The Arctic Exploits of Dr. Octave Pavy


  • Douglas W. Wamsley



Pavy, Greely, Howgate, Gulnare, Lambert, Doane, Silas Bent, Lady Franklin Bay, Cape Sabine, Open Polar Sea


Dr. Octave Pierre Pavy served as the physician for the ill-fated Lady Franklin Bay Expedition of 1881 – 84, one of two expeditions supported by the United States during the First International Polar Year. He was one of 18 members of the expedition who died at the tragic camp at Cape Sabine while awaiting a relief party. Unlike the other members of the expedition, who volunteered from frontier outposts in the American West with no Arctic experience, Pavy joined the expedition with considerable knowledge and first-hand experience in living and traveling the Arctic regions. For him, the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition was the culmination of a two-decade obsession with polar exploration and a fervent desire to make a name for himself in the far North. However, Pavy’s personality shortcomings and his long-running feud with his commander, Lieutenant Adolphus W. Greely, which featured prominently in Greely’s narrative and official reports and in subsequent published accounts, have overshadowed nearly all other aspects of Pavy’s character, as well as his accomplishments. Although those negative aspects cannot be overlooked in any assessment, a more thorough examination of Pavy’s Arctic endeavors reveals a mixed record of performance that included laudable service in his primary role as physician and also in varied tasks in support of the expeditions with which he was involved.