A Small Introduction to the Polaris Expedition
The Polaris Expedition (1871-1873) was one of the first serious attempts to reach the North Pole since British naval officer Sir Edward Parry reached 82 ° 45 in 1827. Funded by the U.S. government, the expeditions reached 82 degrees 29, a record at the time.
The Polaris expedition was led by American Charles Francis Hall who planned it as the first expedition to the North Pole. The expedition was led by experienced but self-taught Arctic explorer Charles Francis Hall who had lived in the Arctic with the Inuit to determine the fate of Franklin’s expedition, which was lost in 1845.
Events that led to an epic failure and murder mystery on the Polaris Expedition
The expedition encountered personnel problems and discrepancies among officers and scientific staff. Hall and the scientific chief of staff Emil Bessel, a Prussian doctor, were hostile to Hall from the outset. Additional divisions were introduced based on nationality and the 33 people on board were mixed in addition to eight Eskimo men, women, and children. Hall’s last north polar expedition, Polaris reached 82 degrees 11 north (61 degrees west), the northernmost point ever reached by ship. It went further north through Smith Sound and Naris Strait to 82 deg 29N and passed the farthest north recorded by ships of Elisha Kane and Isaac Hayes.
The US Government-funded Polaris expedition (1871) was one of the first serious attempts at the North Pole since British Naval Officer William Edward Parry reached a latitude of 82 degrees 45 north in 1827. The expedition missed its main target and had problems with insubordination, incompetence, and poor leadership. The Polaris Expedition of 1871 was supposed to be a national morale-boosting exercise to spur other expeditions, but it ended in gravediggers, Hall’s mysterious death, and a shameful cover-up.
The squatted, bearded Hall was obsessed with the Arctic, and his imagination was fueled by epic accounts in which dubious pioneers led wooden ships into uncharted waters and the northern mist as he traveled north. From the very beginning, the undertaking was marked by a tension between science and exploration: Congress wanted scientific results from the Poles. It was the same conflict that ruined Robert Falcon Scott’s first expedition to Antarctica 30 years earlier.
Sir Edward Parry led an expedition of the British Royal Navy in 1827 with the intention of becoming the first man to reach the North Pole. Hall’s focus was on the region until 1857 when society realized that Sir John Franklin’s Arctic expedition of 1845 was unlikely to come. In 1870, the US Senate introduced a bill to fund an expedition in the Arctic in Congress.
The expedition was funded by the Congress of Charles Francis Hall and employed a multinational crew from the USA, Germany, and Scandinavia, many of whom have experience in Arctic whaling. This was a different composition of the crew than previous British polar activities, which had relied on Royal Navy personnel.
The expedition’s chief scientist Emil Bessel, a German Arctic explorer, and doctor who had participated in one of Germany’s earliest polar expeditions. The overall command of the expedition and its ship, the Polaris, a former naval tug, Periwinkle, was in the hands of Charles Francis Hall, who had two polar expeditions under his belt, but was considered “one of the most experienced U.S. polar explorers of his time” and was self-taught in scientific training at sea. In planning and conducting this expedition, a number of bad decisions were made, including poorly structured ships, a vague distribution of power, a lack of clear absolute authority oversailing, and a captain with a significant alcohol problem.
Given the fact that the expedition failed those stranded on the ice floe were rescued in April 1873, while other high-ranking members of crew and ship were rescued in June. The remaining men survived the winter and were rescued the following summer. Upon the crew’s return, the Marine Corps investigated Hall’s sudden death from apoplexy (internal bleeding) and cleared Bessel of any wrongdoing amid swirling rumors. The ships were equipped with four whaleboats, each 6.1 m long and 1.2 m wide, as well as a flat-bottomed cow. The nineteen members of the expedition, including the Inuit, were surrounded by ice at night, and the pack frequently collapsed. They built wooden huts that were saved by the ships and the Etah Inuit to help them survive the winter.
Emil Bessel and Chief Scientist and Medical Officer George Francis Hall were treated on board the Polaris to the fate of the American North Pole expedition (1871-73). For the first time, Emil Bessel’s fascinating account of the failed 1871 American North Pole expedition has been translated into German for the first time with context and commentary by the Arctic expert William Barr. This novel has significant details not previously published. In 1865, at the age of 18, he became the youngest doctor of all time and completed his studies at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität in Heidelberg.
The expedition was funded by Congress and led by the United States Department of the Navy, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Smithsonian under the leadership of Secretary Joseph Henry. Before Bessel explored the Arctic in 1869, the expedition explored the island of Spitsbergen, where he had served as a military surgeon during the Franco-Prussian War.