|Waiting at the big lead|
While they waited they got bored.
So MacMillan, who was a physical fitness trainer, organized sports
for the men to play. This kept their spirits up.
Peary was anxious to get going again
and march onward to the Pole.
Teammate George Borup wrote about this in a letter to his father: "The next day, March 5, after being held up by a wind for five hours, we got under way, but where the sea ice and the land ice meet there was a stretch of water about 100 yards wide, extending in either direction as far as the eye could reach. Being shy both of airships, boats and submarines, and as it was a bit too cold for swimming, there was nothing to do but wait for it to freeze over or to be jammed together. This took place six days later.
These six days were the longest and most hellish I ever want to see.
It isn't the physical side of the game which is bad; it's the
mental strain. We knew how vital it was to get out to Peary with our
loads and with a lot of alcohol. The tins of fuel he had with him went
to the bad, or threatened to, the second day out, and without hot tea
twice a day, with these temperatures, I doubt if man could live. I know
I couldn't. Besides, the Eskimos were losing their "sand," wanted to
put for the boat, said we'd all die out at sea, &c., and we were afraid
of a wholesale desertion.
On the morning of the sixth day the lead closed, and two Eskimos, both afflicted with cold feet, came to land and said Peary had been held up four days by open water four marches out. We got under way at once, and, following their trail, found the original trail made by the Captain and me eleven days, before, over which the Commander had gone. A storm and the darkness forced us to halt at the first encampment. Here one of my Eskimos went temporarily "bughouse," and, stripped to waist, began running around outside, looking for trouble. We managed to get his clothes on after a while and prevented him from getting frostbitten. That day we made a forced march of twelve hours or more, and got to the third encampment.
The next day we marched about eighteen hours and slept at the fifth encampment. It was very cold, minus 53°, and I froze my left heel, where I had done it last fall. The husky who was bughouse the night before thawed it out on his stomach. At the fourth encampment we got a note from the Commander, saying he had left that camp the previous morning, March 11, after waiting six days. It said: "It is vital that you overtake and give us fuel."