Boreal Ties: Photographs and Two Diaries of the 1901 Peary Relief Expedition

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9780826328106: Boreal Ties: Photographs and Two Diaries of the 1901 Peary Relief Expedition

In 1899 Robert Peary, exploring northern Greenland in search of the North Pole, lost seven toes to frostbite but refused to cut his exploration short to seek treatment. When his wife learned of his condition, she and their seven-year-old daughter set off in July 1900 to find Peary and persuade him to come home. The 1901 expedition documented in this fascinating new book was organized to deliver supplies to Peary and to search for his wife and child. The book comprises the annotated diaries and photographs of two participants in the expedition, Clarence Wyckoff and Louis Bement, close friends from Ithaca, New York who paid $500 each to join the voyage.

Wyckoff and Bement embarked looking forward to what twenty-first century travelers would call adventure tourism. They envisioned themselves hunting wild game, admiring and photographing magnificent scenery, and escaping the stresses of their lives as businessmen. The scenery did not disappoint, as the photographs assembled here testify, but the stress of sailing in polar seas was worse than the travelers imagined. They endured maggoty food, head lice, and hives. The ice and the incompetence of the ship’s crew threatened their lives on more than one occasion. In addition to the drama of the journey and the magnificent Arctic scenery, this travelogue is a valuable record of the American explorers’ encounters with Inuit people, many of whom are identified by name.

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About the Author:

Kim Fairley Gillis is the great-granddaughter of Clarence Wyckoff. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she specialized in Arctic photography. She is an independent researcher living in Chelsea, Michigan.

Silas Hibbard Ayer III is the grandson of Louis Bement. He graduated from Middlebury College and lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, where he is retired.

From Booklist:

Robert Peary's explorations of the Arctic were backed by a financial fan club. Two of the members, Louis Bement and Clarence Wyckoff, sailed to northern Greenland in 1901 to carry supplies to Peary, and this album consists of the diaries and photographs of their adventure. The latter will be the main attraction, for they include portraits of the main figures in the Robert Peary epic: Peary himself; his wife urbanely and incongruously garbed in cape and dress; Peary's black assistant Matthew Henson; and Peary's future disputant over who was first to the Pole, Frederick Cook. Furthermore, Bement and Wyckoff were simply agape at the Arctic world, with its icebergs, walruses, and Inuit people, so different from their Ithaca, New York, home. Some photos present the Inuit positively beaming at the camera, representative of a collection that seems to capture the moment before modernity swept in. With high-quality production of the images, this work is a worthwhile supplement to high-use collections about the Arctic. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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