[POLAR EXPLORATION] The Race to the North Pole.pdf

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4 environment. National prestige The polar explorers and scientists returned home with travel descriptions, samples of unknown organisms and observations of remarkable phenomena – data gathered under the severest of conditions, often at great risk. Their deeds made them important national heroes to emulate. During a period marked by international rival- ries, scientific and physically demanding expeditions were a good means of increasing national prestige. The conquest of nature revealed the
  4 environment. National prestige  The polar explorers andscientists returned home withtravel descriptions, samples of unknown organisms andobservations of remarkablephenomena – data gatheredunder the severest of conditions, often at great risk. Their deeds made themimportant national heroes toemulate. During a periodmarked by international rival-ries, scientific and physicallydemanding expeditions werea good means of increasingnational prestige.  The conquest of naturerevealed the strength andtechnological level of a nation  The Race to the North Pole The desire to explore uncharted regions has long inspired people to set out ondaring expeditions. Svalbard’s favourable ice conditions and location have made the archipelago an attractive point of departure for expeditions deeper intothe unfamiliar icy wilderness. In the struggle to get furthest north, Virgohamnabecame a key point of departure in the race for the greatest trophy of all – the pole itself.  Two characteristics of the1800s were a focus on wild,untouched nature and a belief in progress. Nature, whichearlier had primarily been view-edas a resource and a threatin the struggle for survival,now had aesthetic value,becoming a source of dramatic experiences. Butnature had to be subdued. Technology was the tool by which humans would wincontrol over nature. Whatplace was more suited toshow the potential of technology than theinaccessible, magnificent anddramatic Arctic regions?Faith in the advantages of technology resulted in a driveto get to the North Pole byship, sleds using humans andreindeer as draught power,and flying machines. But it was with the oldest and mosttraditional vehicle of transport, the dog sled, thatboth poles were finallyreached. Thus, many of theexpeditions become anexpression of the period’sexaggerated optimismconcerning progress andman’s constant lack of respectfor knowledge accumulatedthrough many generations’co-existence with the  Although their attempts from Virgohamna failed, Andrée and Wellmann prepared the way for later air expeditions. Theestablishment of mining operations in Ny-Ålesund opened the way for explorers. Ny-Ålesund became more accessible for expeditions and the media, and had more appeal than the wind-blown, harsh site in North-West Spitsbergen. Thelanding mast in Ny-Ålesund (right) was used both for the expeditions by Ellsworth, Nobile, Riiser Larsen and Amundsenin 1926 and for Nobile’s failed attempt two years later. The photo above shows I  talia in Ny-Ålesund in 1928. In 1926,the American Richard Byrd attempted a flight to the North Pole with pilot Floyd Bennet. They took off under  Amundsen’s nose and returned 15 1/2 hours later, enough time for a trip to the North Pole and back. Amundsen tried being a good loser and congratulated Byrd with “a real kiss on both cheeks”, as he wrote in his memoirs.Thousands were gathered when Andrée leaves Gothenburg in Svensksund in 1896. This was Andrées first attempt to reach the pole.    P   h  o   t  o   :   F   r  o   m    A   r   n  e  s  e   n   1   9   2   8  equipment. The expeditions went intounexplored areas, withoutknowing what lay ahead. Eventhough the expeditions of neither Andrée nor Wellman were primarily scientific, themotives and results must beevaluated from the perspec-tive of their own time. In the vast Arctic wilderness anyobservations helped increase general knowledge. The journeys by air thus yieldednot only new knowledge, butalso honour and fame tomembers of the expeditions,their sponsors and theirnations. Regions were occupied, heroic deeds were spread bynewspapers and books, andthe heroes received ovations when they returned home. Theremains of their exploits liescattered in Svalbard:mementos of successfulexpeditions, but also of thelosers – those not given a 5 and the claim that its peoplehad a special ability to endurearctic environments. Theexpeditions were instrumentalin creating a common nationalawareness of native strengthand superiority – that “our”characteristics are better than“theirs”. National heroes Man against nature, expedi-tions and explorations, were themes just as popular around1900 as they are today. Thousands gathered whenAndrée’s polar expedition leftGothenburg. Crowds equallyas large gathered in Norway when Fridtjof Nansen and  Fram returned from theirexpedition in 1896, and whenRoald Amundsen returned intriumph from the South Pole. The position of the polarheroes in Norway is perhapsbest understood fromNansen’s death in 1930. Thefuneral was held on Norway’snational holiday, withmourners replacing the happyflag-  waving children along Oslo’smain thoroughfare.Polar heroes were not onlythe objects of attention inNorway and Sweden. There was great interest in themabroad. The same was truefor the British expeditons of Ernest Shackleton and RobertF. Scott, the Americans Robert Peary, Fredrick A.Cook, Richard Byrd and Walter Wellman, and theItalian Umberto Nobile. The expeditions were greatmedia events. Lack of communication with theoutside world during the journey led to speculations inthe press that helped faninterest. Back home, booksabout their deeds had manyreaders and gave the heroeslarge incomes, which helpedfinance further expeditions.Svalbard played a centralrole in the attempts to reachthe North Pole. Tourist shipsand journalists flocked to theislands to follow preparationsfor the many expeditions. Thisput the islands on the worldmap for readers around theglobe. By air to the North Pole During 1896–1928, Svalbard was the point of departure fornine attempts to fly to theNorth Pole. Five of these werefrom Virgohamna. These journeys by airrepresented the ultimate intechnological development.Andrée was a pioneer in theuse of the gas balloon. Walter Wellman was one of the first touse motorised dirigibles. Bothused their time in Virgohamnato make continualimprovements on their There was widespread interest in Wellman’s expedi-tions. Tourists who wanted to see Jules Verne’s fantastic tales come true streamed to Virgohamna in1909.    P   h  o   t  o   :   A   n   d   r   é  e   M   u  s  e   u   m   P   h  o   t  o   :   N  o   r   w  e  g   i  a   n   P  o   l  a   r   I   n  s   t   i   t   u   t  e   P   h  o   t  o   :   H .   B .   B   j  e   r  c   k   P   h  o   t  o   :   F .   A   r   i   l   d   The meeting of giants  The mighty Gulf Stream hasits northernmost destinationnear northwest Spitsbergen. Through a deep-waterchannel along the westerncoast of Spitsbergen thestream of warm sea water isthrust into the icy Arctic waters – until at last it meetsthe frigid ocean current overthe polar basin. The meeting of theseglobal ocean currents is base (t.v.) og Wellmans base (t.h.). P side 9 og 35 er det gjengitt kart somogs bidrar til  identifisere sporene i Virgohamna.AndrebasenWellmannbasen 6   Virgohamna has remains from several important periods of Svalbard’s history. Blubber ovens and graves from the 1600s, ground beams from a tourist cabin from the 1800s that was also used as a catching station, and many traces from attempts to reach the North Pole by balloon and air ship in this and the previous century. The photos show Virgohamnatoday (top), Andrée’s base (left) and Wellman’s base (right). Maps on p. 9 and 32 help us identify historic sites in Virgohamna. emblematic of the meeting of two famous polar expeditionsin 1896. Virgohamna was thefirst stop for Nansen’s  Fram after it escaped from the ice-covered ocean current overthe polar basin. “...a desolate, dismal place ... an isolated,disagreeable bay” This is Fridtjof Nansen’s description of Virgohamna in En ferd til Spitsbergen [A Journey to Spitsbergen] (1920). However, neither comfort nor pleasure iswhat those responsible for the many expeditions based in Virgohamna wereafter. What is it that has attracted the interest of whalers in the 1600s, the first wintering tourist – and the North Pole expeditions of Andrée and Wellman? What circumstances can explain such diverse activity in the same location?   Photo (top): T. Kvil Gamst (l): Andrée Museum (r): Norwegian Polar Institute  pealingin various contexts. The combination of varyingenvironmental factors provid-ed the foundation for a uniquecultural history. This historyhas today left its mark on thelandscape, through culturalheritage landmarks – and notleast in the realm of place-names.  The story from above Page A4 of the map seriesSvalbard 1:100 000 showsplace-names around Virgohamna. Names such as  Danskøya, Amsterdamøya ,  Hollenderberget, indicate thepresence of severalnationalities. Smeerenburg , or“Blubbertown”, states theimportance of whaling in thearea. The  Place-names of Svalbard helps makesense of names such as  Salatberget and Slaadbukta . “Zalad” is a Dutchterm that means “scurvygrass”, a vital necessity for whalers and trappers inSvalbard.  Likholmen and  Lik- neset (lik=corpse) underscoresthe fact that this grass was notalways sufficient, and the name  Djevleøya (Devil’s Island)provides a glimpse of theharsh conditions endured byhunters and whalers. Polar history revealed in thelandscape North-West Spitsbergen is oneof the few places in the world where names like  Ballongkollen and  Luftskipsodden are quitenatural. Many other namesindicate the significance of theregion for the prestigious raceto the North Pole. Wellman- kollen needs no explanation.But perhaps Örnenøya does: it was named after Andrée’sballoon – and  Lachambrebreen after the French balloonmanufacturer.  Kapp Zachau takes its name from HugoZachau, captain of the Virgo . The names Gjøavannet  and  Frambukta are reminders of Simultaneously, and in thesame location, the Swedishballoonist Andrée hadestablished his base and waited for the “favourable winds” that would carry himdirectly over the Pole. Andréehad followed the ice-free, warm Gulf Stream in order toreach this northernmostaccessible point on the way tothe North Pole. Even this farnorth, the Gulf Stream is warm enough to leave anopen passage that permits vessels to approach the west-ern coasts of Spitsbergen dur-ing most months of the year. The ocean current thus formsa navigable corridor deep within the frozen polar regionin closer proximity to theNorth Pole than any other place in the Arctic. Good feeding grounds  The ocean currents were justas important for whalers in the1600s. The whalers alsofollowed this channel of open water furthest north. Evenmore important, the meetingof the warm and the cold ocean currents created a nutri-tionally rich environment forseveral whale species. Whenthe first whalers came toNorth-West Spitsbergen, there were great numbers of  whales not far from land. A safe harbour  To the extent that safeharbours exist in this harshenvironment, Virgohamna isone of them. The place-namestems from Andrée’s polarexpedition, which utilised thereinforced steamship Virgo fortransport. The harbour is acalm inlet in the Danskegatt,protected by small reefs andislets. From the west there is ashort and deep approach tothe harbour. There is also easyaccess to the fjords. Nature’s own conditionshave made Virgohamna ap-famous polar vessels.  Archernabbane , threemountainous ridges in thenorthernmost part of Fram-breen, take their name fromColin Archer, who constructedthe ship  Fram . Otherpolarexplorers whose names live onin the landscape are perhapslesser known:  Blessingberget: Henrik GrevBlessing, member of the  Fram expedition.  Astrupneset: Eivind Astrup,Norwegian polar explorer who participated in Peary’sexpeditions from 1891– 93.  Ekholmpynten : Nils Gustaf Ekholm, member of Andrée’sexpedition 1896. Strindbergfjellet: NilsStrindberg, member of Andrée’s expedition 1896/97.  What about S. A. Andrée?For the most famous polarexplorers a map page at ascale of M 1:100 000 is toosmall – Andrée Land between Wijdefjorden and Woodfjorden covers all of 6 7    P   h  o   t  o   :   H .   B .   B   j  e   r  c   k
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