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TWO HUNDRED YEARS BEFORE THE MAST

ARCTIC EXPLORATION

Sea exploration of the arctic regions began long before Columbus's discovery, and intensified soon after with notable voyages made in the next two hundred years by John Cabot (1497), Gaspar Corte Real (1500-02), John Davis (1557), Martin Frobisher (1576), Willem Barrents, (1596), Henry Hudson (1607-10), and William Baffin (1616). Exploration of the icy north was motivated by several factors, including the search for Northwest and Northeast passage to the Orient, and expanding the northern resources available for fishing, whaling, and fur trapping.

By the eighteenth century, however, a vast proportion of the arctic remained unexplored. Voyages made by Moor, Bering, and Cook for the elusive northern sea route kept interest alive in arctic exploration during the eighteenth century, but it was not in the nineteenth century that exploration of the north polar region began in earnest. While discovering a passage remained a principle motivation, other factors began to draw expeditions of ships, reinforced against the crushing power of the polar ice, to these desolate regions, including scientific inquiry, the discovery of the North Pole, and even decade long search for the ill-fated Franklin expedition. By the end of the nineteenth century, all but the most northerly regions of the arctic was explored and surveyed, and E. Nordenskiold finally traversed the Northeast Passage in 1878-9. It would not be until 1903-6, however, when the Northwest Passage would be successfully crossed by Roald Admundsen, and not until 1909 when Robert E. Peary would reach the North Pole.


The Voyage of William Moor, 1746-47.

Henry Ellis (1721-1806).
A Voyage to Hudson's Bay... London: H. Whitridge, 1748.

An Account of a Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage... London: Joliffe, Corbett, and Clarke, 1748-49. 2 volumes.

Gift of Joseph Y. Jeanes, Jr.

In 1746, William Moor led two ships on an expedition to search for a passage through Hudson Bay linking the Atlantic with the Pacific. Moor commanded the Dobbs Galley and Francis Smith commanded the California.The expedition proved that no passage through the bay existed, and contributed to the lapse of British interest in a Northwest passage until 1816 when it was revived by Sir John Barrow.

Accounts of the voyage are found in these two rival narratives published soon after the return of the expedition. Henry Ellis was a hydrographer, surveyor, and mineralogist who sailed with Moor on board the Dobbs Galley. An Account of a Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage was written by "the Clerk the California," who was either Charles Swaine or Theodore Swaine Drage.


Gerard Fridrikh Miller (1705-1783).
Voyages from Asia to America for Completing the Discoveries of the North West Coast of America. London: T.Jefferys 1761.

First edition in English of Miller's Nachrichten von Seereisen, first published in 1758 at St. Petersburg. Mine, (alternatively spelled Muller and Mueller) accompanied Vitus Bering on Bering's second voyage (1741-42) to explore the strait that bears his name. Miller's work serves as a source for the history of discovery and exploration in the northern Pacific and western Arctic, and includes the first and most extensive account in English of Bering's polar expedition and the discovery of Bering's Strait and the western limits of North America. The map, with revisions and additions by Thomas Jefferys, closely follows the original first published in St Petersburg in 1754, and better known in its reprinting for the 1758 edition of Miller's history.

Gift of Joseph Y. Jeanes, Jr.


James Cook (1728-1779).
Journal of Captain Cook's Last Voyage, to the Pacific.... London: E. Newberry, 1781.

Captain James Cook's final voyage (1776-79) was undertaken to search for a northwest or northeast passage from the North Pacific. His ships, the Resolution and Discovery, entered the South Pacific and on the way north rediscovered the Sandwich Islands (now called the Hawaiian Islands). He explored both the American and Asiatic coasts north of the Bering Strait but was repeatedly stopped by ice. On the return voyage he was killed by natives on the Hawaiian Islands.


William Scoresby (1789-1857).
An Account of the Arctic Regions... Edinburgh: Archibald Constable; London: Hurst, Robinson, 1820. 2 volumes.

An English arctic explorer and scientist, William Scoresby made yearly voyages (1803-22) to Greenland and Spitzbergen for whaling and scientific ventures. He mapped, charted, made deep sea temperature soundings, noted flora and fauna, conducted experiments in terrestrial magnetism, and collected other valuable data along the little known and unknown coasts of Greenland. His works and findings helped lay the foundations of modem arctic geography.


The Voyages of John Ross, 1818; 1829-33.

John Ross (1777-1856).
A Voyage of Discovery ... for the Purpose of Exploring Baffin's Bay... London: John Murray, 1819.

Gift of Joseph Y. Jeanes, Jr.

John Ross (1777-1856).
Narrative of a Second Voyage in Search of a North-West Passage... London: A. W. Webster, 1835. 2 volumes.

Gift of Joseph Y. Jeanes, Jr.

Through the influence of Sir John Barrow, who revived interest in British arctic exploration and the search for a northwest passage, Captain John Ross embarked on his first voyage to the arctic in 1818 with his ships the Isabella and Alexander. Lieutenant Edward Parry was his second in command. This expedition vindicated William Baffin's accuracy as a discover and opened Baffin Bay as a profitable fishery and whaling area. A decade later Ross commanded a private expedition funded by the wealthy distiller and Sheriff of London, Felix Booth. In a small vessel called the Victory, and with his nephew James Clark Ross as his second in command, Ross explored and mapped Boothia Peninsula and the Gulf of Boothia, discovered King William Island and the North Magnetic Pole, passed four winters in the Arctic, and brought back all but three of his crew. The account of this expedition includes valuable information on the ethnology, natural history, meteorology, and navigation of the area.


The Voyages of Edward Parry, 1819-20; 1821-23; 1824-25.

William Edward Parry (1790-1855).
Journal of a Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage... London: John Murray, 1821.

William Edward Parry (1790-1855).
Journal of a Second Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage.... London: John Murray, 1824. Inscribed by the author.

William Edward Parry (1790-1855).
Journal of a Third Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage .... London: John Murray, 1826

Parry's disagreements with John Ross after their 1818 voyage to Baffin Bay, over the issue of whether Lancaster Sound was landlocked, led to Parry being selected to command the Hecla and Griper on a new expedition in the following year. Parry passed through Lancaster Sound, discovered and named Barrow Strait, discovered an archipelago since known as the Parry Islands, wintered on the south coast of Melville Island, and returned safely in 1820.

The following year he returned with the Fury and Hecla, wintered twice on Melville Peninsula and among the Inuit at Igloolik, and discovered a channel leading westward from the head of Hudson Bay, which he named Fury and Hecla Strait. From his stay with the natives, he learned much about Inuit life, detailing this information in his second publication.

With the same ships Parry undertook a third attempt at a northwest passage in 1824, passing down Prince Regent Inlet. He was unsuccessful and the Fury was wrecked in the process. Provisions from the wrecked Fury sustained John Ross's crew through their fourth winter in 1832/33.


The Grinnell Expeditions, 1850-51; 1853-55; and Hayes Expedition, 1860-61.

Elisha Kent Kane (1820-1857).
U. S. Grinnell Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1854.

From the Library of the Delta Phi Literary Society, Delaware College

Elisha Kent Kane (1820-1857).
Arctic Explorations .... Philadelphia: Childs and Peterson, 1856. 2 volumes.

Isaac Israel Hayes (1832-1881).
The Open Polar Sea. New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1867.

In 1845, the veteran arctic explorer Sir John Franklin made an attempt at a northwest passage and was never heard from again. During the following decade, numerous ventures were made to learn of the fate of Franklin and his crew. The result of these missions was the discovery and exploration of over 7,000 miles of coast line, adding considerably to arctic geographical knowledge. Franklin's tragic disappearance also drew the United States into its first arctic expeditions.

In 1850, through the support of the wealthy whaling merchant Henry Grinnell, the first American expedition in search of Franklin was undertaken by the Advance and Rescue under the command of Lieutenant Edwin Jesse De Haven, and accompanied by Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, surgeon of the Advance. They reached Beechey Island and assisted a British expedition in the examination of Franklin's winter quarters, but returned without wintering. Dr. Kane wrote the only detailed account of De Haven's voyage.

Grinnell backed a second expedition under the leadership of Dr. Kane. In 1853 Kane sailed up Smith Sound, the northern most outlet from Baffin Bay, in the Advance. He discovered Kane Basin on the opposite side where his ship was caught in the ice; discovered Humboldt Glacier with its 45 mile sea face; and his crew explored the Greenland coast as far north as Cape Constitution.

Dr. Isaac Israel Hayes, who served with Kane, sought to extend the explorations of the Second Grinnell Expedition, and in 1860 sailed to Smith Sound in the schooner United States. He gathered much scientific data, explored the eastern shore of Ellesmere Island almost to the Arctic Ocean, made an attempt to explore the Greenland icecap, but only glimpsed the open polar sea that served as the title for his account of the voyage.


The Expeditions of Charles Francis Hall, 1860-62; 1864-69; 1871-73.

Joseph Everett Nourse (editor).
Narrative of the Second Arctic Expedition Made by Charles F. Hall. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1879.

"Map of the North Polar Region," from J. E. Nourse, Narrative of the Second Arctic Expedition Made By Charles F. Hall. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1879.

Charles Henry Davis (editor).
Narrative of the North Polar Expedition. U. S. Ship Polaris. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1876.

Like the Grinnell expeditions, the impetus for Charles Francis Hall's (1821-1871) three voyages to the arctic came from the search for Sir John Franklin. On his first journey (1860-62), partially funded by Henry Grinnell, Hall discovered the remains of a stone house which Martin Frobisher built on the Countess of Warwick Island in 1578. In his second voyage (1860-62) Hall explored and charted the Melville Peninsula; reached the line of the retreat of the Franklin survivors at Todd's Island and the south coast of King William Island, discovering the remains of a Franklin crew member; and established beyond reasonable doubt that there were no Franklin survivors living among the Eskimos. Hall's final expedition on the steamer Polaris (1871-73), funded by the United States government, was intended to extend the explorations of Kane and Hayes. The Polaris carried him much farther than Kane's vessel had been able to penetrate, but Hayes covered almost the same distance by land. Hall died during the journey.


George W. De Long (1844-1881).
The Voyage of the Jeannette. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1883. 2 volumes.

Under the patronage of Gordon Bennett, owner of the New York Herald, and the authority of the United States Navy, George W. De Long commanded an expedition to the arctic on the steamer Jeannette. De Long was to test the theory that Wrangell Land, north of eastern Siberia, was an extension of Greenland, and that the North Pole could be attained by following this land bridge. The Jeannette sailed from San Francisco in 1879 on a course through the Bering Strait and was not heard from again for three years, initiating a series of search missions in 1881. The Jeannette had become trapped in the ice for nearly two years before being crushed and sunk. A dramatic escape over the ice in three boats from the De Long Islands to the New Siberian Islands to the Lena River delta followed, in which the boats became separated and De Long perished. De Long's journals, salvaged by the separated crew members who had continued to search for him were edited by his widow Emma De Long and published in two volumes as The Voyage of the Jeannette.


A. E. Nordenskiold (1832-1901).
The Voyage of the Vega Round Asia and Europe. London: Macmillan, 1886.

This English translation of Nordenskiold's Vegas Fard Kring Asien och Europa (Stockholm, 1880-81) recounts the first successful crossing of the northeast passage, 1878-79. Nordenskiold was a Swedish geologist and veteran arctic explorer. After two reconnoitering trips, he set out from Norway on the Vega in 1878, rounded Cape Chelyuskin, the most northerly point of Siberia, but was frozen just west of the entrance to the Bering Strait. He passed the winter among the Chukchis, and in the summer of 1879, his ship free of the ice, he passed the Bering Strait and arrived at Yokohama, Japan in September 1879. Hugh Willoughby had been the first to attempt a northeast passage in 1553, and after 326 years of intermittent effort, the northeast passage was finally accomplished without loss of a single life and without damage to the vessel.


Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930).
Farthest North. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1897. 2 volumes.

Fridtjof Nansen was a Norwegian arctic explorer, scientist, statesmen, and humanitarian. In 1890, he had made a dramatic journey across Greenland on skis, and later conceived the novel idea, based on scientific observation, of reaching the North Pole by drifting in the ice across the polar basin. In 1893 he tested this theory by sailing to the arctic in the Fram especially designed to resist crushing by ice. The Fram was anchored in the ice pack near the New Siberian Islands, and the great drift commenced. The ship drifted to a latitude of 85 degree 55 degree N before drifting southwest. When it became evident that the northward drift had been checked, Nansen left the ship and attempted to reach the pole by dogsled. He attained 86 degree 14 degree N before being turned back by ice conditions. Although neither he nor his ship reached the North Pole, the expedition yielded much scientific information, including the fact that the polar basin was completely occupied by ocean, and that the Arctic Sea was of a great depth, increasing towards the pole.


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