Alden L. Todd’s Abandoned has been called “A model account of perhaps the most ill-fated and certainly the most grimly fascinating episode in the annals of Arctic exploration....” Working extensively with primary sources—official correspondence, diaries, letters, notes by the expedition’s participants and those left at home and in the nation’s capital—Alden Todd presents an evenhanded, elegantly written account of the greatest tragedy in the history of American arctic exploration: the Greely expedition of 1881-1884.
Launched as part of the United States’ participation in the first International Polar Year, the expedition sent twenty-five volunteers to what is now Ellesmere Island in the Canadian High Arctic, off the northwest coast of Greenland, commanded by Adolphus Washington Greely, a thirty-seven-year-old lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps.
The ship sent to resupply them in the summer of 1882 was forced to turn back before reaching the station, and the men were left to endure short rations and unbroken isolation at their icy base. When the second relief ship, sent in 1883, was crushed in the ice, Greely led his men south, following a prearranged plan. The crew spent a third and increasingly more wretched winter camped at Cape Sabine. Supplies ran out, the hunting failed, and men began to die of starvation.
Abandoned is a gripping account of men battling for survival as they are pitted against the elements and each other. It is also the most complete and authentic account of the controversial Greely Expedition ever published, an exemplar of the best in chronicles of polar exploration.