In 1851 he was granted a leave of absence to go with the Grinnell Arctic expedition in search of Sir John Franklin, and was master and acting first officer of the two schooners of this expedition. Dr. Kane, in his history of this expedition, writes as follows:August 15. The Rescue, which has proved herself a dull sailer, had lagged astern of us, when our master, Mr. Murdaugh, observed the signal of “men ashore” flying from her peak. We were now as far north as latitude 75 min. 58 sec., and the idea of human life somehow or other involuntarily connected itself with disaster. A boat was hastily stocked with provisions and dispatched to the shore. Two men were there upon the land ice, gesticulating in grotesque and not very decent pantomime --genuine, unmitigated Esquimaux. Verging on 76 min. is a far northern limit for human life, yet these poor animals were as fat as the bears which we killed a few days ago. Their hair, manelike, flowed over their oily cheeks, and their countenances had the true prognathous character seen so rarely among the adulterated breeds of the Danish settlements. They were jolly, laughing fellows, full of social feeling. Their dress consisted of a bearskin pair of breeches, considerably the worse for wear; a seal skin jacket, hooded but not pointed at its skirt, and a pair of coarsely stitched seal hide boots. They were armed with a lance, harpoon and air bladder, for spearing seals upon the land floe. The kaiack, with its host of resources, they seemed unacquainted with. When questioned by Mr. Murdaugh, to whom I owe these details, they indicated five huts, or families, or individuals, toward a sort of valley between two hills. They were ignorant of the use of bread, and rejected salt beef, but they appeared familiar with ships, and would have gladly invited themselves to visit us, if the officer had not inhospitably declined the honor.September 19, Dr. Kane writes: ‘The sun, so long obscured, gave us today a rough meridian altitude. Murdaugh, always active and efficient, had his artificial horizon ready upon the ice and gave us an approximate latitude. We were in 75.20 sec. 11 min. north.’ On January 11:It blows at times so very fiercely that I
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