AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Greely Expedition
Airs Monday, January 31, 2011 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV
Thursday, January 27, 2011
In 1881, 25 men led by Lieutenant Adolphus Greely sailed from the harbor of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Their destination was Lady Franklin Bay in the high Arctic, where they planned to collect a wealth of scientific data from a vast area of the world’s surface that had been described by a British admiral as a “sheer blank.”
Three years later, only six survivors returned, with a daunting story of shipwreck, starvation, mutiny and cannibalism. “The Greely Expedition,” from producer Rob Rapley (“Wyatt Earp”), tells a harrowing tale of one of the great scientific adventures of all time.
Drawing on an impressive documentary record that includes scientific accounts, diaries, photographs and letters, the film reveals the nearly unbearable pressures experienced by the members of the expedition, and shows how poor planning, personality clashes, questionable decisions and pure bad luck conspired to turn a noble scientific mission into a human tragedy.