National Geographic : 1896 Mar
THE SO-CALLED "JEANNETTE RELICS" brief, to the effect that the presence of Jeannette survivors on the relief expedition had suggested to some one the possibility of producing a sensation in the fleet which for some time followed the foremost vessels; that in a spirit of boyish levity this hoax was conceived and carried out, with no intention of serious de ception or thought of the possible consequences. No names were mentioned and the evidence was to the effect that a general im pression prevailed among the men that some such prank had been played rather than that any particular man questioned was personally cognizant of the act. Dr Bessels gathered an amount of evidence tending to support this hypothesis, which he showed me and which covered forty or fifty pages of foolscap. This record was afterward burned, with his library and other papers, in a fire which destroyed his residence at Glendale, D. C. In consequence Dr Bessels communicated to his European corre spondents his belief that the relics were fictitious and the result of a hoax. I stated to Dr Rink and others who inquired of me the same conclusions. 6. In 1888 Dr Nansen made his celebrated journey across Greenland and presumably heard of the relics there. Before his return, Dr Bessels died in Germany, where he had taken up his residence. Up to this time either the doubts which had been thrown on the authenticity of the relics, or some other reason, had prevented them from exciting much interest, and the owner seems to have resisted any attempt to verify their authenticity by sending photographs or originals of the papers to America when requested. The papers and other objects were placed in a box in a garret and, after the death of the owner, were burned as worthless, with the acquiescence of the widow. As Herr Lytzen had published an account of them (Geogr. Tidskr., viii, 1885-'88, pp. 49-51) and the finder and possessor alike acted in perfect good faith throughout, it is probable that after Dr Bes sels' opinion was communicated to him, the owner attached no great value to the objects, otherwise his wife could hardly have been ignorant of it. When Dr Nansen endeavored to examine these objects with a view of determining their authenticity, they were no longer in existence.* One of his friends, whose name has slipped my memory and whose letter is temporarily inaccessible, wrote to me on Nansen's behalf, as he explained, asking my opinion, * See Roy. Geog. Soc. Proc., Nov. 14, 1892, in Geog. Journal, Jan., 1893, pp. 1-32.