It had never before been attempted nor even thought possible-however, men of U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, a predecessor organization to today's Coast Guard, caught the world's imagination when the news broke of the success of an overland expedition to rescue stranded whalers in the vicinity of Point Barrow, Alaska, just over a century ago.
When President William McKinley heard of the potentially fatal plight of 8 whaling vessels & some 350 men in November 1897, he directed treasury secretary L.J. Gage to form a relief expedition. Consequently, Capt. Francis Tuttle, commanding officer of the U.S. revenue cutter Bear, provisioned & departed Seattle on 30 November. With Bering Sea ice-choked, Tuttle reached Cape Vancouver on 16 December & put ashore a 4-man team led by 1st. Lt. R.H. Jarvis, who recruited a Russian guide & 4 Eskimos & proceeded north with 4 dogsleds.
The team battled excruciating conditions as it passed between costal villages. The snow fell so fast & so heavy at times that Javis & his men had to stomp a path with their snowshoes to allow the Huskies to walk forward. At Golovin Bay, on 11 January, Javis exchanged his dogs & dogsleds for reindeer & Lapland freight sleds. Arriving at Teller's Station in late January, Javis obtained the services of 6 experienced deer herders to drive 18 sleds & 438 deer he had acquired. The determined expedition forged ahead & reached the first stranded whalers on 26 March.
The next day, Javis reached Point Barrow, successfully completing a 1,500-mile trip in the dead of winter. The expedition leader later recalled the incredulous looks he received when he met the survivors. Javis set up a relief station & provided the provisions & services needed to ensure everyone's well-being until the Bear arrived on 28 July ...
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