Monday, January 18, 2016

David L. Brainard and the Greely Expedition of 1881-1884

My husband has a relative who was part of the historic Greely Expedition of 1881-1884.

David Legge Brainard was 25 years old when he joined the Greely Expedition also known as the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition led by Lieutenant Adolphus Greely. Brainard was first sergeant and proved to be an important leader in this ill-fated expedition where only six of twenty-five men survived.

Brainard, Greely, and most of the other members of the expedition were military men whose mission was to establish a meteorological-observation post, collect astronomical date, and polar magnetic data in the Arctic.
David L. Brainard, seated, second from left

In July of 1881, the men left on the ship Proteus and sailed with great ease to the Lady Franklin Bay. They were supposed to be picked up in a year's time. Unbeknownst to them, the ease of their travel was because it was an unusually warm summer. What this meant was that usually the narrow inlet was iced over and difficult to traverse.  That was exactly what happened, and the men were stuck in the Arctic for three years, not one, with provisions that ran out before they were finally rescued.

There were many things that happened during this expedition and a PBS Documentary does a good job giving that information. There are also quite a lot of internet sources - see some below.

The good things that happened include the breaking record that Brainard, Lt. James Booth Lockwood, and Greenlander Hunter and Dog Sledge Driver Thorlip Frederik Christiansen achieved,  a new "farthest north" record off the coast of Greenland, stealing the title from the British.  Another positive result is that the meticulous records they took are now being used in studies about global warming.

Some of the awful things that happened had to do with the fact that the men were abandoned in the Arctic due to the impassable inlet and a certain lack of care by the military until the press made a stink of the matter, thanks to Greely's wife.

While waiting for help, men started dying of starvation and sickness. In June 1884, when they were finally rescued, only seven survived, with one dying shortly after. Brainard and Greely survived.

It was learned that there apparently had been cannibalism, which caused a sensation and stigma.

The survivors went on and had meaningful lives, with Greely and Brainard becoming Brigadier Generals at the height of their careers. Currently, the scientific data the men gathered is serving as the base-data for the study of global warming.

The Greely episode was very dramatic and well-documented. David L. Brainard is a source for a lot of materials as he was an avid writer and note-taker.

While watching the PBS Documentary "The Greely Expedition, we were captivated because of David L. Brainard of course, and proud because of his good leadership.  We chuckled when he made the farthest north trek and carved out the logo of his favorite beer on a rock, somewhere up in the Arctic.

And oh, I was quite fascinated to learn that David L. Brainard served as Chief Commissary of the Military Forces in the Philippines during the Spanish American War in 1898.

David L. Brainard, bottom row, second from left

I am sharing some links:

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia, National Archives, and grabbed from the internet

The Greely Expedition/PBS America - free on YouTube
Smithsonian article re Greely Expedition
Greely Expedition with pictures 
David L. Brainard, American National Biography
Brainard, David Legge biography with picture
The Papers of David L. Brainard in Dartmouth College Library
Historical Sketch of David L. Brainard, US Army
1884: Charles Henry, iced in the Arctic - member of the Expedition who was shot for stealing

Tags: Greely Expedition, Polar Expedition, Lady Franklin Bay Expedition, David Brainard, Arctic, explorers, Greely, Brainard, Greenland, North Pole, cannibalism

This is all for now,

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