Friday, August 18, 2023

Incapacitated from Thoughtful Labor

A graphite sktech of a ship burning.William H. Gilder wrote to the U.S. Navy on February 26th, 1883 following two letters demanding his report on recent activities in the Arctic. "I would respectfully ask the acceptance of my resignation... I beg leave further to state that the delay in forwarding my report to the department has been owing to an ailment contracted in the north, and resulting from a diet of raw meat, which has incapacitated me from thoughtful labor." Gilder had traveled on the U.S.S. Rodgers up to the Bering Strait in 1881, part of one search effort for the missing Jeannette Expedition.

Early in the trip, Gilder was stationed on the Siberian coastline with a few other men and a cache of supplies while the Rodgers moved on in its search. He and his compatriots would establish one potential refuge for the survivors of the missing expedition, should they be found. As such, he wasn't on the Rodgers when it caught fire and was destroyed, forcing the rest of the crew to abandon ship. He did, however, hear of the event soon after from another crew member. Gilder had previous experience with long-distance sledge journeys in the Arctic, having once covered 3,251 miles during a search for the lost Franklin expedition, so it made sense that he was the man to make the long journey to the closest telegraph station, notifying the Navy of this most recent disaster. 

To get Gilder's account of that journey, you'll just have to come in and read his report for yourself. There are other items stored with it, including a sketch of the Rodgers burning, diagrams of sledges, and a rough map of the bodies eventually recovered from the Jeannette expedition. Ask for Stefansson Mss-45, Box 2.