Adolphus Greely Chapter
Who is Adolphus Greely
Lieutenant Greely's Arctic Expedition
The Lady Franklin Bay Expedition, was one of two groups sent by the U.S. Government to the Arctic. A three hundred year old record (held by British polar expeditions) was broken for achieving the farthest point north toward the North Pole. But the cost in human suffering, as with so many early polar expeditions, was a terrible one. Lieutenant Greely, of the Fifth Cavalry, had instructions to establish a permanent station at the most suitable point north of the eighty-first parallel of north latitude. The expedition was organized for general scientific observation. Greely and his party set sail from St. John’s Newfoundland on July 7, 1881 with five boats with 40 days of rations. They arrived at Fort Conger, Lady Franklin Bay on August 26, 1881, where they remained for two years. One member of the group, a Lieutenant Lockwood, went farther north than man had ever gone before—to 83 degrees 24 minutes north latitude. All the while, records were kept of the weather, tides, etc. In July, 1883, The Proteus was to pick up the Greely party, but it sank on July 23, 1883 due to the actions of a stubborn Lieutenant Garlington, who refused to follow suggestions of the civilian crew. When the ship failed to arrive Greely put into operation the preconceived plan to move his men and equipment south. It was not until mid-September that the survivors of the ship sinking reached St. John’s and sent a message to Washington, D.C. On September 29th the desperate Greely Survivors reached Baird Inlet, but unfortunately found themselves adrift for thirty days on ice floe in Smith South. In the process, the party suffered the loss of several boats, food supplies and men. A winter camp was established and Greely found the cache of food enough for ten days. The men awaited rescue for eight months. An August 12, 1884, New York Times article reported that they were “shivering and starving in their little tent on the bleak shore of Smith’s Sound.” How even some of them managed to survive is amazing. Without big game and few small animals go there, survival was harsh. The party was forced to live upon boiled sealskin strips from their sealskin clothing, lichens, and small shrimps procured in good weather. Meanwhile back in Washington Greely’s wife wrote letters to newspaper editors and members of Congress, demanding action to rescue the party. Acrimonious debates raged in Congress , but a bill was authorizing the relief of Greely's men. The rescue effort consisted of three ships, the Thetis, the Bear, and the Loch Garry. After a difficult passage, the Greely party was found at Cape Sabine on June 22, 1884. At this time there were seven survivors; however one passed shortly after rescue. On August 2, 1884, the crew finally reached US soil. Several European scientific societies considered the Greely men heroes and struck medals in their honor. Greely was made a Captain soon after returning. In 1887, he became a Brigadier General. Greely was the first soldier to reach general officer rank having started as a volunteer private. Later, Greely became a Major General. He continued as a communications expert for the Army, installing telegraphic equipment in Alaska, the Philippine Islands, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. He established the first commercial wireless station in the world in Alaska. He was a successful mediator in preventing Indian uprisings, and directed relief efforts following the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. He became the first American to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for peacetime service.
We encourage you to take a look at our Adolphus Greely Gallery. We have posted photographs and more highlighting his Arctic Expedition, Civil War service, and other major accomplishments. In addition you can checkout these documents: The Hazen Court Martial, Greely Letter to Mr. Baird, and Howgate - Frank Leslie's Illustrations, Newspaper 5 JUN 1880. Finally, checkout Adolphus Greely on Wikipedia for additional information and resources.