in conjunction with them, the Commander now told me he had decided that the best thing for us to do would be to go north from the before-mentioned starting point to latitude 77° or 78°, thence in a great circle course east toward Prince Patrick Island, thence south across that island, crossing McClure Strait to the Bay of Mercy, thence overland to Cape Kellett, where we would arrive early in the summer and in time to meet the whaling ships with which we could return to civilization.

As an alternative to the first plan he had another which he preferred and would follow if men could be had that were willing to go with him. Starting from Cross Island he planned to go north two hundred or three hundred miles offshore to north latitude 74° or 75° and from there send all unnecessary men and dogs to shore, the advance party camping on the ice and drifting with it for one or two years in order to take observations and soundings, determining the currents in that part of the ocean besides securing data on meteorology, zoology, oceanography, etc. The discovery of new land was also possible. The only drawback was that he thought we possibly might not get men willing to go on a trip of that kind. It was unique, The like had never been undertaken by previous explorers, and so the trip might be considered dangerous.

So The thing to do first was to get the Commander in shape to travel as soon as possible, with which in mind I set about nursing him as well as I could, being assisted and advised by all the ten white persons there who all thought they knew something about doctoring. And It spoke well for the Commander’s constitution that on the morning of February 5th he had so improved that he thought it time to send me west to headquarters to attend to the final preparations and have everything ready against his arrival there, which would be in the near future, as he

Last edit about 1 month ago by Samara Cary
stefansson-wrangel-09-30-007-005
Needs Review

stefansson-wrangel-09-30-007-005

5

thought he would be able to leave Herschel for Barter Island in three or four days.

While the dogs were being hitched up in preparation for my departure he came out to see me off and bid me Godspeed and good-by till we should meet at the beginning of the ice journey. This kindness and consideration cost him dear, as the exposure that he subjected himself to then, I afterwards learned, caused him a very serious relapse from which he barely escaped with his life and which prevented him from taking part in that spring's exploratory work, making it absolutely necessary for him to return to civilization for medical aid. It was not until eighteen months later that I again met him and then it was at Banff in the Canadian Rockies.

What had happened to the Commander I did not know before February 13th, when in camp at Demarcation Point our dog driver, the Eskimo Emiu (Split-the-Wind), arrived from Herschel Island with letters from the Commander which he, being unable to write, had dictated to one of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police constables, telling me about what had happened to him and that it was impossible for him on that account to proceed with the work himself and so putting me in charge of the expedition's exploratory work, giving me a free hand in everything and asking me to do the best I possibly could. This change of affairs surprised me, but the necessity of getting the earliest possible start on the ice journey made that surprise short-lived. I immediately commenced to get ready for my departure to headquarters at Barter Island, where I arrived February 19th. Five days later I had the greatest part of the supplies on the road from Barter to Cross Island and on February 28th I left headquarters with the last two sleds, teams and men for our point of departure, where, owing to stormy’ weather, I did not arrive before March 11th.

Last edit about 1 month ago by Samara Cary
Displaying pages 1 - 5 of 19 in total