Friday, December 30, 2011

...And a Polar New Year

A photograph of a handwritten diary page, beginning with the date January 1st, 1882.George W. Rice sounded hopeful in his diary on January 1st, 1882. As photographer to the 1881-1884 Lady Franklin Bay Expedition lead by Adolphus Greely, he had just finished "an excellent New Year's dinner" of turkey. It had been a relaxing day. He noted that many of the party took "a siesta... as they were somewhat exhausted from marching the Old Year out and the New One in."  The 31st had been "a cool and pleasant day--the evening was given over to Bacchus and Terpsichore."  "Cool" is relative: he recorded the temperature at 34.1 to 46.2 degrees below zero.

A photograph of a handwritten diary page including entries for December 30th and 31st, 1881.
Greely's Lady Franklin Bay Expedition is one of the most harrowing on record. Only seven members of the party survived after a series of disasters left them stranded in the arctic. Rice's daily diary continues until August 2nd, 1883. Later that week, Greely ordered the men to abandon all unnecessary items (including this diary) in an attempt to reach Littleton Island where rescue was more likely. Rice survived until April 1884, two months before a rescue party reached the seven survivors.

To see the diary and learn more about Rice, ask for Stef MS 186.