Overland Expedition

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The Overland Expedition, also called the Overland Relief Expedition or Point Barrow-Overland Relief Expedition, was a long trip in 18978, by three officers of the United States Coast Guard (then named the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service), with the help of two civilians, using sled dogs and reindeer to rescue more than 250 whalers trapped in the Arctic Ocean by ice around their ships.

The rescue was ordered by then-U.S. President William McKinley. McKinley later talked about the rescue in a letter dated January 17, 1899 to the United States Congress, in which he asked Congress to award the officers Congressional Gold Medals of Honor, and to pay the civilians for their help:

It will be remembered that in the month of October, 1897, reports were received here of the probable loss of the whaling fleet in the Arctic regions, and of the likelihood that nearly 300 men, composing the officers and crews of the fleet, would perish from hunger unless succor [an old word for food] could reach them early in the spring. ...
The overland expedition was formed, and consisted of First Lieut. David H. Jarvis, Revenue-Cutter Service, commanding; Second Lieut. Ellsworth P. Bertholf, Revenue-Cutter Service, and Dr. Samuel J. Call, surgeon of the Bear, all volunteers. ...
They were materially aided by Mr. W.T. Lopp, agent of the American Missionary Society at Cape Prince of Wales, and Artisarlook, a native of that region, both of whom, at great personal sacrifice, left their families and accompanied the reindeer herd to Point Barrow. The overland expedition, after a difficult and hazardous journey of nearly 2,000 miles through the storms and bitter cold of an Arctic winter, reached Point Barrow with the herd on the 29th of March, 1898, three months and twelve days from their landing from the Bear at Cape Vancouver, Alaskan coast of Bering Sea. They arrived none too soon. ... [due to] bad sanitary conditions and want of proper food, the men from the whale ships quartered there were found upon the verge of great suffering, while sickness had broken out among them. ...
I have therefore the honor to submit the following recommendations and to ask your favorable action: ...
That gold medals of honor of appropriate design, to be approved by the Secretary of the Treasury, be awarded to Lieutenants Jarvis and Bertholf and Dr. Call, commemorative of their heroic struggles in aid of suffering fellow-men. ...
That the sum of $2,500 be appropriated to be disbursed by the Secretary of the Treasury in bestowing rewards upon W.T. Lopp, Artisarlook, and native herders, who rendered material aid to the relief expedition.

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