National Geographic : 1899 Dec
THE WELLMAN POLAR EXPEDITION to the history of Arctic exploration-had occurred during the winter. Bentzen had been taken ill in November, shortly after our men had left the two there together, and had never recov ered. Lingering till January 2, carefully nursed by Bjoervig, death had then come to Bentzen's relief. All this Bjoervig told me, when, at the head of our little procession, I met him stand ing in front of the tunnel which led down into the now snow buried hut. Then we crawled in, and Bjoervig poked up the blubber fire and started to make me some coffee, as I sat look ing about at the strange little cave, its walls coated with hoar frost even within two feet of the brilliant flames. " Where did you bury Bentzen, Paul? " I asked. "I have not buried him, sir," was the reply. "He lies in there." I lit a little lamp-a bicycle lamp; it had been here in Wash ington-and walked into the darkened portion of the hut, partly partitioned from the remainder of the apartment, to which Paul had pointed. As soon as my eyes had become accustomed to the peculiar light which the frosted walls and roof reflected from the dim lamp, I saw at my feet a one-man sleeping bag, bearing evidences that it had been occupied by a living man the night before. By its side, within arm's reach, lay another bag. This one was occupied, and had been for several months. Bag and contents were now frozen as solid as a rock. For two months Bjoervig had slept by the body of his dead comrade-two months of solitude amid the Arctic darkness when night was not to be distinguished from day-two months alone with the dead in this Arctic tomb. Bjoervig had not buried Bentzen because he had promised him he would not, and he had promised because of the sick man's fear that if buried in the cold and darkness it would be in such manner that the bears and foxes might get at his remains. Notwithstanding this dreadful ordeal through which he had passed, Bjoervig was sane, cheerful, almost normal. He was a little nervous, and had difficulty in getting sleep; but next day he helped us drag out the body and carefully bury it in a hole which the wind had hollowed out. It was a bitter day, 45 below zero, and a fierce blast blowing down from the glaciers. But the most industrious man of us all, after the little funeral cere mony was over, was Paul. For hours he was busy chinking up all the openings in the walls around the rude tomb. "Iprom ised him the bears and foxes shouldn't get him," he explained.