E. Vale (Euphemia Vale) Blake.

Arctic experiences: containing Capt. George E. Tyson's wonderful drift on the ice-floe, a history of the Polaris expedition, the cruise of the Tigress, and rescue of the Polaris survivors. To which is added a general Arctic chronology online

. (page 1 of 45)
Online LibraryE. Vale (Euphemia Vale) BlakeArctic experiences: containing Capt. George E. Tyson's wonderful drift on the ice-floe, a history of the Polaris expedition, the cruise of the Tigress, and rescue of the Polaris survivors. To which is added a general Arctic chronology → online text (page 1 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook









Edited by E. VALE BLAKE.



18 74.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874, by

Harper & Brothers,

In the OflSce of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

• ••• • • • •• • «

• •• •••* •.•••


A LEADING object of this work is to present, in a popular form,
the entire history of the Polaris Exploring Expedition, not only
giving the valuable results accomplished by it, but going deep,
enough into causes to trace out the weak points in the organiza-
tion of the party — indicating, without fear or favor, those elements
of disintegration which were at work from the outset, calculated
to impair, though it could not wholly destroy, its efficiency.

The truth must be told, in order that succeeding expeditions
may avoid the errors which prevented the development of that
esprit de corps which is essential to the highest success of explor-
ing parties.

Notwithstanding its unfortunate features, the Polaris Expedi-
tion was not a failure, but a grand success ; for though far more
and better might have been accomplished with a united and har-
monious company, we can proudly point to the record of the voy-
age, in its geographical achievements, as unrivaled ; nor do the
scientific results interest the world the less because of any cloud
resting upon any member of the expedition.

Whoever reads this book to the end will naturally be led to
ask, If so much could be accomplished by a divided and disaffect-
ed party, what might not be done by a united and properly dis-
ciplined body equally well equipped?

In regard to the personal experiences of Captain Tyson, the
natural reticence and modesty of that officer has compelled the
editor to underestimate and suppress much that is fairly due to
him ; and the reader is reminded that far more emphasis might
fairly be given to his share, in whatever of success was achieved
by the Polaris Expedition, but for this peculiarity of the Assist-
ant Navigator,

" Who, like a statue solid set,
And moulded in colossal calm,"

appears quite unaware that he has done any thing extraordina-
ry, or more than what any right-minded, honest man would have
done under the same circumstances.


All the original data possessed by Captain Tyson (except his
journal written on the Polaris, which was left on board at the
time of the separation) was placed in the hands of the editor, with
every necessary verbal explanation, before the former sailed in
the Tigress. During the interval between his rescue and his re-
turn to the Arctic regions in search of the Polaris survivors, he
recompiled from memory and a few brief notes his lost journal,
and we are thus enabled to give it, with but slight verbal varia-
tions, from the original diary.

Captain Tyson's "Early Experience" will show that amateur
Arctic explorers, physically fitted for the work, may be found in
every whaling ship that sails.

In addition to the narrative portion, the introductory chapter
contains a general resume of Arctic experiences; and in the
chronology will be found epitomized all the principal events of
interest relating to previous and contemporary Polar expeditions,
adding greatly to the value of the work as a book of reference.

In accordance with the popular character designed, scientific
terms and mere details of work performed have been avoided.
These will be published in other forms, for the special benefit of
students and scientists.

In conclusion, we have only to express our thanks to those
who have kindly assisted us by supplying original documents,
official or other information, and facilitating our work by grate-
fully remembered courtesies.

Among those to whom we are greatly indebted are Hon. George
M. Eobeson, Secretary of the Navy; Hon. John Gr. Schumacher,
of Brooklyn ; Prof Spencer* F. Baird, of Washington ; Dr. I. I.
Hayes, of New York ; Mr. Archibald, British Consul at New
York ; Col. Jas. Lupton, Washington, D. C. 5 Messrs. J. Carson Bre-
voort, and S. B. Noyes, of Brooklyn, N. Y. ; Messrs. H. E. Bond,
T. W. Perkins, E. W. White, and Mr. Barnes, of New London, Ct.

Others might be named but for whose kindly offices our labors
would have been greatly embarrassed ; and, if their names do not
illumine this page, they have none the less shed a bright and
cheej?ing light on our progress from the earliest inception of this
work to its end, and their many courtesies will ever dwell in our
grateful remembrance. E. V. B.

Brooklyn, January 1, 1874.



The Northern Sphinx. — Arctic Nomenclature. — Geographical Mistakes. — The Hy-
perboreans. — The Pre-Columbian Era. — Frobisher's Gold. — Gilbert and Others. —
Henry Hudson. — Russian Explorers. — Government Rewards. — Early American
Enterprise. — The Whaler Scoresby.— Remarkable Land Journeys. — Combined Sea
and Land Explorations. — The Era of Modern Discoveries. — Parry's Drift. — Steam
first used in the Arctic Seas. — The Magnetic Pole fixed. — Back's Discoveries. —
Dease and Simpson. — Rae on Boothia. — Sir John Franklin's Last Expedition. —
Relief Parties. — A glorious Spectacle. — First Grinnell Expedition. — Ten Explor-
ing Vessels meet at Beechey Island. — Dr. Kane. — Rumors of Cannibalism. — The
Problem of the North-west Passage solved. — Bellot.— Obtuseness of the British
Naval Board. — Providential Mental Coercion. — The Forlorn Hope. — Dr. Hayes. —
Profit and Loss. — What is the Use of Arctic Explorations? — Remote Advantages.
— Ancient Gradgrinds. — Arctic Failures and Successes. — Unexplored Area. —
Modern Chivalry. — A pure Ambition Page 19

CAPTAIN Tyson's early arctic experience.

Captain Tyson's Reflections on the Ice-floe. — Nativity. — Early Life. — Ships ^
Whaler. — Death of Shipmate. — Arrives at the Greenland Seas. — The "Mic
Ice." — The "North Water." — First Sight of Esquimaux. — The Danes in Green-
land. — The Devil's Thumb. — Meets De Hdven. — Whales and their Haunts. — A
prolonged Struggle with a Whale. — Sailors' Tricks. — Cheating the Mollimokes. —
Young Tyson volunteers to winter ashore at Cumberland Gulf. — The Pet Seal. —
Life Ashore. — Relieved by the True Love. — Is taken to England. — Returns to
the Arctic Regions. — Sights the abandoned British Ship Resolute. — With three
Companions boards the Resolute. — Finds Wine in the Glasses. — All have a good
Time. — Don the Officers' Uniforms. — Returns to his Ship. — Ships as Second Mate
in the George Henry. -^As First Officer. — As Captain of the Brig Georgiana. —
Meets Captain Charles F. Hall. — Witnesses and tries to prevent the Loss of the
Rescue. — Sails as Master of the Orray Taft, of New Bedford. — Of the Antehpe.
— Sails to Repulse Bay, and takes the first Whale captured in those Waters. —
Again meets Captain Hall, and supplies him with a Boat. — Peculiar Electrical
Phenomena at Repulse Bay. — Sails in the Top-sail Schooner Era, — Meets Cap-
tain Hall, then "in training " with the Esquimaux. — Log-book Records. — Winters
ashore at Niountelik Harbor. — Removes from New London to Brooklyn. — Sails in
the Polaris as Assistant Navigator 75




The North Polar Expedition authorized by Congress. — Captain Hall's Commission.
— The Periwinkle, afterward Polaris, selected. — Letter of Captain Hall's. — De-
scription of the Steamer Polaris. — Liberal Supplies. — A patent Canvas Boat. —
Books presented by J. Carson Brevoort. — A characteristic Letter of Captain
Hall's. — An Invitation to visit him at the North Pole Page 100


The Polaris^wt into Commission. — OflScial Instructions to the Commander. — Scien-
tific Directions. — Letter of Captain Hall's. — List of the Officers and Crew 107



Nativity and early Life of Charles Francis Hall. — Leaves his native State of New
Hampshire and settles in Ohio. — Takes to Jouraalism. — Attracted by Arctic Lit-
erature. — Unsuccessful Effort to join M'Clintock. — Sails for the Arctic Regions in
the George Henry, of New London, — The Tender Rescue and the Expedition Boat
lost in a Storm. — He explores Frobisher Bay and Countess of Warwick Sound. —
Collects Relics of Franklin's Expedition. — Returns to the United States. — His
Theories regarding the Franklin Expedition. — Sails for the North, 1864, in the
Bark Monticello. — His Discoveries. — Skeletons of Franklin's Men scattered over
King William Land. — Annual Reports. — His Life with the Esquimaux. — Return
to the United States, — Physical Appearance. — Mental Traits. — In the Innuit Land
he did as the Innuits do. — Persevering Efforts to organize the North Polar Expe-
dition. — President Grant personally interested. — "That Historical Flag," — How
he would know when he got to the Pole. — His Premonitions. — His last Dis-
patch 113


Dr. Emil Bessel. — Sergeant Frederick Meyers. — Mr. R. W. D. Bryan, ^Sidney O.
Buddington, — Hubbard C, Chester, — Emil Schuman. — ^William Morton. — Letter
of Captain Hall's. — The Polaris sails. — Disaffection on Board. — Meets the Swed-
ish Exploring Expedition. — Favorable condition of the Ice. — United States Ship
Congress arrives at Disco with Supplies for the Polaris. — Insubordination on Board.
— Captain Hall's Idiosyncrasy. — He "bids Adieu to the Civilized World ". ... 129



Captain Tyson's Soliloquy on leaving Harbor. — A Thunder-storm. — Arrive at St,
Johns,— Icebergs in Sight, — Religious Services on board the Polaris by Dr, New-
man, of Washington. — Prayer at Sea. — Esquimau Hans, with Wife, Children,
and "Vermin," taken on board. — Firing at Walrus.— The Sailing-master wants to
stop at Port Foulk. — The Polaris passes Kane's Winter-quarters, — An impassable
Barrier of Ice. — Misleading Charts. — The open Polar Sea recedes from Sight. —


Afraid of "Symme's Hole." — Polaris enters Robeson Channel. — Surrounded by-
Icefields. — Council of Officers. — Puerile Fears. — Sir Edward Belcher. — The Ameri-
can Flag raised on "Hall Land." — Seeking a Harbor. — Kepulse Harbor. — Thank
God Harbor. — Providence Berg. — Housing the Ship for Winter-quarters. .Page 141


A Hunting-party. — A cold Survey. — Description of Coast-hills. — A Musk-ox shot. —
Landing Provisions. — Arctic Foxes. — Captain Hall prepares for a Sledge-journey.
— Conversation with Captain Tyson. — Off at last. — Captain Hall "forgets some-
thing." — Twenty "somethings." — The Sun disappears. — Banking the Ship.... 152


Putting Provisions Ashore. — Return of Captain Hall. — "Prayer on leaving the
Ships." — Captain Hall taken Sick. — What was seen on his Sledge-journey.— Apo-
plexy ? — M'Clintock's Engineer — Death of Captain Hall. — A strange Remark. —
Preparing the Grave. — The Funeral. — "I walk on with my Lantern." — Thus end
his ambitious Projects 159


Captain Buddington passes to the Command.— Scientific Observations. — The first
Aurora of the Season. — Sunday Prayers discontinued. — Dr. Bessel Storm-bound
in the Observatory. — Meyers to the Rescue. — An Arctic Hurricane. — Fast to the
Iceberg. — Sawing through the Ice. — Electric Clouds, — Pressure of Floe-ice. — The
Iceberg splits in two. — The Polaris on her Beam-ends, — Hannah, Hans's Wife,
and the Children put Ashore 166


Thanksgiving. — A Paraselene. — ^Dr. Bessel's bad Luck. — "It is very dark now." —
Oppressive Silence of the Arctic Night, — The Voracity of Shrimps. — "In Hall's
Time it was Heaven to this." — A natural Gentleman. — No Service on Christmas.
— The Polaris rises and falls with the Tide. — Futile Blasting. — The New Year. —
Atmospheric Phenomena. — The Twilight brightens. — Trip to Cape Lupton.—
Height of the Tides at Thank God Harbor 169


An impressive Discussion. — Daylight gains on the Night. — Barometer drops like a
Cannon-ball. — Four mock Moons. — Day begins to look like Day. — The Fox-traps.
— The Sun re-appears after an Absence of one hundred and thirty-five Days. —
Mock Suns, — Spring coming, — An Exploring-party in Search of Cape Constitution,
— A Bear-fight with Dogs, — New light on Cartography. — Tired of canned Meat . 174


Sledge vs. Boat. — What Chester would do when he got Home, — Photographing a
Failure,— Off on a Sledge-journey with Mr, Meyers, Joe, and Hans, — Habits of


the Musk -cattle. — Peculiar strategic Position. — Encounter a Herd. — How the
Young are concealed. — Dull Sport. — Newman Bay. — Preparing for Boat-jour-
neys. — What does he mean? — Climatic Changes. — Glaciers. — Wonderful Sports-
men. — The Ice thick and hummocky. — A dangerous Leak Page 179


Two Boat-parties arranged. — A Disaster. — Chester's Boat crushed in the Ice. — The
"Historical Flag" lost. — Chester takes the patent Canvas Boat. — Captain Tyson's
Boat-party. — Reach Newman Bay. — Dr. Bessel's Snow-blindness. — Drift-wood.
— Extinct Glaciers. — Unfavorable Condition of the Ice. — A Proposal rejected. —
Return to the Ship 185


Engineer's Report. — A new Inscription. — A gentle Awakening. — Providence Berg
disrupted. — Having "enough of it." — Lost Opportunities. — The Advent of little
Esquimau "Charlie Polaris." — Beset near Cape Frazier. — Alcohol Master. —
Interruption of his morning "Nip." — Drifting with the Floe. — Pack-ice in Smith
Sound. — The Oil-boiler. — The bearded Seal. — Preparations for spending another
Winter m the North. — A south-westerly Gale 190



Adrift. — The fatal Ice Pressure. — "Heave every thing Overboard!" — The Ship
- breaks away in the Darkness. — Children in the Ox-skins. — First Night adrift. —
Snowed under. — Roll-call on the Ice-floe. — Efforts to regain the Ship. — The Po-
laris coming! — A terrible Disappointment. — The overladen Boat. — Three Oars,
and no Rudder. — The Ice breaks beneath us. — Drifting to the South-west. — Re-
gain the large Floe. — Hope of regaining the Polaris abandoned. — Building Huts.
— Native Igloos. — Estimating Provisions. — Locality of the Separation. — Meyers's
and Tyson's Opinion. — Two Meals a Day. — Mice in the Chocolate. — Too cold for
a Watch. — Too weak to stand firmly. — Hans kills and eats two Dogs. — Natives
improvident. — Lose Sight of the Sun. — The Dogs follow the Food 197


A vain Hunt for Seal. — Pemmican. — The Dogs starving. — Blow-holes of the Seal. —
Mode of Capture. — Sight Cary Island. — Hans mistaken for a Bear. — Down with
Rheumatism. — One Boat used for Fuel. — The Children crying with Hunger. — Joe
the best Man. — The Bread walks off. — One square Meal. — Bear and Fox-tracks. —
Effects of lax Discipline. — Joe and Hannah. — Our Thanksgiving-dinner 215


Can see the Land.— -Hans's Hut. — Nearly dark : two Hours of Twilight. — Economiz-
ing Paper. — Northern Lights. — Lying still to save Food. — "All Hair and Tail."
—Weighing out Rations by Ounces. — Heavy Ice goes with the Current. — The Es-


quimaux afraid of Cannibalism. — Fox-trap. — Set a Seal-net — Great Responsibil-
ity, but little Authority, — All well, but hungry. — The fear of Death starved and
frozen out of me. — The shortest and darkest Day. — Christmas Page 225


Taking account of Stock. — Hope lies to the South. — Eating Seal-skin. — Find it very
tough. — How to divide a Seal a la Esquimau. — Give the Baby the Eyes. — Differ-
ent Species of Seal. — New-year's Day, 1873. — Economizing our Lives away. — Just
see the Western Shore. — "Plenty at Disco." — Thirty-six below Zero. — Clothing
disappears. — A glorious Sound. — "Kyack! Kyack!" — Starvation postponed. —
Thoroughly frightened. — Little Tobias sick. — Oh, for a sound-headed Man ! —
Four ounces for a Meal. — The Sun re-appears after an Absence of eighty-three
Days ,0...... 234


Belated Joe. — Wrong Calculations. — Drift past Disco. — Beauty of the Northern
Constellations. — Hans unreHable. — "Where Rum and Tobacco grow." — Forty
below Zero. — An impolite Visitor. — One hundred and third Day on the Ice, — Per-
severance of the Natives in hunting. — Hans loses a good Dog. — Beautiful Aurora.
— The Mercury freezes.— Too cold for the Natives to hunt, — A little Blubber left.
— Trust in Providence, — Effects of Refraction. — Relieving Parties on the Ice. —
Our Lunch, Seal-skin with the Hair on. — A natural Death. — One hundred and
seven Days without seeing printed Words 246


A solemn Entry made in the Journal, in View Of Death. — More Security on the Ice-
floe than on board the Polaris. — Eating the Offal of better Days. — Tobias very
low, — Anticipations of a Break-up, — Hope,— Joe, Hannah, and little Puney. — "I
am so hungry." — An interior View of Hans'sHut; his Family. — Talk about reach-
ing the Land. — Inexperience of the Men misleads their Judgment 259


Dreary, yet beautiful. — The Formation of Icebergs, — ^Where and how they grow, —
Variety of Form and History, — "The Land of Desolation." — Strength failing, —
Travel and Rations, — Unhealthy Influence of mistaken Views, — Managing a Kyack
on young Ice, — Secures the Seal, — "Clubbing their Loneliness." — Poor little Pu-
ney's Amusement. — Any Thing good to eat that don't poison. — Narwhals, or Sea-
unicorns. — A royal Seat. — Hans criticised. — Cleaning House. — "Pounding-day,"
— Our Carpet, — Lunching by the Yard on Seal's Entrails. — "Oh! give me my
Harpoon." — No Clothing fit to hunt in, — Inventory of Wardrobe, — Narwhals use-
ful in carrying off Ball and Ammunition, — Pleasant Sensations in Retrospect, —
The Skin of the Nose. — Castles in the Air, — Violent Gale and Snow-storm. — Dig-
ging out. — Three Feet square for Exercise. — Dante's Ice-hell 266


Patching up Clothes. — Captain Hall's Rifle, — Cutting Fresh-water Ice for Drink, —
Salt-water Ice to season Soup, — Four months' Dirt. — Sun Revelations. — "You are
nothing but Bone," — That chronic Snow-drift. — Seal-flipper for Lunch. — ^Watch-
ing a Seal-hole. — Eating his "Jacket." — Dovekies. — The Solace of a Smoke. —
Native Mode of cleansing Cooking Utensils. — The West Coast in Sight, — Joe's


Valuation of Seals. — Prospects dark and gloomy. — Bill falls Overboard. — Death
to the Front. — Evidences of Weakness. — The Natives alarmed. — Washington's
Birthday. — ^A novel Sledge. — The "right Way of the Hair." — Discussions about
reaching Shore Page 279


Decide to make the Attempt. — Foiled by successive Snow-storms. — Down to one
scant Meal a Day. — Land thirty-five Miles off. — God alone can help us.^Canary-
bird Rations. — Bear-tracks. — A Bird Supper. — A Monster Oogjook.— Six or sev-
en hundred Pounds of fresh Meat! Thirty Gallons of Oil! — Oogjook Sausage. —
Our Huts resemble Slaughter-houses. — Hands and Faces smeared with Blood. —
Content restored. — Taking Observations. — Out of the Weed. — A Present from
Joe. — Heat of Esquimaux Huts. — Desponding Thoughts. — "So I sit and dream
of Plans for Release." — Terrific Noises portend the breaking up of the Floe. — An
unbroken Sea of Ice. — Hans Astray again. — That "Oogjook Liver." — The Stew-
ard convinced. — An Ice-quake in the Night. — The Floe breaks twenty yards from
the Hut. — Floe shattered into hundreds of Pieces. — Sixty Hours of Ice, Turmoil,
and utter Darkness. — The "Floes" become a "Pack." — Storm abates. — Quietly
Drifting. — A Choice for Bradford. — Our Domain wearing away. — Twenty Paces
only to the Water. — Whistling to charm an Oogjook. — A Relapse into Barbar-
ism 288


A Bear prospecting for a Meal. — The Ice in an Uproar. — Seven Seals in one Day. —
Spring by Date. — The "Bladder -noses" appear. — Off" Hudson Strait. — A Bear
comes too close. — A lucky Shot in the Dark. — Description of Ursus maritimus. —
Milk in the young Seal. — Fools of Fortune. — We take to the Boat. — Rig Wash-
boards. — A desperate Struggle to keep Afloat. — Alternate between Boat and Floe.
— Striving to gain the west Shore. — Dead-weights. — Ice splits. — Joe's Hut carried
off. — Rebuild it. — Ice splits again, and destroys Joe's new Hut. — Standing ready
for a Jump. — Our Breakfast goes down into the Sea. — No Blubber for our Lamps.
— The Ice splits once more, separating Mr. Meyers from the Party.— We stand
helpless, looking at each other. — Meyers unable to manage the Boat. — Joe and
Hans go to his Rehef. — All of us but two follow. — Springing from Piece to Piece
of the Ice. — Meyers rescued, — He is badly frozen. — Mishaps in the Water. — High
Sea running. — Washed out of our Tent by the Sea. — Women and Children stowed
in the Boat. — Not a dry Place to stand on. — Ice recloses. — Sea subsides. — Land
Birds appear. — No Seal.— Very Hungry ' 305


Easter-Sunday. — Flashes of Divinity. — Meyers's Suffering from want of Food. — Men
very Weak. — Fearful Thoughts. — A timely Relief. — Land once more in Sight. —
Flocks of Ducks. — Grotesque Misery. — A Statue of Famine. — A desolating Wave.
— A Foretaste of worse. — Manning the Boat in a new Fashion. — A Battery of
Ice-blocks. — All Night "standing by" the Boat. — A fearful Struggle for Life. —
Worse off than St. Paul. — Daylight at last. — Launched once more. — Watch and
Watch. — The Sport and Jest of tlie Elements. — Lack of Food. — Half drowned,


cold, and hungry. — Eat dried Skin saved for Clothing. — A Bear ! a Bear! — Anx-
ious Moments. — Poor Polar! God has sent us Food. — Recuperating on Bear-meat.
— A crippled, overloaded Boat. — A Battle of the Bergs. — Shooting young Blad-
der-noses. — Hoping for Relief. Page 317


A joyful Sight! — ^A Steamer in View. — Lost again. — She disappears. — Once more
we seek Rest upon a small Piece of Ice. — The Hope of Rescue keeps us awake. —
Another Steamer. — We hoist our Colors, muster our Fire-arms, fire, and shout. —
She does not see us. — She falls off. — Re -appears. — Gone again. — Still another
Steamer. — Deliverance can not be far off. — Another Night on the Ice. — Hans
catches a Baby Seal. — "There's a Steamer!" — Very Foggy, and we fear to lose
her. — Hans goes for her in his Kyack. — She approaches. — We are saved! — All
safe on board the Tigress. — Amusing Questions. — A good Smoke and a glorious
Breakfast. — Once more able "to wash and be clean." — Boarded by Captain De
Lane, of the Walrus. — Meyers slowly recovering. — A severe Gale. — Six hundred
Seals killed. — Captain Bartlett heading for St. Johns. -^The Esquimaux Chil-
dren the "Lions." — Awaiting the Tailor. — Going Home in the United States
Steamship Frolic 326



The News of the Rescue. — Captain Tyson and Party arrive at Washington. — Board
of Inquiry organized. — Testimony given as to lax Discipline. — The Juniata, Com-
mander Braine, dispatched, with Coal and Stores, to Disco. — Captain James Bud-
dington. Ice-pilot. — Captain Braine's Interview with Inspector Karrup Smith, of

Online LibraryE. Vale (Euphemia Vale) BlakeArctic experiences: containing Capt. George E. Tyson's wonderful drift on the ice-floe, a history of the Polaris expedition, the cruise of the Tigress, and rescue of the Polaris survivors. To which is added a general Arctic chronology → online text (page 1 of 45)