I spend many of my days researching, and I often come across strange and fascinating tales that don’t quite fit in my books. Thus, Friday story time is born. Because really, does a great story need a reason?
In 1881, American Adophus Greely (a man with no northern experience) led a scientific expedition to the Arctic. Because the summer was unusually warm – something Greely had no way of knowing – his crew was able to sail far toward the pole. Supply ships were unable to reach them the next year, and rescue attempts failed in 1883. Eventually, Greely’s ship sank, and 24 men sailed small boats for 250 miles in an attempt to meet a supply party. When they arrived, they found no rescuers and only enough provisions for a few weeks.
By 1884, when a relief ship finally arrived, there were only seven men left. One had been shot for stealing food; some had starved; some had drowned or died of frostbite; and some, claimed the newspapers, had been eaten. Rumors of mutiny, poor leadership, and cannibalism followed Greely for the remainder of his life.
In an interesting epilogue, data from early scientific expeditions – even the catastrophic journey of Adophus Greely – is now being used to measure climate change. So all those chewed-up sailors can rest, knowing their deaths have a purpose at last.