Journal: Sgt. Rice
George Rice, the official photographer on the Lady Franklin Bay scientific expedition to the Arctic in 1881, kept a journal until he froze to death in April 1884. These excerpts from Rice's entries, gathered from different archives around the country, are more optimistic than those of Lieutenant Greely, who commanded the team, and Sergeant Brainard. While capturing the abandoned crew's anxiety, Rice details their attempts at breaking the monotony by holding Thanksgiving Day races, collecting flowers, or listening to the violin through the darkest days of winter.
The well-liked Rice often comments on the characters of the men, and at times voices his disapproval with Greely's harsh measures. "I hope that if the worst comes," Rice surmises a month before his death, "I may retain my mental powers even after my physical have failed."
July 7, 1881
This morning the freight for the expedition that arrived per Hibernian, was brought on board the Proteus and every preparation made for a start.
Capt. Pike gave the order to "get underway." At about 1230 we move from our anchorage and amid cheers and the waving of handkerchiefs from the shore steam slowly through the Narrows. Considerable interest is taken in our departure and it is with feelings of regret we gaze for the last time, for many days, upon a most interesting feature of society and civilized life represented by a group of gaily dressed ladies who stand on Signal Hill and kindly wave us goodbye. Bleak and cold as Newfoundland was with its drapery of fog hanging over its cliffs, we shall exchange it for the desolate land of eternal snow with regret. Our start is a formidable one and we go coasting along the shore under both sail and steam at a splendid rate. The wind is a pleasant land breeze and we are soon carried by the entrance of the great bays Conception and Trinity. The ship's crew are busily engaged cleaning up the decks and putting things in their proper places. "Making things shipshape" as the mate says. Our party occupy their time in locating, doffing their city costumes, and donning clothes more substantial and better adapted to ship life. Some are evidently meditating on the future of our arduous undertaking towards which we have taken our initial steps today and which is probably in many cases never been so seriously considered as at this moment. To realize that we have left behind us relatives, friends, society, civilization and everything that makes life pleasance in this terrestrial sphere, for the long space of two years is enough to furnish ample food for reflection even to the most thoughtless. And then it is impossible to avoid looking forward with something like apprehension to the future sojourn in those regions of perpetual snow and ice under a hostile sky. No matter how much forethought may be exercised these thoughts have never so strongly suggested themselves as at this time when we find ourselves in the broad Atlantic with our ship's trial pointed at the North star and every revolution of our propeller speeding us nearer our inhospitable destination and further from home and friends. We retire at a late hour to be lulled to sleep by the motion of the ship, which has not yet become unpleasant, and dream of icebergs and polar bears.
July 8, 1881
We are sailing along at a splendid rate. The weather is fair but the temperature is growing much cooler. Now that we are all together, a roll call to make acquaintance is not amiss. We are members of an Arctic exploring expedition sent out under the auspices of the war Department of the United States America (or more immediately of chief signal officer, USA) "for scientific observation in the Arctic regions." The plan of the expedition is to establish a station at Lady Franklin Bay, latitude 81° 40' N and spend two years in observation and exploration, making sledge journeys to the north at such times and seasons as our practicable. The expedition is under the command of Lieut. A. W. Greely, and the following are names of the persons comprising the party:
Lieut. A. W. Greely–in command,
For our transportation to Lady Franklin Bay the United States government has chartered the sealing steamer "Proteus" owned and hailing from St. John's Newfoundland. She is commanded by Capt. Pike, who has for his first officer Mr. Norman, second Mr. White. Mr. McPherson is first engineer and Mr. Carmichael second. The crew is composed of sturdy Newfoundland sailors. Capt. Pike and his mates have all had long experience in ice navigation and our ship is specially adapted for her mission as she was built for the sea fishery and everything that experience could suggest was done to make her capable of resisting the action of the ice.
July 9, 1881
There is a strong breeze from the Northwest which makes our progress very slow. The temperature is getting much cooler. We only averaged about 5 kn today.
July 10, 1881
Our first Sunday at sea–pleasant day. The wind has changed and is now in our favor, wafting us along with the aid of steam at a splendid rate.
July 11, 1881
A mild pleasant day until about 4 PM Wednesday and hauled ahead and increased in force so that it now threatens to become a gale. No observation has been made as weather prevents.
Tuesday, July 12, 1881
The wind is still adverse. The temperature has fallen very low and indicates the presence of ice. At 8 PM we fall in with the ice -- a long narrow strip of ice through which we carefully steamed at half speed. Following the torturous channel which the openings in the ice afford.
The crow's nest has been hoisted up to the fore top gallant masthead and in it the second mate stands and directs the movements of the ship. The presence of the ice has calmed the sea and we are surrounded with the most beautiful scene. The beautiful blue-green edges of the ice blending with the dark blue ocean and lighted up by the oblique rays of the setting sun present a panorama of rare beauty resembling some rare mosaic on a grand scale.
In the foreground can be seen several seals on the Harp species. Lieut. Kislingbury hazards several shots at them but without effect as the distance is too great. Occasionally a mammoth whale can be seen emerging like some miniature island among the ice, sending a spout of water, which dyed with the warm hints of the setting sun, presents all the colors of the rainbow. Our position can only be ascertained by dead reckoning as no Meridian observation has been made. We place this flow of ice in latitude 61° north.
Wednesday, July 13, 1881
Our party, or those who have been so unfortunate as to be seasick, are now recovering their spirits in this water kept smooth by the ice. This mal de mer has visited our party generally, without regard to age or station. I am so fortunate as always enjoying an immunity from it. Lieut. Greely has experienced its unpleasant effects in a large degree.
We fall in with another ice pack -- latitude about 63° North. It presents the same appearance as the former pack we met. The wind coming off it makes the temperatures very cold: making us realize that we must expect to inhale "Boreas" chili breath earlier than we anticipated. During our passage of the prevailing winds have been from the north, which offers well for our success is the ice will be driven out of Smith's sound, admitting of our passage through it. We sighted land for the first time today.
Thursday, July 14, 1881
The sea is calm. A dense fog hangs over everything. We are compelled to go at half speed for fear of encountering bergs which cannot be distinguished at any distance through the hazy fog. The captain proudly relates an instance of the good Proteus's ability. While out on a sealing voyage she had just extricated herself from the pack and had attained about the rate of half speed when before it could be avoided she ran head on to a large berg. She actually ran several feet up the side of the iceberg, so great had been the momentum. She herself sustained no other injury then to destroy her headgear. Such anecdotes of her prowess naturally inspire us with much confidence. The fog lifts about 1 PM, giving us another glimpse of the snow clad mountains nestling along the seacoast.
Friday, July 15, 1881
We can occasionally see the land when the fog lifts. The captain and Mr. Israel were successful in getting a Meridian observation. Our latitude is 66° 42' North. I recognize the land very readily from my remembrance of last year's cruise. To a stranger from the south the weird appearance of these latitudes is most remarkable and fascinating -- a dark bold striking coastline, beyond which the snow clad mountains ascending to dizzy altitudes, can be seen as the gauzy curtain of fog lifts. The sea, so dotted with bergs, presents no other obstruction to the eye, and as we again turn our eyes to land we are impressed with the silent and desolate appearance of everything. No sign of animal or vegetable life disturbs or beautifies the scene. Silence reigns supreme.
Saturday, July 16, 1881
The fog has again settled down this morning and as we are supposed to be in the latitude of Disco the ship's speed is lessened. We are reckoned to be very near Godhavn at 3 PM and the engines are stopped as it is useless to attempt to make the land among the dense fog which still prevails.
Saturday, July 30, 1881
We find very little ice. It has been the experience of almost all Arctic voyages to fall in with the pack after leaving Upernavik. Our departure from the Upernavik furnished us with material for reflection. It is the last point at which the least semblance of civilization can be found. Our course now leads into that vague unknown region, which is so indefinitely marked out as to be undefined. Our ship now ploughs waters that have seldom been disturbed. No sails whiten the broad expanse of dark blue waters. In them the stately bergs sail majestically along. One can scarcely refrain from descanting on the beauties of the latter whenever the subject is suggested. Think of them only as immense islands of ice can very… Of their remarkable beauty when lighted up by the chillier rays of the midnight sun. I shall refer to them again later.
Sunday, July 31, 1881
We are making very good progress north, though it is considered strange that no larger pack of ice has been met. We fall in today with a small pack but we steamed through it. Several seals of the "square flipper" kind were seen on the ice and we were successful in shooting one. It was sunning itself at the time.
Thursday, August 4, 1881
We are having a most remarkable run. No obstructions are met with. These waters, so difficult of navigation, are as clear as can be wished for. We passed Cape Frazier at 2:50 PM, having accomplished in 16 hours the distance from Littleton Island that occupied the English expedition 21 days to make. The experience of all who pass to up Smith's sound has been that the passage is difficult to make and nothing but the most interesting and eventful warfare with the ice will enable any ship to pass, and then only when the season is favorable. Our experience is without precedent and cannot be accounted for. We meet the main pack: solid and forbiding. The ice appears solid and closely packed. No channels or openings. Only 10 miles from our destination we are as completely cut off from it as if the ice had met us at a lower latitude.
Friday, August 12, 1881
Lieut. Lockwood has now brought back information that the harbor near the coal mine was not accessible in that position for establishing our camp not so favorable as here, discovery Harbour. Lieut. Greeley concludes we establish quarters at the latter place. The ship is then forced through the ice further in the harbor -- a difficult task occupying the time till 2 PM. She would charge the ice at full speed, sending her hall half its length in the ice, where she would be sometimes held. But extricating herself, would back out and returned to the charge. At one time it was necessary to blast the ice to free her. Preparations are speedily being made for lending our stores. They can left by the English expedition was examined and then Reagan's did. But Karen is a monument to beef -- is full of hundreds of empty cans filled with pebbles. I photographed the musk oxen as they lay dead.
Sunday, August 14, 1881
From above dates until Sunday, August 22 no important occurrence has taken place. I have been so busily engaged that it was impossible to give any time to my diary. The weather was uniformly pleasant with the exception of Wednesday the 18th, when at evening some snow fell. On the evening of the 18th Proteus was ready to start as all cargo was discharged, but the weather being bad, Capt. Pike decided to remain at anchor until 4:00 AM. The majority of the party transferred their berths ashore and erected tents. I remained aboard finishing letters and did not leave the ship until she was underway. During the past week I have been making photographs daily of our camp as it increased in size and our house is it assumed from day to day the appearance of a human habitation. I am kept incessantly employed. Many letters to write, as no other opportunity may be offered for years, at least one year, and my experience of this season rather shakes my belief in the ability of the ship to reach this latitude every season. It is a mere chance.
Wednesday, August 24, 1881
Our house is so nearly completed that most of the party have disabled their tents I moved into the house. I still remain in the 10th, as I anticipate that life in the house will be so monotonous during the long dark winter but the longer I camp out the change will be more agreeable.
Thursday, August 25, 1881
Today the Proteus, heretofore unable to get away, succeeded in getting through the ice and passed out of sight. We cannot know of course what her success will be in getting out of Smith's sound until next year. Lieut. Kislingbury, on account of some dissatisfaction with the commander's arrangements, desired to go back. Permission was granted and he prepared to return by the Proteus, but before he could reach her she passed note and he was compelled to remain.
October 14, 1881
Today Lt. Greely somewhat startled us by announcing that today was the last on which we would see the sun till at least the 29th of February. We all rushed out at noon, and sure enough, Old Sol only exhibited himself for a few moments and then set in a glorious glow of colors. The refraction of its rays presented a beautiful effect in the horizon for some time after.
November 10, 1881
About 4 p.m., Elison was in the carpenter tent and attempted the experiment of filling a gasoline lamp without extinguishing it. He made a very successful failure, but will not likely again try it. In an instant he was enveloped in flames, the whole can of fluid igniting.
November 24, 1881
The day clear and favorable for the sports to be enjoyed. Of course, the drawbacks of darkness and cold must be taken into consideration. Thermometer over 60° below the freezing point, making this doubtless the coldest Thanksgiving day that has ever been celebrated. At an early hour, the men were all engaging in perfecting their arrangements for the different races; the cooks preparing their viands and even the dogs making noisy demonstrations as if to show that they too entered into the spirit of the thing.
After breakfast, the first thing on the programme was the snowshoe race. It was called for 10 a.m. but for an hour before that time, the clattering of the shoes could be heard through the quarters as the men tested the security of the fastenings, etc. We all repaired to the course on the ice in harbor, which was staked out and very imperfectly lighted. The distance was 200 yards [182 metres] and return. Eight competitors entered and a good start was effected. And now the affair became most amusing to the bystanders. Many of the men were not familiar with the cumbrous footwear and this, added to the difficulty of finding the way over the illy lit course, made their progress most awkward and erratic. The 'Montreal Snowshoe Club' would have considered it a strange exhibition. An unperceived piece of ice would trip some luckless fellow up, and away he would go, floundering in the snow to serve as a footmat for his impatient rivals who were following with more haste than speed. As soon as the unfortunate could recover his 2x4 feet, he would probably be run in by some fleet-footed mercury who could not distinguish him from the surrounding snow in which he had been wallowing.
After dinner, grog was issued (larger quantity than usual) and songs were in order. Lt. Greely having appointed me distributor of the prizes, I... succeeded in getting up a most ridiculous dress suit for the occasion: an old long-tailed coat of Jewell's was transformed by the use of shears into a swallowtail of remarkable pattern; a dilapidated white vest, immense collar, profuse jewellery manufactured by the tinsmith and an immense pair of Esquimaux [boots] completed the costume.
December 7, 1881
Nothing of importance occurred to vary the monotony of our everyday or night life. The usual exercise taken by the party in walking, hauling ice, working in the pendulum shelter... lasts for an hour or two each day.
December 10, 1881
Greely felt it necessary to demonstrate his authority. He issued an order for all hands to retire at 11 p.m…. as he considers it demoralizing to sleep at all times as we do now, as there is no difference in the appearance of night and day.
December 24, 1881
It being Xmas eve, the presents kindly sent by some thoughtful parties in the States were distributed by our commander amid much chaffing and sport. The kindness of the donors was highly appreciated. The interest attending the opening of the mysterious packages was very great. I found myself the possessor of a pipe accompanied by a neat chamois skin bag filled with fine tobacco. I have not yet learned the use of the articles however.
Egg nog was passed around and drunk to the health of loved ones at home, but we were compelled to admit that the same exhilarating beverage imbibed by our friends was superior to ours, the eggs of which were preserved and rather mummified.
December 25, 1881
It was impossible, however, to prevent our minds from wandering over snow and ice to the homes of friends and loved ones so vividly brought before us by the season of Christmastide. We think there was not one of our small party who did not indulge in a retrospective view of the events and surroundings of our last Xmas.
Monday, December 26, 1881
Temperature stationary, -22.6 -- -26.6. After midnight last night all hands being up I'm no disposition of retiring appearing, advance was proposed it met with our approval and was kept up till morning, Schneider and his violin furnishing the music. I was unable to assist him as usual, owing to the state of my arm. There was much hilarity and no sleep secured, so after breakfast everything became quiet, nothing occurring to break the silence but the regular snoring of one of the sleepers. In the evening our entertainment came off a programming....
January 8, 1882
Our usual Sabbath. Bible reading by Lt. G. in the morning; the remainder of the day very quiet until 7 p.m. when the ration of rum is issued, after which conversation flows fast and furious. This New England rum of ours appears to contain more volubility and eloquence to the square yard than any stimulant hitherto administered. An argument can be readily started on any topic on Sunday evening.
Monday, January 9, 1882
Today we experienced the lowest temperature yet observed by us. The thermometer range from -44.0 to -56.4, observed and corrected.
Tuesday, January 10, 1882
A still lower temperature, from -47.2 to -57.2, observed and corrected. Israel, in taking it his observations at the astronomical observatory, froze his toe.
Monday, January 16, 1982
Today we experienced the most severe storm I've ever witnessed. Barometer began to fall a little after midnight on the 15th, a light breeze setting in from the west at that time. The sky clouded up at this time, a small space at the zenith only been partly clear so that a few stars can be seen shining through. Barometer showing a more decided fall as the morning advanced. At 8 AM. Slate fall of snow began. Wind sprang up from Southwest blowing 4 miles an hour. The remarkable fall of barometer induced Lieut. Greely to have it observed every 15 minutes. About noon he expected the storm came in in full force. Ralston, who was on duty found great difficulty in reaching the instrument shelter, where the violence of the wind blew out his candle. He returned and Jewel accompanied him. They succeeded in reading the thermometer, which indicated a temperature of -12.5°, remarkable rise of 17° since 7 AM. By the time 1 o'clock came around, the storm had so increased in violence that although several relays and relief parties attempted to reach the instrument shelter [20 metres from the 'house'], none were successful. Connell and I started for the tide gauge. I cannot describe the fury of the storm. It was intensely dark, the wind was howling out of the NE at the rate of 60 miles [96 kilometres] an hour carrying with it clouds of frozen snow that cut the face like powdered glass or sparks of fire. The resistance to the body was tremendous. It was impossible to move in an upright position. We lost the path and tumbled over the hill to the ice foot, making no attempt to save ourselves. We crawled along a short distance and somebody beside me said: "let's try and get back." Beiderbeck's red light showed up a little in advance, however, and we followed it and succeeded, by mere chance, in reaching the snow house over the tide gauge. I returned was not quite so difficult, but we had hard work and returned to the quarters bruised and almost frozen. Our faces were covered with a sheet of ice. The highest velocity recorded before the anemometer blew away was 65 miles an hour but I have no doubt it increased after that, and we are inclined to think 80 mph not too high an estimate.
February 4, 1882
Nothing worth recording except the terrible low temperatures.
This temperature — strange to say — is not difficult to stand for a few hours while exercising violently.
Tuesday, February 7, 1882
Nothing worth recording except the terrible low temperatures. Maximum -51.4, minimum -58.6, mean -55.4.
Thursday, February 9, 1882
The light is steadily increasing and has suggested the coming fieldwork. Lieut. Greely therefore inaugurates the preparations for it by setting Bender to work making spirit lamps and cooking utensils, Fredericks and Saddler are set to work when experimenting with footgear. This is rendered necessary by our almost [illegible]. Distribution of anything suitable for traveling in the sledge journeys that are contemplated. After much discussion and testing to decide on a combination of canvas and blanket.
Monday, February 13, 1882
In the evening Lieut. Greely conversed with me in regard to my going out on sledge trips in the spring. He was good enough to say that I could have command of the party supporting Lieut. Lockwood -- an important mission in his estimation. The doctor as for sometime expressed a strong wish to have me accompany him, and I am more desirous of going north on this side then of following the Greenland coast on the other. I think the chances of attaining the highest latitudes are greater, I so expressed myself and Lieut. Greely kindly allowed me to choose.
February 26, 1882
The light has increased so that today the idea of beholding ourselves by natural instead of artificial light occurred to some of us. We were all surprised at the bleached out appearance of our countenances.
February 28, 1882
The sky this morning was of a most beautiful rose colour, predicting the appearance of the sun which showed its upper limit at 11:40 a.m. The whole disk was seen from 11:45 to 11:57. Gardiner, Connell and I -- just coming off observations -- miss seeing the returning luminary. The prodigal sun was first seen by Dr. Pavy, Ralston and Henry who met on the top of Cairn Hill, before he lighted up our sombre dwelling. I believe it is the rule to indulge in some attempt at poetical allusion to the eagerly wished-for return of Old Sol, but for the most rosily beautiful description of the event to be found in Arctic literature, commend me to Hayes' gem of a paragraph which discourages any attempt at imitation as completely as the effulgent rays of the glorious sun pales the feeble light of the silvery moon.
May 21, 1882
The time passes very heavily and slowly to us now. My eyes are still weak and prevent me from reading so much as I would wish to.
June 2, 1882
On May 28th, the temperature rose above the freezing point of water for the first time in 271 consecutive days!
June 7, 1882
About noon, Jewell and I started for Bellot Island Breakwater to make photos of some interesting subjects which Jewell saw when returning a few days ago from Cape Baird. I found some of the blocks of ice that had been forced up were of remarkable beauty and striking appearance. One especially was completely fringed with icicles of immense size arranged in regular order. Behind the icicles was a deep recess under a floeberg, and for the sake of effect I had Jewell place himself there when I made the negative. I have called the place 'an Arctic prison.'
June 21, 1882
Today our summer solstice culminates and our everlasting sun, now at its highest, will begin to fall away from us, but, fortunately will not reach the horizon for many weeks yet. We are glad to note the passing time, but the anticipation of the darkness of Arctic winter is not pleasant. This is the anniversary of my initiation as an 'Arctic explorer.' I left Washington in the Gulnare just two years ago. My diary shows that the remembrance cost me some reflections.
July 10, 1882
Greely had shown much more of strength and great endurance than we could expect from his appearance, which is not strong. Doubtless a strong will has much to do with it.
July 22, 1882
I looked over my letters in the evening… It is difficult, with few exceptions, to know for whom to prepare letters until the ship arrives. Besides, one dislikes to expend much labor in preparing for an event which may never happen. The ship may not reach us this year or, which amounts to the same thing so far as letters are concerned, we may be ordered back to the United States. From what I can learn of the wishes of the party, this last possibility is not looked on with disfavor. The occupation of looking over old letters this dull, rainy Sunday evening, after a year's silence and absence from the -- in some cases at least -- very dear writers, caused me more than a slight twinge of homesickness and loneliness.
August 6, 1882
The expected arrival of the ship is the only topic of conversation and is also the motive for all that is being done at the quarters. Some are writing letters, others packing boxes, arranging Arctic flowers, etc.... I feel by no means sure that the ship will arrive; it certainly looks favorable for her to navigate Smith Sound, but we cannot judge of the North Water where the ice may detain her.
August 12, 1882
Greely told George that he had about given the ship up
I agree with him in that, but think there is plenty time for her yet. He says will retreat from here a year from today.
August 14, 1882
We think the ship is due now, and cannot imagine why she does not put in an appearance. The Dr. and a few of the men think that she has not been sent. I cannot think that, for, even if the Gov't are unfavorably placed towards us, the only result would be an order recalling us.
I cannot imagine why Lt. Greely should decide to leave here on the 12th of August next year, simply because the ship has not arrived this [year]. He thinks that because the ship did not arrive under such apparently favorable circumstances, we cannot expect to see her next year, but will have to retreat. The causes for the non-arrival of the ship may be outside of the circumstances of which we are able to judge. We may have open water here, while the entrance to Smith Sound is closed up, or the north water impassible. The successful navigation of Smith Sound depends on many conditions… And, again, how can it positively be said that we will start on August 12th?
August 15, 1882
The ship should certainly be here now. I think that the prevailing south and east winds must have blocked up the entrance to Smith Sound. I shall expect the ship until the 20th, after which I think her chances for reaching us are much diminished. New ice already forms after noon, and the sun is already getting low -- almost touching the hills at midnight.
August 25, 1882
Of course we have given up the ship. Even the most sanguine of us have settled down to the belief that another year must elapse before we hear from home.
August 26, 1882
The ship, if sent -- and I do not know what could be an excuse for not sending her -- must have been stopped by the ice in the North Water or at the entrance of Smith Sound. The prevailing winds of the early summer, if they were from the same quarter that we had them, must have kept the Baffin Bay ice crowded in the entrance to Smith Sound, or around Cape York. All preparations for the ship's coming have ceased: we have accepted the inevitable conclusion that another long year must elapse before we can hear from home, and the worst is that the failure of the ship's coming this year has shaken the confidence of many in coming next year.
The Commander, especially, appears to have no faith in [the ship's] arrival, and openly and positively states that we will leave here on August 12, 1883, in boats. He will wait no later than that for the ship, and has, he says, no idea of her getting here before that. This seems very strange to me. It is conceded that a ship cannot get here every year. Sir Geo Nares, the highest authority, says that there is no certainty of navigating Smith Sound every year -- yet because a ship, for the first time since steam has been used, has failed one year, it is accepted that she will also fail the next.
Why should we give her up hopes of [a ship's] arrival on August 12th?... And how are we sure that we can leave here August 12th?
October 1, 1882
Greely then read out the orders and rather surprised the men by speaking of it as mutiny!! This appears to me a very strange and strained construction. However, I do not know much of military usage. There is not a more subordinate and orderly member of the expedition, and this is proved by [Linn's] record during the more than year that has elapsed here. His insolence should have been punished in some way, of course; I should think placing him under arrest for a short time would have been sufficient. It was only a momentary outburst on Linn's part under great excitement, and I am sure he is just the man to appreciate and be affected by a little clemency under the circumstances. However, Sergeant Linn is now a private... and last of all: no enlisted man is to go further than 500 yards [450 metres] from the station without obtaining permission.
In issuing this last order, the Commander stated that some punishment, or inconvenience, must naturally result to the whole party because of Linn's fault. I cannot quite see the logic of this. The order is a great hardship. No member of the party has ever abused or taken advantage of the privilege of going short distances from the station. It was Lt. Greely's instructions from the first that no long absence from the station be taken without letting him know. This is quite proper, as accidents might occur to solitary pedestrians in places where -- without knowledge of the direction in which they went -- it would be impossible to find them. The order has been faithfully observed, no man taking the liberty of going any considerable distance without first seeing the commander.
To put, virtually, a stop to this very important agent in keeping up the health and spirits of the party -- at the commencement especially of a second Arctic winter -- is, in my opinion, a grave mistake. The failure of a ship to come was a great disappointment to many, and now another long dark night of months coming on is apt to depress one's spirits, without the addition of restrictions that are irksome and mortifying. I at first intended to confine the statement of this affair to my private diary -- as I have done in regard to some other matters -- but think it proper to express an opinion here, which may be erroneous but is certainly honest. To manage an Arctic expedition as if it were a body of troops before the enemy seems absurd to anyone.
November 30, 1882
[On Thanksgiving] The order read in conclusion that 'exemption from disease and death, success in scientific and geographical work, together with the present possession of health and cheerfulness, were blessings for which this command had reasons to be devoutly thankful.' Today was therefore celebrated, but in no very enjoyable manner. Enthusiasm for such things has evidently died out somewhat since last year. After one year in the Arctic, the repetition of what at first were novelties does not interest anyone.
December 25, 1882
Christmas is upon us again, but brings with it but little of that joyousness that is supposed to attend the season. Enthusiasm is not so great as last year. In fact, with the exception of the anticipation of spending our next in civilization, there is little to make the party contented. Our last winter was spent successfully and pleasantly, and the whole party came through it in excellent health, and performed very hard labor after it. Why then does the commander see fit, or think it necessary, to impose restrictions that were not considered last year? No one is allowed to go to Dutch Island without permission. The men (this order does not fortunately affect me) are not allowed to lie down during the day, notwithstanding the fact that there are no chairs or other seats than benches without backs. There is nothing for most of the men to do, and they nearly all say that they cannot read more than a small portion of the time without injury to the [eyes] by the artificial light -- especially as the large number makes it impossible for more than a few to get near the tables and lights. These instructions, imposed at this time, are very irksome and have an unfortunate effect on the minds of the men when everything tending to depression of spirits should be avoided.
He brought up the subject of our retreat and spoke of the possibility of death in its most horrible forms staring the party in the face, in which case, he said, he had no doubt we would all die like men and heroically. I do not doubt it at all, but take the liberty of thinking that to bring the subject up in this light, in the middle of a depressing Arctic winter, is quite injudicious, especially in a commander of an expedition, whose position naturally gives his words additional weight. For myself, this has no effect; but it cannot be expected that in a large party there are not some who cannot think of the contingencies suggested in a philosophic manner. This is not surmise on my part for I have heard remarks from some of the men that prove what I have said. Perhaps Lt. Greely thinks those remarks are for the best, but I know, in some cases, they have a bad effect. There is time enough to discuss the manner of our death when we leave here, or the time to pass in our checks comes.
January 1, 1883
Today winds up the last month of the year, and we have now the pleasure of saying: 'We will go home this year,' for I am writing this at 1 a.m., January 1st, 1883.
June 6, 1883
Two years ago I left Washington -- and what a crowd of memories! I trust that the next time the [date] comes round I shall again be in the land of green meadows and flowers.
June 17, 1883
I fixed me up a bunk in my tent last night and moved out of the house into it. I can sleep in purer air and be by myself. I have also arranged a writing desk in the tent, and shall be able to work much better where not disturbed or interrupted. My corner of the quarters was too dark, and a change of any kind is, of course, welcome.
July 12, 1883
The flower craze, i.e the insane rage for pressing the scanty vegetation of our surroundings to take back as souvenirs, still has possession of the party. After dinner (4 o’clock), everyone is out collecting, or inside pressing, the flora of the country. It does not look much as if there were many fears of the necessity of a retreat by boats. Everyone appears to count on the arrival of the ship, else they would not devote so much time and labor for nothing. Brainard and I are, as last year, partners in a flower press and this, with my writing, occupies all my spare time.
July 20, 1883
Doctor's contract expires today and I believe he has declined to renew it. Dr. Pavy has been placed under close arrest, to be tried by courtmartial on our return to the United States. There are many unpleasant features connected with this affair, but I will not enter into the question here as it is no business of mine... I suppose the matter will be straightened out in a proper manner when we get back.
July 29, 1883
An announcement was made this morning before divine service by the commander that an attempt to retreat will be made on the 7th day of August in case the ship does not reach us before that time.... The start will only be made if the condition of the ice permits the launch to be taken; otherwise we are to wait for more favorable conditions and will start at the earliest opportunity, even at the last of August or the 1st September. Each man is to be allowed 8 pounds [3.6 kilograms] personal baggage, and the officers 16 [7.2 kilograms].
July 30, 1883
Everyone has belongings which possess other value than their intrinsic worth to him, but if the retreat becomes a serious affair -- as it undoubtedly will if there is no ship to co-operate with us at an early date, for there has been little preparation made along the coast for this contingency -- a pair of socks will be more valuable to their owner than a gold watch or the most highly prized souvenir.
I have many things I should regret to abandon, and trust the ship will arrive in time. Besides, I have a natural apprehension of the unpleasant conditions of a retreat in the fall by boats, with the young ice forming and other disadvantageous circumstances, -- etc., etc.
February 2, 1884
My dear friend Kislingbury:
In the event of this pending journey ending fatally for me, I desire that yourself and Brainard act as my executors, in conjunction with Moses P. Rice of Washington, D.C…. Of my trinkets, I desire that a diamond ring, which will be found among my effects, to be sent to Miss Maud Dunlop of Baddeck, Cape Breton, as a souvenir of a few sunshiny days. Other articles are to be divided between my mother and Miss Helen Bishop of Washington, D.C., the latter to be allowed the choice of articles she wishes to retain… I am quite aware of the nullity of this hastily written paper as a legal instrument and have paid no attention to testamentory forms, but feel assured that there will be no disregard of my wishes on the part of anyone interested in me, or herein mentioned.
Hoping that we may joke over this in the sunshine of Littleton Island, I remain, your much obliged friend, George W. Rice
March 1, 1884
My breakfast at Godfrey's today would be scrambled eggs, boiled smoked herrings, baked Irish potatoes and butter, Parker House rolls, soft boiled eggs and a cup of chocolate. -- My breakfast WAS a half can of tomatoes, a few grains of rice and desicated potatoes, and some crumbs of dog biscuit, made up to a few ounces of stew.
My dinner would be a half dozen raw oysters, bean soup, roast goose, and applesauce, fowl, cabbage, bread pudding, sweet potato pie, apples, oranges, raisins, nuts, cheese and crackers.-- However, four ounces of tallow and bacon and six oz. Of bread for dinner is what we DID have.
I fear this wind will break up the new ice in the channel. Five months ago this day I left Eskimo Point for this place and five months will place us beyond the Arctic Circle or, more likely: "Beyond that bourne, etc."
March 7, 1884
Unpleasant discussion occurred during the evening, in which the true nature of some of the party was pitifully exhibited. Lt. Lockwood appears to be much demoralized, while such men as Bender, Ellis and Schneider of course act only as men of such dispositions and calibre can be expected to.
I much fear the horrors of our last days here, as no doubt many, or at least some of the party will be completely demoralized.
March 9, 1884
Weather is still execrable. Had a son-of-a-gun today, but this dish is but a ghost of its former self. It consisted only of lard, blubber, bread and water boiled together, but we think it delicious. The minute quantities of our different delicacies have all run out. The lemons, butter, vegetables, raisins, blubber, etc. are all gone, and there remain only a few grains of potatoes and a can of extract of beef. We have lard enough to grease another son-of-a-gun, which must be our last.
Lt. G. has decided to send Long and Fred the Eskimo to Alexandra Harbor to look for game, and Frederick (Shorty) and I have volunteered to go to Eskimo Point and try to find the meat we abandoned in Baird Inlet last fall.
March 11, 1884
Sun shone on our house for the first time and raised our thermometer six degrees. Ellis tells me of being intimidated by the other occupants of his sleeping bag and talks of cannibalism. I am much afraid of a demoralization of many of the party. The conversations and hints show a state of warped imagination, which may result in things too bad to contemplate. I hope that if the worst comes, I may retain my mental powers even after my physical have failed.
March 16, 1884
I think now that although there are months of great hardship and privation before us, we shall pull through. I have long since given up the idea of the straights allowing us to cross. A ship shall furnish us with the only transportation we shall get from this point.
There's a hard trip before Shorty and myself to look up that meat, unless a large seal is soon secured. I talked with Brainard today and cautioned him to look out for the commissary, as it is greatly to be feared that certain of the party cannot be trusted in case we come to extremes. I have my eye on a gun and will not hesitate to use it if occasion requires it.
March 23, 1884
Lt. G. says we can live on our present rations until about the 6th of April, as he has reason to believe the tallow on the English bacon is extra, that is, it is not counted in the weight in cans. He says we can probably exist a short time longer by using a few ounces daily and also by trying to use the stearline, our boots, the kayak, etc.
Then I hope that Shorty and I can find the meat at Baird Inlet. I am quite confident we will pull through in spite of all. The only thing I fear is that if we do not secure a seal or bear before any further reduction, we will be too weak to take advantage of any game, no matter how abundant it may become.
George Rice froze to death on April 9, 1884.