stefansson-wrangel-09-31-005r

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PREFACE ix

on law and ethics but not on the commercial and strategic
values of Wrangel Island. But we five were as sure of
the value of the island as we were of the law and the
rights of the case, and we thought all men would come to
agree with us on every point when they learned the facts
we knew. In that, again, we may have been mistaken;
but we could act only on what we thought. We were en-
thusiastically willing to do so. One of us, Fred Maurer,
had dug at Rodgers Harbor the graves on which rested
a small part of our legal and a big part of our moral claim
to Wrangel Island. In his romantic moods he used to
say he wanted to go back there and watch beside the
crosses which he had raised over the graves of his com-
rades until the nation they died for began to see some
meaning in their death.

We were all romantic and eager—three of us from the
start and Crawford and Galle later. What led to action
was that the four of them eventually said to me in effect,
“Help us to get to Wrangel Island. We’ll continue the
legal occupation until you convince the Government it
will pay them to stand on their legal rights. If you can’t
swing Ottawa, you’ll have better luck in the Old Coun-
try.”

So started our glorious adventure. It seems glorious
to me still, though it has become tragic on their part and
may easily become a failure on mine. They knew it was
dangerous but they did not expect to die; I knew it was
difficult to convince busy politicians of so new an idea
as the value of an arctic island for a flying base, but I
did not expect to fail. In that spirit we agreed that we
would pool all the money we had; with it they would buy
in Seattle and Nome as much as they could of what they
liked for an outfit and go North without letting their

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