exploration of the North has extended over five hundred years and rather
than finding a northwest passage to the eastern trade, it discovered
a great fur trade and valuable fisheries, and even great oil fields.
Early crews were often separated from their homes for years and some
never returned. While hopes of finding a northwest passage was the initial
objective, the ice conditions discouraged expectations of success. In
the past, the problems of reaching the North Pole have been subordinate
to the hope of finding, via that route, a water way to the east, and
though the early north polar attempts failed in their main purpose,
they resulted in the discovery of new lands and industries.
Traveling in vulnerable
wooden ships first powered only by sails, they gradually changed to
powerful new and innovative vehicles and a commercial trade in the north
was established. But even from the beginning of polar exploration the
ships that sailed with orders to attain the North Pole have been in
number and importance the exception, not the rule. Attempts to reach
the North Pole itself followed using stronger ships with newer designs
as a base for the dashes to the almost mythical prize. Balloons and
the new dirigibles were tried, followed by airships and submarines.
When the Pole itself was finally reached, it proved to be a vain goal
since it was just a point on the ice above a moving body of water.
The oceans of the
Arctic basin and the frozen lands around it are now recognized as important
study areas, and over the years virtually all exploration parties became
directed toward studies of some kind.
- 1496: Henry VII
granted "Letters patent" to John Cabot and his three sons
to make voyages of discovery in "northern, eastern or western
seas." The original charts and manuscripts of John Cabot and
his son Sebastian have, for the most part, disappeared.
- 1576: Martin
Frobisher's first voyage. An attempt would be made to reach Cathay
through a passage to the northwest. Vessels used were two small barks,
MICHAEL and GABRIEL.
Frobisher, aboard the GABRIEL, crossed (now)
Davis Strait between Greenland and (now) Baffin Island. They explored
the vicinity of (now) Frobisher's Bay. They encountered Inuit, described
as being "like to Tartars, with long blacke haire, broad faces
and flatte noses and tawnie in colour, wearing Seale skinnes, and
so doe the women, not differing in the fashion, but the women are
marked in the face with blewe streekes downe the cheekes, and round
about the eyes." On this first expedition, a rock was picked
up as a souvenir in Frobisher's Bay and upon the expedition's return,
the rock was assayed and said to contain gold.
- 1577: Martin
Frobisher's second voyage to (now) Frobisher's Bay, under the auspices
of the Cathay Company. The expedition was to continue the search for
the Northwest Passage and to mine more of the 'gold'-bearing ore discovered
the year before. The expedition remained in the bay for five weeks
from 17 July to 23 August 1577 and mined about 200 tons of the ore.
The AYDE, MICHAEL
and GABRIEL returned to England, bringing
an Eskimo man (Kalicho), woman (Arnaq) and child (Nutaaq) to Bristol.
The man and woman died and were buried at St. Stephen's Church while
the child died in London and was buried at St. Olaves, Hart Street.
- 1578: Martin
Frobisher's third voyage to the Arctic. Commanding the AYDE,
Frobisher led a fleet of fifteen vessels to (now) Frobisher's Bay.
Over 100 miners from Cornwall and the Forest of Dean were to form
a wintering party on a small island under the leadership of Captain
Edward Fenton. Poor weather prevented the fleet from keeping together.
Frobisher, together with several other vessels, sailed up what he
called the "Mistaken Straightes," now called Hudson Strait.
Most of the fleet was eventually reunited in the region where 1200
tons of "black ore" was extracted and loaded onto the ships.
Upon their return to England, the ore proved to be worthless and the
Cathay Company went bankrupt. Frobisher did not return to the Arctic
but did retrieve his reputation firstly with Drake in the West Indies
and later by his conduct as one of the main commanders of the English
fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada of 1588.
- 1585: John Davis's
first voyage in search of the Northwest Passage. The expedition, aboard
the two small vessels SUNSHINE and
MOONSHINE, made its first northern landfall on the east
coast of Greenland. They sailed across (now) Davis Strait to (now)
Baffin Island. They came ashore at (now) Cumberland Sound where two
sledges were discovered "made like ours in Englande." Despite
signs of inhabitants, none were encountered.
- 1586: John Davis's
second voyage to the Arctic. The vessels MERMAID,
and pinnace NORTH STAR sailed up the west
coast of Greenland and encountered the "people of the country"
in the vicinity of Gilbert Sound, later named Godthaab Fiord. In August,
they sailed westwards from Greenland, finding land on southeast Baffin
Island. Two of the ship's company were surprised and killed by the
- 1587: John Davis's
third voyage toward the Northwest Passage. Sailing aboard the barks
and the pinnace ELLEN, Davis and his crews
traveled up the west coast of Greenland, trading with the Greenlanders
as they went. After reaching the relatively high latitude of 72°
12' North, Davis turned to the west and sighted Cumberland Sound on
Baffin Island which he discovered on his first voyage. They coasted
the south shore of Cumberland Sound and re-entered Davis Strait in
latitude 64° North. They continued south with the Labrador current,
passing a "very great gulfe" which was no doubt Hudson Strait.
Upon reaching the vicinity of Labrador, they set sail across the Atlantic
- 1602: George
Waymouth, sent by the East India Company, may have proceeded along
Hudson Strait for a good distance. His vessel, DISCOVERY,
is one of the earliest of a line of exploring ships bearing that name.
- 1610: Henry Hudson,
aboard DISCOVERY, sailed westward for 450
miles through a long strait and into a great bay, both of which now
bear Hudson's name. Hudson turned south and the vessel was forced
to winter at the southern end of the bay because of ice. They escaped
from the ice in June 1611 but soon afterwards a mutiny took place
after which Hudson, his son, the sick and the Hudson loyalists were
all set adrift in a boat. They were never seen again. Two of the mutineers
were killed by the Eskimos at the western end of Hudson Strait while
many others died on the voyage home. Stories related by the survivors
were believable so all were left unpunished.
- 1611: Thomas
Button sailed on the RESOLUTION, with the
DISCOVERY in company. This voyage was to
follow-up Hudson's discoveries. Two of the mutineers on Hudson's expedition,
Prickett and Bylot, were among the ship's company. Part of the west
coast of Hudson Bay was charted and Port Nelson, where they wintered-over,
was named after one of the mates who was buried there. The RESOLUTION
was crushed by the ice and sank. The DISCOVERY
sailed north to what was called Sir Thomas Roe's Welcome, between
Southampton Island and the east coast of America, before turning for
England. A considerable length of coastline was charted on this expedition.
It was also determined that no westward passage from Hudson Bay existed.
- 1615: Robert
Bylot and William Baffin, in the DISCOVERY,
sailed through Hudson Strait but found no passage northward through
what became known as Frozen Strait.
- 1619-20: Backed
by the King of Denmark, Jens Munk fails to discover the Northwest
Passage. His two ships wintered near the site of the later Hudson's
Bay Company post, Fort Prince of Wales, on the Churchill River.
- 1631-32: Two
independent voyages are made through Hudson Strait and into Hudson
Bay in a further attempt to find a northwest passage through this
route. Captain Thomas James commanded the HENRIETTA MARIA
while Captain Luke Foxe commanded the CHARLES.
James Bay, at the head of Hudson Bay, and Foxe's Channel were named
after the two captains.
- 1668: The small
vessel NONSUCH sails from London through
the Hudson Strait and into Hudson Bay. Her voyage opens a sea route
for trade in furs with the local Indians.
- 1670: By royal
charter, incorporation of the Hudson's Bay Company is established.
King Charles II appoints his nephew, Prince Rupert, their Governor
and grants the "sole trade and commerce of all those Seas Streightes
Bayes Rivers Lakes Creekes and Soundes in whatsoever latitude they
shall bee that lye within the entrance of the Streightes commonly
called Hudson's Streightes, together with all the Landes and Territorys
upon the Countryes Coasts and confynes of the Seas Bayes Lakes Rivers
Creekes and Soundes aforesaid that are not actually possessed by or
granted to any of our Subjectes or possessed by the Subjectes of any
other Christian Prince or State." The vast territory, to be known
as Rupert's Land, would comprise nearly 40% of modern Canada. Three
wooden forts are built on James Bay in 1685.
- 1719: Provisioned
by the Hudson's Bay Company, elderly Captain James Knight leads two
ships in search of "minerals and to traverse the 'Strait of Anian.'"
This was a mythical strait attributed to unreliable charts and globes
of the time. They departed from Gravesend on the lower Thames in June
1719 and were never seen again.
- 1741-42: Commanded
by Captain Christopher Middleton, the FURNACE
and DISCOVERY sail for Hudson's Bay on June
8, 1741. The vessels winter at Sloop Cove, between the Hudson's Bay
Company's fort, named after the Prince of Wales, and the recently
vacated Old Factory on the Churchill River. The expedition set sail
the following year towards the north where they navigated the uncharted
and ice-infested waters of Sir Thomas Roe's Welcome (now Roe's Welcome
Sound), between the west coast of Southampton Island and the east
coast of North America. They reach a deep bay whose upper reaches
touch the Arctic Circle. Middleton names it Repulse Bay as there was
no passage there.
- 1746-47: An attempt
to find the Northwest Passage is privately organized by Arthur Dobbs,
a member of the Irish House of Commons. The expedition is supported
by a group of merchants who form the North West Committee. Commanded
by William Moor in the DOBBS and Francis
Smith in the CALIFORNIA, the expedition
"carried out some useful exploration in difficult conditions,
but ... every move, it seemed was dogged by disagreement, ineptitude
- 1770-72: On behalf
of the Hudson's Bay Company, the Governor of Fort Prince of Wales,
Moses Norton, instructs Samuel Hearne to find and trace the Coppermine
River to ascertain whether or not a route exists from Hudson Bay to
the Pacific Ocean via the continent of North America. According to
the Orders and Instructions, Hearne is "to trace to the mouth,
and there determine the latitude and longitude as near as you can;
but more particularly so, if you find it navigable, and that a settlement
can be made there with any degree of safety, or benefit to the Company."
Hearne was accompanied by a group of Northern (Chipewyan) Indians,
led by a chief named Matonabbee. The successful journey departed on
December 7, 1770 with the women carrying heavy loads together with
their infants. Meanwhile, the men hunted and sometimes ate while the
women went hungry. They reached the Coppermine River on July 14, 1771
but found the river too dangerous to navigate. On July 17 they surprised
a group of Inuit fishing on the river. The Chipewyan Indians showed
no mercy towards the Inuit, massacring them and destroying their tents,
kettles and every other provision necessary to sustain life in this
harsh environment. Shortly after the massacre, Hearne reaches the
mouth of the river. He found the vicinity "full of islands and
shoals" with unbroken sea ice off in the distance. The tide was
out so the water tasted fresh but the bones of whales and sealskins
at the Eskimo encampment convinced him that he had reached the "Northern
Ocean." As a consequence, he became the first European to accomplish
this feat. The significance of this expedition was to prove that no
passage existed through the American continent south of the Arctic
- 1776-80: Captain
James Cook's third voyage of discovery, commanding HMS
RESOLUTION and HMS DISCOVERY,
with the object of finding the Northwest Passage via the Pacific Ocean.
Unfortunately, "armchair cartographers" had drawn their
maps and charts from theory, rather than surveys, which frustrated
Cook and his officers while coasting southern Alaska. Cook's ships
penetrated as far as Icy Cape on the coast of Alaska. This route into
the Arctic, forged by the RESOLUTION and
DISCOVERY, would later be taken by the
ships of the Royal Navy.
- 1789: Alexander
Mackenzie, a young partner in the North West Company, is driven by
the need for a trading route to the Pacific after being displaced
from the vicinity of Detroit due to the American Revolution. Mackenzie
is accompanied by four French Canadian voyageurs, a Chipewyan Indian
by the name of "English Chief," a number of Indian's wives
and a young German, John Steinbruck. The expedition departs from Fort
Chipewyan, on the southern shore of Lake Athabasca, on June 3, 1789.
They reach a great river (subsequently named after Mackenzie), extending
northward from the Great Slave Lake. The river is followed all the
way to the Arctic Ocean which is reached on July 14, 1789, the same
date as the outbreak of the French Revolution.
- 1792-94: Captain
George Vancouver explores and surveys the northwest coast of America.
It is subsequently proven that no navigable waterway exists between
the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in temperate latitudes.
- 1817: William
Scoresby, a young whaling captain and son of William Scoresby, Sr.,
inventor of the crow's nest, makes a voyage to Greenland where he
finds "2000 square leagues of the surface of the Greenland Sea,
between the parallels of 74°
and 80° North, perfectly void of ice which is usually covered
- 1818: In command
of the ISABELLA, John Ross makes his first
voyage in search of the Northwest Passage. Lt. Edward Parry, second
in command, accompanies Ross in the ALEXANDER.
Astronomer on the expedition is Captain Edward Sabine. They turn back
at Lancaster Sound.
- 1819: In command
of the DORTHEA, David Buchan seeks the North
Pole via Spitzbergen. Lt. John Franklin is second in command aboard
- 1819-20: In command
of the HECLA, William Edward Parry leads
his first expedition in search of the Northwest Passage. Lt. Matthew
Liddon is second in command aboard the GRIPER.
A Parliamentary Act passed in 1818 "authorized the [payment of]
... five thousand pounds to the officers and men of the first ship
to cross the 110th meridian of west longitude to the north of America
by sailing within the Arctic Circle." Parry was the first to
qualify when they proceeded westwards along what is now called Parry
Channel, passing 110° West longitude in September 1819. They subsequently
reach and name Melville Island after the First Lord of the Admiralty.
- 1819-21: In conjunction
with Edward Parry's voyage, John Franklin leads his first overland
expedition to Point Turnagain, in search of the Northwest Passage.
The expedition ends in disaster with eleven members of the expedition
losing their lives.
- 1821-23: In command
of the FURY, Edward Parry leads his second
voyage in search of the Northwest Passage. Second in command is George
Lyon aboard the HECLA. The ice master of
the HECLA dies of scurvy.
- 1824-25: Once
again HECLA and FURY
sail north under Edward Parry's command in search of the Northwest
Passage. This, Parry's third voyage, would prove to be his final voyage
to the Canadian Arctic. The FURY is grounded
during a storm on July 30, 1825 and subsequently abandoned on Fury
Beach at Somerset Island.
- 1825-27: John
Franklin's second land expedition to the mouth of the Coppermine River.
Together with John Richardson, he explores and maps more than a thousand
miles of coastline from Coronation Gulf to Icy Cape, Alaska.
- 1827: On June
1, Edward Parry, aboard HECLA, leaves Spitzbergen
on an attempt to reach the North Pole. Second in command is James
Clark Ross. He reaches 82° 45' North and establishes a Farthest
North that will stand for 50 years.
- 1825-28: The
Admiralty dispatches BLOSSOM to the north
Pacific. The expedition, under the command of F.W. Beechey, is instructed
to await the emergence of Parry's HECLA
and FURY into the north Pacific. Also anticipated
is the arrival of Franklin's boats from his overland expedition. They
reach Captain Cook's Icy Cape and proceed along the coast. Point Barrow
is discovered and named after Sir John Barrow of the Admiralty, "to
mark the progress of northern discovery on each side of the American
continent which has been so perseveringly advocated by that distainguished
member of our naval administration."
- 1829-33: John
Ross's second expedition in search of the Northwest Passage. The expedition
is privately sponsored by gin merchant Felix Booth. With the help
of Eskimos, Ross and his crew survive through four Arctic winters.
- 1833: George
Back, together with Richard King, leads an expedition to the Great
Fish River in search of John Ross.
- 1837-39: A Hudson's
Bay Company overland expedition is led by Peter Dease and Thomas Simpson.
They survey most of the remaining unknown areas of the Northwest Passage.
- 1845-47: Tragedy
befalls John Franklin and his men as he commands EREBUS
and TERROR on a search for the Northwest
Passage. Franklin is last seen by a whaling ship on June 25, 1845.
Neither he nor any of the other 128 men would be seen alive again.
Between 1848 and 1859 more than 50 expeditions are mounted to find
him, with enormous sums of money spent on the search. The British
Government spent approximately £675,000, Lady
Franklin £35,000, the United States Government $150,000 and
Henry Grinnell, president of the American Geographical Society, $100,000.
- 1848: The search
for the Franklin expedition begins early in 1848. The First Lord of
the Admiralty offers £10,000 to anyone who can merely discover
what happened to Franklin and his lost ships, EREBUS
and TERROR. The Admiralty proposed a 3-pronged
attack from the east, west and south to find Franklin: two ships would
enter the archipelago from the east by way of Lancaster Sound and
Barrow Strait and then move west to Melville Island and Banks Land
and then proceed south. (See James Clark Ross below). Two more ships
would sail around Cape Horn hoping to rendezvous that July in Bering
Strait to explore the western Arctic. (See Pullen below). Finally,
a land expedition would travel to the Canadian northwest and follow
the Mackenzie River north to the Arctic coast and then eastward along
the rim of Wallaston Land and Victoria Land (See John Richardson below).
It was expected that both of the naval expeditions would meet up with
the land expedition.
- 1848-49: James
Clark Ross, now at the end of his career, is instructed to follow
Franklin's route through Barrow Strait and then south or southwest
in search of the lost expedition. His two senior officers, Leopold
M'Clintock and Robert McClure, will become Arctic heroes. The expedition
ships, ENTERPRISE and INVESTIGATOR,
are blocked by impassable ice north of Somerset Island. They are frozen
in for eleven months at Port Leopold on the northwest tip of the island.
They return to England, both officers and men having suffered badly
from scurvy. Six of his company of sixty-four die on the expedition.
- 1848-51: John
Richardson, at the age of sixty, leaves his family and embarks from
Liverpool for North America in search of his old friend, John Franklin.
Dr. John Rae is second in command of the overland expedition. After
lodging together at Fort Confidence during the winter of 1848-49,
Richardson returns to England, leaving Rae to follow the Mackenzie
River to the Arctic coast and then explore eastward along the rim
of Wallaston Land and Victoria Land. On Rae's third journey into the
Arctic (now 1851), he proves that Wallaston Land and Victoria Lands
are actually one and the same. Two fragments of wood are found that
clearly came from a Royal Navy vessel. It would be years before anyone
realized that they were most certainly from one of the Franklin expedition
Lt. W.J.S. Pullen commanding the expedition vessel HMS
HERALD, together with the PLOVER
and NANCY, reach Bering Strait. From here,
he commands 5 small boats in an effort to go east, exploring the
Arctic coastline to the Mackenzie Delta.
Upon Ross's return from the Arctic in 1849, ENTERPRISE
and INVESTIGATOR are overhauled and re-commissioned
with Captain Richard Collinson commanding ENTERPRISE
and Robert McClure, Collinson's junior officer, commanding INVESTIGATOR.
Captain Kellett, in the PLOVER, is to
accompany them as far as the Bering Strait. The ships become separated
on the long voyage around Cape Horn into the western Pacific. McClure
and INVESTIGATOR arrive first, but Collinson
and ENTERPRISE arrive too late in the
season to follow McClure into the strait. McClure enters the passage
from the west, exploring the coastline and Banks Island. Trapped
in the ice, they are forced to abandon ship at Mercy Bay on the
north end of Banks Island. They would be rescued by Edward Belcher
(see below) in 1853. By walking over the ice to Beechey Island,
they technically become the first to complete the Northwest Passage.
Meanwhile, after wintering in Hong Kong, Collinson joins the search.
They explore along the coastline past the Mackenzie Delta, then
turn north and explore the vicinity of Banks Island. The ENTERPRISE
enters Prince of Wales Strait, which lies between Banks Island and
Victoria Island, and at the Princess Royal Islands they discover
that McClure had already been there. They proceed south and explore
along the southern coastline of Victoria Island as far as Cambridge
Bay, near King William Island, after which they retrace their course
IN 1850, ELEVEN SHIPS STRIKE OUT FOR
LANCASTER SOUND AND THE EASTERN ARCTIC IN THE SEARCH FOR FRANKLIN:
- 1850-55: Ten
vessels strike out for Lancaster Sound and the eastern Arctic in search
of the Franklin Expedition. They all aimed to explore Wellington Channel,
the northward-leading waterway between Cornwallis and Devon Islands.
Captain Horatio T. Austin is in charge of an official four-ship Admiralty
dispatch. The four vessels, RESOLUTE, ASSISTANCE,
PIONEER and INTREPID,
are later joined by six others: William Penny, a famous whaling captain,
commands the LADY FRANKLIN and SOPHIA;
the Hudson's Bay Company outfits the schooner FELIX
and its supply ship NORTH STAR for Sir John
Ross to command; American shipping magnate Henry Grinnell purchases
ADVANCE and RESCUE,
turns them over to the US Government who in turn places them under
the command of Lieutenant Edwin De Haven. De Haven's chief medical
officer is a sickly 29 year-old, Elisha Kent Kane, who would become
the best known explorer of his time. The ten vessels were soon assembled
at the vicinity of Beechey Island. Traces of white men wintering were
everywhere, but no written records were discovered. The proof they
were looking for eventually turned up when they discovered graves
with inscriptions of three men from EREBUS
and TERROR who had died that first winter.
- 1850: An eleventh
ship, commanded by Charles Codrington Forsyth, leads a search for
Franklin to the eastern Arctic. Privately funded by Lady Franklin,
Forsyth commands Lady Franklin's own ship, PRINCE ALBERT,
with instructions to head southward along the Prince Regent Inlet
between Somerset and Baffin Islands. Unlike the Admiralty, Lady Franklin
sensed that the solution to the whereabouts of her husband lay to
the south of Lancaster Sound.
- 1851-52: William
Kennedy, accompanied by Joseph-René Bellot, leads another search
for Franklin. Lady Franklin privately funds the expedition.
- 1852-54: Sir
Edward Belcher, a native of Nova Scotia and veteran of the War of
1812, leads a five-ship Admiralty expedition in search of Franklin,
Collinson and McClure. Four ships would search in a two-pronged attack:
ASSISTANCE and PIONEER
were to search the Wellington Channel for traces of Franklin while
RESOLUTE and INTREPID
were to deposit supplies of provisions, fuel and clothing on Melville
Island for Collinson and McClure. The store's ship, NORTH
STAR, would remain at Beechey Island. Robert McClure
is rescued at Mercy Bay, Banks Island, after having become separated
from Collinson in ENTERPRISE in 1850.
- 1852: Edward
A. Inglefield explores Smith and Jones Sounds. He returns to England
with the false story that Greenland Eskimos had murdered Franklin.
- 1853-55: Elisha
Kent Kane leads a second American expedition in search of Franklin.
This would be a private venture funded once again by Henry Grinnell.
The US Navy would supply the crew. The vessel used, ADVANCE,
was from a previous expedition. The ship's doctor, a 21 year-old medical
student, is Isaac Hayes.
- 1853-54: Dr.
John Rae, sent by the Hudson's Bay Company to complete a coastal survey
in the area of King William Land and Boothia, discovers relics of
the Franklin Expedition in possession of the Eskimos. British authorities
present him with the £10,000 reward for establishing the fate
of the expedition.
- 1857-59: Lady
Franklin finances another expedition in search of her husband. Francis
Leopold M'Clintock commands Lady Franklin's yacht, the FOX,
to Peel Sound, Prince Regent Inlet, Bellot Strait, King
William Island and Montreal Island. Discoveries are made which confirm
Dr. Rae's report of the fate of the expedition.
- 1860-61: Isaac
Hayes, a despised rival of Charles Hall, leads an American expedition
aboard the UNITED STATES in search of the
legendary Open Polar Sea. He achieves nothing as his calculations
were so inaccurate that they were never taken seriously. It was a
painful journey, but the Open Polar Sea proved to be a myth.
- 1860-62: American
Charles Francis Hall makes his first journey to the Arctic in a search
for any survivors from the Franklin Expedition. He discovers relics
from Frobisher, dating to 1576-77.
- 1864-69: Charles
Hall makes his second journey to the Arctic. He lives and travels
with the Eskimos by sledge across Rae Isthmus to King William Island
where he finds artifacts from the Franklin Expedition.
- 1871-73: Charles
Hall's third voyage to the Arctic, in search of the North Pole aboard
POLARIS. Hall would die under mysterious
circumstances in November 1871. On the return voyage, half the crew
of the POLARIS are stranded on the ice in
a storm and drift for six months before being rescued by whalers.
- 1875-76: The
British Navy appoints George Nares to lead their last attempt at Arctic
exploration. Nares's first mate, Albert Hastings Markham, is a distant
cousin of Sir Clements Markham. Lt. Aldrich sets a new record by passing
Edward Parry's 1827 Farthest North.
- 1875: A young
Austrian scientist and naval lieutenant, Karl Weyprecht, discovers
Franz Josef Land.
- 1878-80: Lt.
Frederick Schwatka of the US Army, accompanied by Col. W H Gilder,
Harry Klutschak and Frank Melms, sail on a whaling vessel to Chesterfield
Inlet, northwest Hudson Bay, in 1878. They winter among the native
people and then set off on an overland crossing for King William Island
in April 1879. They discover a route to the island via the Lorillard
and Hayes rivers, arriving at King William Island on June 5, 1879.
Relics and skeletons from the Franklin Expedition are found. Eskimo
reports lead them to believe that Todd Island, rather than Montreal
Island, was where a number of the last survivors died. Others reached
the mainland, to the west of Richardson Point, where a box of records
in a boat appeared to have been opened and dispersed by the Eskimos.
- 1879-82: Lt.
George Washington De Long, of the US Navy, is in command of the Jeannette
Expedition. The ill-fated expedition searches for the North Pole from
Siberia. The vessel foundered off the coast of Siberia, never to be
heard from again. Pieces of the JEANNETTE
began showing up on the coast of Greenland in 1884.
- 1882-83: The
first International Polar Year is established. Eleven nations pledge
to establish fifteen new observation stations in the Arctic and Antarctic.
- 1881-84: Adolphus
Greely leads an American expedition into the Arctic. The Greely Expedition
(a.k.a. the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition) would be the American's
contribution to the International Polar Year. This would be the remotest
of all stations, situated at Lady Franklin Bay on Ellesmere Island,
where George Nares's second ship, DISCOVERY,
had wintered in 1875-76. Twenty-four men and two Eskimos, all under
command of the US Army, would carry out scientific observations. Karl
Weyprecht would participate as chief scientist. A task of the expedition
would be to try and reach the Pole, or at least surpass the British
record, and plant the US flag on a new Farthest North. The expedition
was a disaster unlike anything seen since the loss of John Franklin
and his men.
- 1886: Robert
Peary attempts to cross Greenland but fails.
- 1888: Fridtjof
Nansen successfully completes the first Greenland crossing.
- 1891-92: Peary's
first expedition to Greenland.
- 1893-95: Peary's
second expedition to Greenland.
- 1893-95: A new
Farthest North is established when Fridtjof Nansen and Otto Sverdrup,
in the FRAM, drift across the Arctic Ocean.
- 1897: Salomon
Andrée, aboard the balloon EAGLE,
attempts to reach the North Pole. His two companions are 25 year-old
Nils Strindberg and 27 year-old Knut Frænkel. They depart on
July 11 and for the next three days they struggle to keep the balloon
aloft. On the morning of July 14, "the balloon rose to a great
height but we opened both valves and were down again ... We jumped
out of the balloon." The men were now faced with the task of
walking back to land. On October 1, "We heard a thunderous crash
and water streamed into the hut and when [we] ... rushed out we found
that our large floe had been splintered into a number of little floes
and that one fissure had divided the floe just outside the wall of
the hut." Four days later they took refuge on White Island, off
the northeast coast of Spitzbergen. Twelve days after that, entries
in their diaries cease. Their bodies would not be discovered until
Dr. Gunnar Horn, in 1930, unexpectedly came upon their camp. The ice
had preserved their bodies in a extraordinary manner.
- 1898-1902: Peary's
third expedition to the Arctic. His plans to reach the North Pole
end in failure.
- 1899-1900: The
Duke of Abruzzi leads an expedition to reach the North Pole via Franz
Josef Land. A new Farthest North is established by Lt. Cagni.
- 1901-02: The
first Ziegler Expedition, led by Evelyn Baldwin. The expedition attempts
to reach the North Pole via Norway but ends in failure.
- 1903-05: The
second Ziegler Expedition is commanded by Anthony Fiala. The expedition
embarks from Trondheim, Norway but ends in disaster with the loss
of their ship AMERICA.
- 1903-05: Roald
Amundsen successfully completes the first navigation of the Northwest
Passage aboard GJØA.
- 1905-06: Peary's
fourth attempt to reach the North Pole. His attempt only succeeds
in establishing a new Farthest North.
- 1907-09: Frederick
Cook's expedition to reach the North Pole. Cook makes a claim of having
reached the Pole in April, 1908.
- 1908-09: Peary's
fifth and final attempt to reach the North Pole. Peary's vessel, the
ROOSEVELT, sets a record latitude for a
ship under its own steam (82° 30'
N). In March 1909, after wintering over at Cape Columbia, Peary returns
to cable news from Indian Harbour, Labrador, that he had reached the
Pole. The claim came just days after Frederick Cook made his claim
of having reached the Pole a year earlier.
- 1918-24: Following
Roald Amundsen's attainment of the South Pole in 1913, Amundsen planned
an eight year polar drift through the Arctic. Amundsen returned to
Norway from the Antarctic aboard FRAM whereupon
he became successful in war construction. He then turned to the Arctic
with a new boat, the MAUD, in 1918 to set
out on his original polar drift plan. Amundsen designed the MAUD
to resist the ice and drift over the Pole. It became locked in the
ice from 1918 to 1924 without achieving its objective.
- 1925: The Amundsen-Ellsworth
North Polar Flight. Roald Amundsen and his men take off in two Dornier-Wals
seaplanes (N-24 and N-25)
from Spitzbergen on May 25, planning to explore the area between Spitzbergen
and the Pole for the first time. Their plan was to leave one of the
planes at the Pole and fly on to Alaska. After eight hours of flying,
they ran short of fuel and had to land on an ice floe, 136 nautical
miles short of the Pole. After compacting snow and ice to form a runway,
one of the planes manages to take off on June 15 but had to be aborted
at sea near North Cape, Spitzbergen. The crew was rescued by a sailing
- 1926: On May
8, Floyd Bennet and Richard Byrd ostensibly fly to the North Pole,
being the first to do so. However, it was later determined to be an
impossible task in the unpressurized Fokker tri-motor. Despite the
controversy, Byrd received a ticker-tape parade when he returned to
New York and also received the Congressional Medal of Honor. In 1979,
Finn Ronne, one of Byrd's polar companions in the Antarctic, revealed
that Byrd himself admitted to coming no closer than 150 miles of the
- 1926: On May
11, the dirigible NORGE, commanded by Umberto
Nobile, embarks from Kings Harbour, Spitzbergen, on a flight for the
Pole. This Amundsen-Ellsworth North Polar flight reaches the Pole
in the early hours of May 12, Ellsworth's birthday. They fly on and
land in Alaska at 8:30 p.m. local time on May 13 (May 14, 7:30 a.m.
GMT). The quest for the North Pole has been accomplished.
- 1928: Umberto
Nobile leads an all-Italian expedition to the North Pole aboard the
dirigible ITALIA. On May 22 the flight
to the Pole is made in record time. On the return flight, the ship
had become heavily weighted with ice. The sun became clouded over,
forcing them to fly low through the fog to determine their position.
On May 25, they were flying low with a "bit of a list to bow"
and falling rapidly when suddenly the airship crashed. Part of the
pilot's cabin was ripped away, scattering men and equipment over the
ice. Six men were carried away with the gondola, which was still attached
to the gasbag, and were never heard from again. During the resulting
search and rescue, Roald Amundsen and four companions are killed in
a plane crash.
- 1928: George
Hubert Wilkins, with famous Alaskan pilot Carl Ben Eielson, flies
across the Polar Sea from Point Barrow, Alaska to Spitzbergen in 21
- 1932: On August
10, Hubert Wilkins leaves Norway for Spitzbergen waters in an attempt
to cross the Arctic Ocean by submarine. The submarine, NAUTILUS,
is a decrepit American vessel built in 1916-18 and chartered by the
expedition for one dollar. They suffer a series of mechanical failures
but were able to make a few short dives. The attempted voyage under
the ice to the Pole ended in complete failure.
- 1958: The world's
first nuclear powered submarine, USS NAUTILUS,
becomes the first submarine to reach the North Pole. At 11:15 p.m.
on August 3, USS NAUTILUS' second Commanding
Officer, Commander William R. Anderson, USN, announced to his crew
"For the world, Our Country, and the Navy - the North Pole."
- 1960: First transit
of the Northwest Passage by submarine (USS SEADRAGON).
- 1962: First submerged
transit of the Northwest Passage (eastward) by submarine (USS