Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Inscription by A. Greely in his copy of "Arctic Voyages"We have a lot of books and manuscripts that are remarkable survivals. How they managed to make it through time and space and land safely in a library is a wonder in and of itself, but we just acquired a new item that endured an arctic expedition that only a handful of people lived through.

The Lady Franklin Bay Expedition, 1881-1884, (also known at the Greely Expedition) set out to establish a scientific observation station. It all started out smoothly enough, and they even established a new "farthest North." But things fell apart when relief ships were unable to reach the station and they had to flee to the south in hopes of rescue. Stranded with only minimal provisions at "Camp Clay," they slowly starved to death, and some resorted to cannibalism. Only six of the crew lasted long enough to be rescued.

We have a rich cache of materials related to their ordeal including David Brainard's diary from the last months of the expedition. The newly added item is Adolphus Greely's copy of The Arctic Voyages of A.E. Nordenskiƶld, 1858-1879 (London: Macmillan and Co., 1879) that he brought along on the journey. That it was carried safely home is astounding. As Greely notes:
This volume... was one of the few books in our library at Camp Clay, Grinnell Land, during the winter of 1883-1884. It shows marks of usage in keeping with the vicissitudes experienced by the loyal soldiers of the American army, and the faithful Eskimos of Greenland, who formed my command.
There is some marginalia, and the front cover is detached, but, all in all, the book did well. To see it, ask for Stef G625.L477 1879.

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