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Ghosts of Cape Sabine: The Harrowing True…
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Ghosts of Cape Sabine: The Harrowing True Story of the Greely Expedition (2000)

by Leonard F. Guttridge

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Showing 5 of 5
Interesting story, poorly told. I feel like this is one that could have benefited from a solid editor with a timeline. ( )
1 vote romanccm | Jan 2, 2015 |
Last year I read North by Roger Hubank, a fictional account of the Greely expedition. Afterwards, I wanted to read an historical account of the Greeley expedition. In this book, I learned more about problems with the first two relief attempts. I liked Guttridge's detailed end notes describing the sources from institutions such as the National Archives and the Library of Congress. ( )
  krin5292 | May 26, 2013 |
Unfortunately, I found Leonard F. Guttridge's "Ghosts of Cape Sabine" too poorly written to enjoy. This should have been a great, epic tale of the Greeley expedition's misfortunes while spending years exploring the arctic. The story itself is fairly dramatic and interesting-- there is plenty of source material to make this a story worth telling.

Under Guttridge's pen, the story is extremely difficult to follow and unskillfully woven. (I defy you to find a paragraph in this book that does not mention at least three different people... it just becomes a confusing jumble of names all to frequently.) I found myself skimming and skipping page after boring page before I finally put down the book for good.

I love a good arctic (or antarctic) exploration story... there are tons of great books out there focused on the trials and tribulations of different expeditions. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. ( )
  amerynth | Apr 19, 2012 |
Whom the Arctic destroys, it first drives mad.

That is the sad truth of nineteenth and early twentieth century Arctic exploration. From John Ross's sighting of the non-existent "Croker Mountains" to the crew of the Karluk a century later, the tales of officers making absurd decisions, of sailors out of control, of choices made for no known reason are endless. There are a lot of reasons. Scurvy leads the list. Seasonal affective disorder certainly doesn't help. Other dietary problems may contribute.

Sometimes, the problems began before the expedition even sailed. The Greeley expedition to Ellesmere Island in 1881, one of the more ambitious attempts to reach the high arctic, is a case in point. The planning was simply fuddled. This left the members of the expedition with no means of survival and little hope of timely rescue. As a result, the majority died, miserably, and charges of cannibalism flew.

The tale is certainly dramatic, needing only a good telling.

This telling is, well, fair. It was simply too easy to get lost. Two or three times it seemed as if everybody was about to die and we must be at the end of the actual expedition. Then -- surprise! -- everybody goes on doing whatever they were doing. People died, periodically, but it seems as if the narrative bounces back and forth from the end to somewhere in the middle. It may be strictly chronological, but if so, it loses the thread of the chronology.

This probably still qualifies as the best popular account of one of the disastrous miscalculations that have so marred Arctic explorations. But you might want to take notes as you read it. It's too easy to get lost otherwise. ( )
  waltzmn | Mar 11, 2012 |
The annotation of this book promises "a nonfiction narrative that reads like a novel." That statement more aptly describes "Iceblink" or "Trial by Ice" than "Ghosts of Cape Sabine", however.
That is not to say that it did not have its own points of interests. The diary excerpts were interesting, as they tell of the several different points of view, as well as show how one can choose to remain in the dark about something obvious to everyone around them.
As stated much in the book, Greely may have been a good commander for the most part, but not on this particular expedition. Even though "the expedition, after a retreating voyage of 500 miles, landed as its assigned rendezvous with every man in health, all records intact, all scientific instruments preserved", it does not mean that he could not have handled his people better. How often had he threatened to demote or arrest men over trivial matters? Moreover, what of his insane dislike of other explorers such as Nansen & Peary? Not to mention his harsh opinion of Garlington. Garlington & his group could just as easily have suffered the same fate if the Yantic had not changed her course to rescue them. ( )
  TheCelticSelkie | Feb 6, 2007 |
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For Jean

WITH LOVE AND GRATITUDE
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PROLOGUE

"Most of us are out of our right minds. I fear for the future."

-- LIEUTENANT ADOLPHUS GREELY

It was 18 September, 1883. Twenty-give men huddled in their sleeping bags out on an ice floe grinding erratically through the shifting ice and swirling contents of the Arctic's Kane Basin.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0399145893, Hardcover)

In May 1884, huddled in a tent on the northwest coast of Greenland, Private Roderick R. Schneider looked around at his companions and wrote in his journal: "It is horrible to see eighteen men dying by inches." One month later, Schneider was dead, a victim of starvation. Schneider was one of 24 men sent to establish a scientific base in Lady Franklin Bay in 1881. A combination of poor planning, bad weather, weak leadership, and a lack of support from the government that had sent them north caused all but six men to perish. Historian Leonard F. Guttridge tells the story of the ill-fated Greely expedition in Ghosts of Cape Sabine.

The expedition got off to a rocky start, underprovisioned and manned with soldiers who had never been to the Arctic. Still, once established at Lady Franklin Bay, the team performed its scientific studies and even made a foray north, breaking the British record. Personality conflicts between Lieutenant Adolphus Greely and several of his men were intensified by the fact that the ships supposed to resupply and, after two years, relieve them, never came. Dangerously low on food and supplies, the party was forced to attempt to retreat on its own. After weeks of travel, much of it spent drifting on the ice pack in Kane Basin, the party arrived at Cape Sabine and made camp. As the weeks passed and the food ran out, the men subsisted on leather from their boots, miniscule shrimp, bits of moss scraped from the rocks, and--as the days grew longer and the party grew smaller--the bodies of their fallen comrades. "In the wan light of an unsetting sun during those early Arctic summer weeks, one or more of the desperate men at Cape Sabine had been up on the ridge of the dead, busy with scalpel or hunting knife."

Guttridge utilized journals, reports, and personal correspondence to create an almost day-to-day account of the expedition, and he excels at bringing to life those desperate months waiting for rescue ships that came too late for most of the Greely expedition. Juicy details and a mastery of the subject make Ghosts of Cape Sabine read like a suspenseful novel. --Sunny Delaney

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:55 -0400)

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