Musing: Staying Sane in Quarantine

Quarantine can be challenging. Locked into our homes with little ability to go out and enjoy the company of others can drive anyone batty. There are numerous templates from history for how to fight off insanity, but I’d like to look at two of the most successful under extreme circumstances. Say hello to the Greely Polar Expedition and the survivors of the shipwreck Grafton.

The Greely Polar Expedition

The Greely Polar Expedition (AKA Lady Franklin Bay Expedition) went to the Arctic in 1881 to perform various scientific measurements and attempt to reach the North Pole (they “only” achieved furthest north). They lived in the Arctic for what became a 3-year ordeal and most of them died of starvation waiting for relief. Let’s not focus on that part too much. The important part for this post is how the leader, A.W. Greely, kept 25 men occupied in the Arctic for 3 years with no mutinies. Well, there was almost a couple, but he squashed them. And he had one guy executed. Again, let’s not focus on that part.

Greely effectively kept the team together by keeping them busy and giving them all purpose. Each member of the expedition had a specific job which kept them busy daily for years. Additionally, Greely ensured all team members regularly did some sort of exercise. Finally, Greely had classes taught to the team on a regular basis which challenged their minds as well. When things truly began to fray towards the end, Greely did something many people in power forget to do; ask everyone what they want. Greely’s judicious use of democracy in a military expedition ultimately kept everyone together even under the worst circumstances.

The Grafton

The story of the Grafton has none of the caveats of the Greely Expedition, but followed the same script in leadership. The Grafton wrecked in 1864 on the Auckland Islands which are south of New Zealand and, as you can imagine, quite cold. Thomas Musgrave was the captain and he had 4 crew. One of Musgrave’s first actions was to allow the crew to choose who they wanted to lead them now that the ship had sank. They still chose Musgrave. I don’t think I need to harp on why it was extraordinary that Musgrave even broached the subject.

Musgrave then did what Greely would do decades later. Each crew member had their own tasks which were constantly required. Exercise to find food was common. Musgrave ultimately kept his men together for 18 months on the islands and then made a daring escape attempt. In a newly created boat, he and two other crew sailed back to New Zealand…280 miles away. Musgrave made it and then immediately found a ship and went back for his two-remaining crew. All were saved.

What have we learned, dear readers? Keep busy! I am writing two posts a day for my dozen fans. I am working out twice a day (that’s right, I’m getting swole ladies). I’m also trying to finish reading a book a week. I’m not always successful but between these goals and baby history nerd, I am pretty busy. Make some goals, keep busy, and keep sane out there!

For more reading:

Joan Druett, Island of the Lost

Buddy Levy, Labyrinth of Ice

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Musing: Staying Sane in Quarantine
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