Ghosts of Cape Sabine: The Harrowing True Story of the Greely Expedition

Leonard F. Guttridge, Author Putnam Adult $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-14589-6
Mutiny, shipwreck, a new farthest north, bureaucratic ineptitude, cannibalism. A story that features all these elements promises more than enough excitement, but Guttridge (Icebound, etc.) doesn't corral all the pieces of his story into a coherent narrative until the end, when the stark and tragic facts take on their own momentum. The Greely Expedition set out in 1881 to conduct scientific observations at Lady Franklin Bay, a remote spot on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic. Under the command of U.S. Army Lieut. Adolphus Greely, the expedition was part of a multinational research effort in which several countries were making scientific observations. But funds were hard to obtain for the expedition and, more importantly, for the relief parties that were sent out the following year to cache supplies in the event the Greely party had to retreat southward. The events themselves are gripping, and Guttridge shows how Greely's men steadily lost faith in their commander. Greely's most dependable sergeant wrote in his journal: ""Why does the United States government persist in sending a fool in command of an Arctic expedition?"" But Guttridge delves too deeply into the details of bureaucratic infighting and provisioning and fails to successfully evoke the rigors and beauties of the Arctic climate. He relies heavily on the words that the officers and men wrote in their journals, which give readers a sense of the inexorable breakdown of discipline and morale in the face of poor leadership, but don't offer any lingering sense of the men who wrote them or of the conditions to which they ultimately succumbed. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 354 pages - 978-0-425-17654-2
Paperback - 392 pages - 978-0-595-40969-3
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