top of page

Adolphus Greely and the Lady Franklin Expedition

In 1881, First Lieutenant Adolphus Greely was placed in command of the Lady Franklin Expedition aboard the ship Proteus. It was to proceed to an area around Ellesmere Island off the northern coast of Greenland. There they were to establish a chain of meteorological-observation stations as part of the first International Polar Year (see below links for more information).

The party was put ashore on northern Greenland where they proceeded to map the coast finally crossing over to Ellesmere Island, which they crossed from east to west. In 1882, two relief ships loaded with supplies for the crew failed to locate the Greely party and it was thought they had been lost. Greely's wife however insisted that the search be continued.

Finally in June of 1884, three years after their departure, an expedition led by Captain Winfield Scott Schley discovered the survivors. Nineteen of the original twenty-five man party had perished from cold, starvation, drowning and in one case by execution ordered by Greely for stealing food.

When found, the survivors were near death; in fact, one died on the way home. Greely and the others were greeted as heroes upon their arrival back to the U.S. However, the welcome was tainted by sensational accusations of cannibalism as the survivors were rumored to have eaten the flesh of their fallen comrades, which Greely denied.

Greely died at the age of 91 in Washington D.C. and is interred in Arlington National Cemetery.


Do Your Own Research



Primary Source:

Secondary Sources:

  • Geoffrey E. Clark, Abandoned in the Arctic: Adolphus W. Greely and the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition, 1881-1884 (Portsmouth, NH: Portsmouth Athenaeum, 2007).

  • Alden L. Todd, Abandoned: The story of the Greely Arctic Expedition 1881-1884, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961).


Recent Posts

See All


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page