Tools

We plan on using a solar panel to charge our satellite phone, computer, iPads, and cameras. I imagine Peary would have been delighted by solar technology because it would have reduced his dependence on fuel, a heavy commodity of concern to him. Like Peary, we are concerned about weight, so when buying tools for our trip –a variety of screwdrivers, a hammer, a saw, pliers, wrenches, etc., I decided to get a hand drill, not a cordless drill. I do not want to worry about charging a drill’s battery, nor do I want to deal with the battery’s weight.

I was deep into the tool section of a big box chain, closely examining tools to figure out what I wanted, plus just looking at neat stuff, a hobby I developed accompanying my father to hardware stores throughout my life. My request to be directed to the hand drills was met with silence. After the sales person established that I was definitely not looking for a cordless, battery operated device, a look of utter disbelief registered on his face. He then directed me to go to the web to look at antique or retro tool sites! Little did he know that we have considered making an Inuit bowdrill instead!

Inuit using bowdrill to make a repair

First page of George Wardwell's 1905-06 journal

George Wardwell seated, with Second Engineer

While visiting various hardware stores over these last few weeks I have wondered what sort of shopping list George Wardwell, chief engineer on the Roosevelt in 1905-06 and 1908-09, would have had. Reading his 1905-06 journal is becomes clear that the man could and did rebuild everything in the Roosevelt’s engine room and on the vessel. The Almy boilers, nicknamed Vesuvius and Pelée because of their explosive unpredictability, required constant care and one was often off line. Pumps broke or clogged, and then there was the new rudder that Wardwell and Captain Bob Bartlett had to build out of parts of the vessel after ice destroyed the Roosevelt’s original rudder.

I have read Wardwell’s journals, on loan to us from his family, many times. He rarely discussed his tools, no doubt because they were nothing remarkable to him. The one “tool” he and Robert Bartlett did mention is dynamite (referred to by Bartlett as “Mr. Dupont”), used to blast and weaken thick sea ice in the Roosevelt’s path and to remove vestiges of the damaged rudder in order to hang the new one.

When planning an expedition to uninhabited and remote parts of the North, be it for 15 months, as in Peary’s case, or a few weeks, as in ours, one has to consider being self sufficient, and a basic set of tools is essential. Genny and I will not, however, be carrying explosives this time.

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