Written 12 days after the six remaining survivors of the Greely Expedition returned to the U.S., this newspaper article is one of the first to shed light on the horrors of what first seemed a heroic and courageous tale of survival. Abandoned in the Arctic for three years, the 25 members of the expedition did everything they could to stay alive; when rescuers finally arrived, they found evidence of cannibalism at the dilapidated camp. As word of the taboo discovery spread back in the U.S., Greely's heroes' welcome transformed into a reception mired with anger, suspicion and disgust.
From The New York Times, this article removes blame for the cannibalism from Greely and instead calls for the court-martial of William Hazen, Brigadeer General of the Signal Corps which oversaw the Greely Expedition.
"A Horrible Discovery"
August 12, 1884
New York Times
When the vessels of the Greely relief expedition reached St. John's the world was told that only six members of the Greely colony were living. One had been drowned, one had died on the way home, and seventeen, it was said, had perished miserably by starvation. This was a shocking story, but to-day there must be told a story still more appalling.
When their food gave out the unfortunate members of the colony, shivering and starving in their little tent on the bleak shore of Smith's Sound, were led by the horrible necessity to become cannibals. The complete history of their experience in that terrible Winter must be told, and the facts hitherto concealed will make the record of the Greely colony -- already full of horrors -- the most dreadful and repulsive chapter in the long annals of arctic exploration.
The discovery that Greely and his surviving companions were forced to choose between death and this way of preserving life, and made the choice of which we have spoken, multiplies a hundredfold the burden of responsibility that has rested upon the officer whose blunders brought so successful an expedition to such an end. Is it possible that, after this dreadful revelation, Gen. HAZEN will be able to retain his position? We do not think it is. There must be an inquiry by a military court, and we predict that neither social influence nor any influence will shield him this time from the punishment he deserves.
"From July, 1882, to August, 1883," said the Proteus court of inquiry in its report, "not less than 50,000 rations were taken in the steamers Neptune, Yantic and Proteus up to or beyond Littleton Island, and of that number only about 1,000 were left in the vicinity, the remainder being returned to the United States or sunk with the Proteus." Two costly expeditions had taken those provisions to Smith's Sound, but, owing to HAZEN'S instructions, poor Greely gained practically no benefit from them. So ignorant was this officer that he told GARLINGTON that the colonists' supplies would be exhausted in the Fall of 1883, when if fact they had been provisioned for twelve months longer. We have heretofore shown how GREELY'S instructions and the plain teachings of common sense were disregarded by this man. GREELY foresaw that he might be compelled to retreat down the west shore of Smith's Sound. He could establish provision depots along the upper part of the line, but those below must be established by the relief parties. In his letter of instructions he pointed out the spots on the west side where food should be placed, and then directed that a colony should be established on the other side. He even foresaw that he might reach Cape Sabine and then be unable to get across; therefore he directed that the relief colony should not only strive to find him by telescopes, but should also send sledge parties to the west side to rescue him. The instructions given to GARLINGTON were not in accordance with these.
The Proteus court make inquiry concerning the failure of the Garlington expedition. GREELY and his companions were absent, and could not testify. Therefore the court did not have all the facts before it. Now GREELY and five of his companions have returned and can testify. There is, moreover, additional subject matter to be investigated -- the deaths of nineteen men and the horrible revelations concerning life in the tent. The inquiry should be completed, and Gen. HAZEN should be court-martialed without further delay.