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Ziegler Polar Expeditions


"You can't appreciate, as it is beyond description, the dreadful deathlike stillness of the arctic night . . . I have stood watching its weird effects until I have been forced below from fright to hear voices and free myself from the depressing lifeless silence."

These are the words of James De Bruler, assistant scientist with the Baldwin - Ziegler Polar Expedition of 1901. The party had recently escaped from the ice and were resting in Norway. They are also the words of one of the many that came to conquer and returned "conquered."

The expedition went north in 1901 boasting finer equipment than any previous group. They made their base on Franz Josef Land and established a line of supply depots northward before the long night covered them. They planned to make a dash to the pole in the spring; however the ice conditions prevented a supply ship from reaching the camp and a shortage of coal developed. For the lack of this item the main group could not remain to support a sledge party and it was decided to abandon their plans and attempt to sail home. At this time a message buoy was released, telling of the situation and issuing instructions in case the supply ship should find it. The buoy was recovered four years later near Omgang, Finmarken, northern Norway. It was fortunate that they did not have to rely on help from that source.

Breaking out of Teplitz Bay was a serious problem because of the ice conditions and De Bruler described a portion of the voyage in his letter:

"We were caught in a field of churning ice and were nearly crushed. The ship groaned and creaked, the ice piled up on both sides of us for ten feet or so, and still the movement was unchecked. Our rudder was broken and we all stood on the deck watching her carried nearer and nearer. The boats were unlashed and as dinner was ready we all went below and ate as much as we could for we thought we wouldn't get any more cooked for a while. Fortunately when the ship was in shallow water the wind died out and we stopped -- a 100 feet more and we would have been up there yet sitting on a rock waving a red flag and awaiting a ship."

After the vessel cleared the Bay the voyage was uneventful; however, the supply ship, FRITHJOF, was still in the ice attempting to reach Camp Ziegler so the Baldwin party was required to remain at Tromso until it returned and affairs were settled.


Attempt at the Pole from Franz Josef Land


The Baldwin-Ziegler Expedition planned to use an ice island - wireless radio - and electricity. Ice blocked the return of the supply ship and forced early evacuation of the base. The party was then stranded in Tromso to wait for the FRITHJOF to break out of the ice and pick them up.


(Correspondence courtesy of George Hall)

William Ziegler, President of the Royal Baking Powder Company, hoped to gain his fame by sponsoring an expedition to reach the North Pole. His fortune was worth an estimated $30 million so no expense was spared. However, his choice as leader of the expedition was unfortunate. Robert Peary's meteorologist, Evelyn Baldwin, was given the command. He failed miserably and was subsequently replaced.

Members of the 1901- 02 Baldwin-Ziegler Expedition. The expedition photographer, Anthony Fiala, took this photo. He was appointed leader of Zeigler's next attempt at the Pole, the Fiala-Zeigler Expedition in 1903-05.

(Photo courtesy of Holly Giesen)


The failure was a great disappointment to Mr. William Ziegler, the financial sponsor, and he immediately ordered that a second expedition be dispatched: Anthony Fiala was chosen to lead this group.


Fiala was an experienced member of the first visit and had the confidence of the men. They assembled at Vardo, Norway where their final letters were posted through the Norwegian offices without special cancellations or marks, although most mail was apparently sent on official stationery.




Ziegler Polar Expedition


In hope that his name would be associated with the discovery . . .

Industrialist William Ziegler sponsored a new polar expedition under Anthony Fiala in 1902. His hope to be associated with the discovery of the pole failed, but he died before their return with the news.

Mail is known from various points on the trip north to Franz Josef Land. The loss of their supply ship in heavy ice curtailed the work.


(Courtesy of George Hall)




Crewmember mail destined to the USA from the Fiala-Ziegler North Pole Expedition on S.Y. AMERICA (expedition ship) stationery. The cover was posted at Archangel, in North Russia, on 20 June 1903 as ship was heading to Franz Josef Land and its unsuccessful attempt at the North Pole.


(Courtesy of Herb & Janice Harvis)


The thirty-nine explorers set out in the Steam Yacht AMERICA on June 26, 1903, intending to expand the work done in 1901. They dropped anchor in Teplitz Bay and reoccupied the original Camp Ziegler. An advance camp six miles north was named Camp Abruzzi. While the party was settling down for the winter the ice suddenly rose up to crush the ship and sink it without a trace. This might have proved to be a major tragedy, but they decided to rely on the supply ship to rescue them in the spring and they carried on all their routine work which included putting the North Pole party in the field. It would appear that all of nature's forces were mustered to defeat this futile attempt by man to peer into the polar region because the plans for a field party in 1904 were delayed by the weather and then the supply ship failed to appear during the year.

In order to bring a touch of civilization to the camp all letters carried to the base camp from the advance camp were franked by a special stamp although news could hardly have been spectacular they also printed an occasional newspaper.

In the spring of 1905 Fiala and a small sledge party started for the North Pole, but the ice conditions which prevented a ship from reaching them a year before now became so soft that the party was forced to abandon the trip. They returned to camp in time to greet the arrival of a worried rescue expedition on the S.Y. TERRA NOVA. This ship was called out after the FRITHJOF was forced to retire because of ice damage.

They returned to the United States in 1905 to learn that William Ziegler was dead. He had passed on the year before, without receiving any news of his expedition, perhaps hopefully dreaming that his name had been linked with the discovery of the North Pole.