Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Arctic Explorer Mystery

Only One Perished

On June 23, just days after Robeson's report, Buddington turned up alive and well, along with Dr. Bessels and the other men who had stayed aboard the Polaris. They were found in two small boats working their way south along the coast of Greenland.

Buddington was surprised to learn that the castaways had survived. He swore he did not see nor hear the marooned group on the day they spotted the Polaris. Buddington explained that he had abandoned the ship as it sank due to ice damage, then rowed a whaleboat to the coast, where Eskimos saw to their survival over the winter. Remarkably, Capt. Charles Hall was the only member of the North Pole expedition to perish.

The Polaris survivors landed in Dundee, Scotland, home port of the whaling ship that rescued them. The U.S. government paid their ship passage to Washington, where they, too, were questioned by Robeson's naval board of inquiry.

Buddington, ruddy, bearded and balding, was the first witness. Contesting Tyson's account on nearly every detail, Buddington insisted the expedition had gone smoothly until Hall's death.

He acknowledged that the captain suspected Dr. Bessels of poisoning him. But Buddington added, "At times he thought everybody was at it."

Robeson asked, "Have you any reason to believe that Capt. Hall died of anything but a natural death?"

Buddington said, "I really have not." But he added, "I thought there was something very strange about it."

The captain confirmed that Hall's personal journals had been lost, but he could not explain when, how or why. He denied that he had ordered them burned, as Tyson had alleged.
Buddington denied any joy over Hall's death and denied seeing the castaways on the day after the ice floe broke away from the Polaris.

By the date of his testimony, in mid-October, Buddington was well aware that Tyson had been highly critical of the sailing master during his own inquiry testimony.

Buddington responded in kind. He called Tyson a "rather useless" sailor who "complained bitterly" about everything.

"He did not appear to be satisfied with anything that was done," Buddington said.

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