THE following is one of the most thrilling narratives on record. As a well-known writer has said, "There is nothing in all the records of peril and adventure which exceeds this." It is the history of nineteen persons, men, women, and children, who lived one hundred and ninety-five days, just six months and a half, upon cakes of ice in the Arctic Ocean, and were at last all saved: so wonderful are the mercies of God.

These poor ice-bound prisoners were a part of the crew of the United States Exploring Ship, Polaris, which was locked in the ice, in Smith's Straits, on the northwestern coast of Greenland. It was at the head of Baffin's Bay, away up in latitude 77° 35' north. The particulars of this narrative are as follows:

As there were alarming reasons for expecting that the Polaris would soon be crushed by the masses of ice, a large quantity of stores and provisions, with boats, instruments, etc., had been landed on the floe, and a canvas hut built for protection. 

But scarcely had these measures for safety been taken, when the fury of a tempest suddenly broke up the ice, snapped the ship's cables, and rapidly bore her away from the floe.

This was in the night, and a blinding snowstorm was upon them. When the vessel thus suddenly disappeared, the men and stores floated off in various directions, and it was only after the most perilous exertions, occupying several hours' labor with the boats, that the people were finally collected on the main floe. About midnight, thankful that Heaven had spared them thus far, they all huddled together under the scanty protection of some musk-ox skins. 

This was Oct. 15, 1872.In the morning after the separation, it was discovered that they were upon an ice floe about a mile and a half in diameter. 

The party consisted of ten seamen, among them one of the ship's officers, two Es- quimaux men, with their wives, and five small children, one of them being a babe only two months old! His name was called Charles Polaris, after the ship, upon which he was born. For their subsistence, they had a quantity of canned meat, a few bags of bread, some dried apples, find a sack of chocolate. They had also guns and ammunition, two ship's boats, kyacks, various instruments of navigation, a tent, and several Esquimaux dogs.  After taking some nourishment, the sailors took their boats and attempted to reach the shore near by, intending soon to return and get their stores; but the continued tempest and moving ice stopped them, and they were obliged to haul up their boats on a floe. To add to their distress, the Polaris was now seen under steam and sail several miles away.

A gale came sweeping down upon them, breaking up the floe, and separating them from one of their boats. They were now left upon a piece of ice only twenty or thirty rods across. Having abandoned all hope of reaching the vessel, they made back to the main floe, and began to prepare for the trials before them. Soon the ice, which had hitherto remained stationary among the bergs, began to drift, drift away, with its living freight upon it. Several snow huts were now built by the sailors, one of which was warmed by a lamp made out of a meat can, with a piece of canvas for wicking. Through a kind Providence, several seals were caught, which supplied them with both fuel and food. By the first of November the sun had completely disappeared, and they only had twilight, with the moon and stars, for many weeks. The floe party was soon reduced to very scanty rations of food; but they always managed to catch seals or other Arctic game, which saved them from actual starvation. Most of the dogs were shot, as they were too weak to be of use. 

The 28th of November, Thanksgiving Day, was duly celebrated by the shipwrecked company. Their dinner was as follows: Six biscuits, a pound of canned meat, a little soup, and some preserved corn. Thus they feasted, thanking the Giver of all mercies.

Life upon the floe was very simple. Most of the time was spent in the snow huts, it being too dark to move about, even if there had been any motive. Thus the dreary month of December passed by with few events of interest. Christmas was celebrated by the extra allowance of an ounce of bread to each person to make the seal broth thicker.

New Year's day was the coldest that the party had experienced thus far. The thermometer was very low, not rising above 25°, and sometimes descending to 40° below zero. It was ice, ice, ice, in all directions, bergs, hummocks, floes, and packs; but still they drifted south along the eastern coast of Prince William's Land. They were now about halfway down Baffin's Bay.

About the middle of January two polar bears came to the huts, and attacked the dogs, but as might be expected, the dogs were so weak that they were quickly worsted in the contest. All this time the party were drifting slowly along, in sight of the western coast, which they judged to be from forty to seventy miles distant. The cold month of February was dismal indeed, but they occasionally caught a seal, which saved them from perishing. At this time they were drifting through Davis' Straits.  But we have already exceeded our limits, and so defer the remainder of this narrative till next week.




THE month of March opened upon our voyagers with terrible severity, yet one of the men ventured out on the ice and shot sixty-six dovekies, a little Arctic Water-bird which weighs only three or four ounces. About this time the party were in very great apprehension by the grinding of the ice mountains, which sounded like heavy artillery. The floe also was being constantly reduced in size. The roaring of the gales, the collision of the bergs, the swashing of the water, and the breaking up of the floe, made their situation most terrible to contemplate. But the Guiding Hand had mercies still in store for them, and soon the weather moderated. Not far from this, when their food was all gone, and one of their boats burned up for fuel, the captain shot a polar bear, which saved them from starving. "Praise the Lord," writes one of the men, "this is his Heavenly work! 

Food comes some way, when we must have it."

The last of March, observations were made, and they judged that they were opposite Cape Farewell, the most southern land of Greenland. Heavy Atlantic gales were now greatly reducing the floe in size, and they were also in a drowning condition. They now took to the boat in hopes of finding a larger piece of ice. They had also reached the place where vessels in quest of seals might be expected. After buffeting with ice and water for several hours, they hauled up on a small floe, and erected the canvas tent. At this time one of the Esquimaux shot a bear, which was ranging over the ice in search of seals. 

This furnished them with a supply of food for a while. But the month of April was by far the most perilous time to the drifting party, in consequence of their being obliged to pass from floe to floe, as the ice would break. Sometimes the floe would suddenly separate, leaving the party on different pieces, and throwing them into the water. 

At times they were obliged to keep the women and children in the boat, to be ready when the ice broke. Once they were compelled to hold on to the boat for above thirty hours in succession, to keep her from being washed off in a gale.

But there remained only a few more days of drifting, and waiting, and watching for the mariners. On the 28th, just at night, they descried a steamer in the distance, but could not attract her attention, and she bore away. Fires were now made on the ice, with seal blubber, to attract the attention of passing vessels. Again their spirits rose and fell by seeing a steamer several miles away, but she, too, soon passed out of sight, though they discharged all their guns to attract her attention.

But early on the following morning, when the fog lifted, a glorious sight met their anxious gaze! A steamer was discovered within a short distance of the floe. Guns were immediately fired, the colors were set, and loud and prolonged shouts were uttered. The vessel's head was soon turned toward them, and in a few moments she was alongside the floe. The continued cheers given by the shipwrecked party were returned by the shouts of a hundred strong men on deck and aloft. In a few moments they were all on board; yes, on board, and, thank Heaven, SAVED.

This providential deliverance occurred May 1, 1873. The vessel was the sealer Tigress, of Newfoundland. The floe-party was picked up off the coast of Labrador, in latitude 53° 35' north, and had consequently drifted through twenty-four degrees of latitude, and over a waste of ice and water some two thousand miles in length! *How wonderful are the ways of Providence with the needy children of men.  In another article we will tell the readers what became of the Polaris, and the men left on board.


*NOTE. The particulars of this remarkable narrative are taken from a volume of 700 pages, prepared under the direction of the Secretary of the Navy, and published by the Government Printing Office at Washington.


IN the preceding numbers the readers have learned about the separation of the crew of the Polaris, and how a part of them lived for over six months on cakes of ice, and were, at last, all saved. We will now tell what became of the Polaris, and the remnant of the crew that remained with her.

After the separation, the captain called all hands together, when it was found that only fourteen men remained on board. 

The crew gazed for a few moments on each other in silence, when the duties of the ship were resumed. The vessel was rapidly driven through the water, and after some time ran into posh ice, and her progress was stayed. The ship was found to be leaking badly, but steam was gotten up, and the pumps gained on the leak.

In the morning, anxious eyes were on the lookout for the company who had been separated from them in the night; but they were obliged to attend at once to their own personal safety, as the ship was in a sinking condition. Under these circumstances they decided to run the vessel ashore, and abandon her. Having by the aid of steam and sail thrust the ship into the land, active preparations were made for leaving her. 

This was October 17,1872.

They now built huts on the shore, and began to remove their effects. Soon they were visited by some Esquimaux, who came to the ship with a small sled drawn by dogs. 

These natives were dressed in dog and bear skins. They were a good-natured set of fellows, and helped the seamen to move to the shore, which was some twenty rods distant. It was surprising to see what great loads their dogs could draw. Four of them would trot off gaily with a burden which as many sailors could barely move!

About this time the sun disappeared, and was out of sight till April; but they had twilight, and some of the time, most beautiful auroras. The crew were well off for provisions, but were very poorly provided with clothes, their goods being on the floe. 

They had also only a limited supply of ammunition for their fire-arms.

It was soon decided to live as well as they could through the winter, and then build small boats out of the Polaris, and in the summer sail down the coast of Greenland, hoping to reach the Danish settlements, or better still, fall in with some whale men.

During the winter, they were visited by more than a hundred Esquimaux, with their families and sleds and dogs. The natives often furnished them with seals and walrus, which they were very skillful in capturing. The seamen also made very many excursions, to hunt and to explore the coast, and to take observations; for which last object they were provided by our government with the most approved instruments. Several of the party also were thoroughly scientific men. In their hunting excursions they shot numerous rabbits and foxes, geese, and other Arctic birds. 

During the winter, by their constant intercourse with the natives, they had good opportunities for learning much in regard to their habits, religion, and ways, as a people.

By the first of January, the twilight had so increased that at noon observations were made without artificial light. At this time the grinding of the bergs in the Straits resembled continued thunder. The mate of the ship now commenced the constructionof two boats, with which to escape from this land of ice. Several weeks were occupied in building them, and furnishing them with sails made of sheets and towels.

On the 2d of June they commenced their perilous voyage amid the floating ice. For over three weeks they coasted southward, moving through the water by the aid of sails and oars, and hauling up on the shore ice, or rocks, to rest, as they were compelled. But on the 28th, the company, were electrified by hearing one of the men cry at the top of his voice,  “Ship ahoy!" Joy thrilled every breast! Away to the south, some ten miles distant, were seen the three masts and smokestack of a vessel. This was one of the Scotch whalers, which they had hoped to fall in with. The flag was now hoisted on two oars, lashed together. Soon the ship's ensign was run up, showing that the signal was seen. 

The Polaris men now dispatched two of their number to communicate with the strange vessel. When about half way, they were met by ten sailors, who had come out to render assistance. From them was learned the grateful intelligence that the party on the floe had been picked up.  By midnight all hands were on board the vessel, which proved to be the Ravenscraig, of Scotland, Captain Alien commander. Here they were treated with the utmost kindness. By a prosperous passage, the entire crew in a few weeks reached the city of Washington, and one of the boats was preserved and exhibited at the great Centennial of 1876.