First International Polar Year (1882-83): Encyclopedia Arctica 7: Meteorology and Oceanography

Author Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

First International Polar Year (1882-83)

EA-Meteorology [William H. Hobbs]


Most of the early polar expeditious in the Arctic were motivated by the keen desire to discover a northern sea route from the Atlantic to the Pacific, in order especially to establish connection with the Moluccan, or Spice, Islands of the Orient. The products of these islands had in 1494 been cut off from northern Europe by the Pope’s treaty of Tordesillas, which had divided the con– trol of the sea lanes between the then powerf ^ u ^ l maritime nations of Spain and Portugal. A “Northeast Passage” north of Eurasia, and a “Northwest Passage” to the northward of the Americas were thereupon diligently sought for throughout three centuries; in this search Britain was especially active.
During the nineteenth century many arctic expeditions were sent out either in an effort to find the survivors or the relics of the ill-fated Franklin ex– pedition of 1845-48, or in a tense contest of the exploring nations to attain the North Pole of the earth.
In the 1870’s, though the fateful tragedy of the Franklin expedition had not been fully [: ] disclosed, nor the Pole attained, a new incentive to polar exploration began to make its appearance — scientific research to learn the physical nature of the polar regions — their geography, climate, fauna, flora, magnetical and electrical properties, etc, Arctic stations manned simultaneously by scientists were to take the place of polar journeys; and these observing posts were to be fixed in strategical positions, sponsored by different nations and each maintained for at least a year.

EA-Met. Hobbs: First International Polar Year

The idea of such a group of polar research stations seems to have originated in 1874 with Lieutenant Karl Weyprecht of the Austrian Navy, who had commanded the Tegetthoff expedition and had discovered the Franz Josef archipelago. At the 48th meeting in Graz, Austria, in 1875, of the German Natural Scientists and Physicians, he first publicly advocated an international effort to realize such research. Physics, botany, zoology, as well as geographical discovery, were to be given prominence. If possible, antarctic as well as arctic stations were to be set up, and, so far as possible, similar observing instruments and methods were to be employed in the physical observations — metoeorlogical, astronomical, and earth magnetical.
Weyprecht’s recommendations were endorsed at the Second Meteorological Congress held in Rome in 1879, and an international committee had a special conference on October 1st of that year in Hamburg. Representatives of Austria, Denmark, Finland, Holland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States took part in this conference, which named the distinguished Professor George Balthasar Neumayer of Hamburg its president. A second conference of the committee was held in Berne, Switzerland, in 1880, and a third in St. Petersburg (now Leningrad) in 1881, at which meeting the Russian astronomer Wild presided. It was then and there decided to set up the First International Polar Year from August 1, 1882, to August 1, 1883. There were to be thirteen arctic and two antarctic stations. With the exception of the Dutch station in Siberia, these were all duly established, and maintained for at least a year, some for two or more years.
These stations were as follows: Austria-Hungary , one station at Jan Mayen directed by E. v. Wohlgemuth; Denmark , two stations, one set up at Godthaab in West Greenland led by A. Paulsen, the other at Cape Chelyuskin in Northern Siberia

EA-Met. Hobbs: First International Polar Year

led by A. P. Hovgaard; Finland, one station at Sodankylä led by E. Biese; France , one station at Orange Bay near Cape Horn, led by Courcelle-Seneuil; Germany , two stations, the first in Kinguafjord, Baffin Island, led by W, Giese, and the second at Royal Bay on South Georgia, Subantarctie, led by K. Schrader; Holland , one station on Dickson Island at the mouth of the Yenisei, Siberia, led, by M. Snellen; Norwa y, one station at Bossekop In Norway, led by A. S. Steen; Russia two stations, one at Malye Karmakuly on the vest coast of Novaya Zemlya, led by K. Andrejew, the other at Sagastyr at the mouth of the Lena, led by N. D. Jürgens; Sweden , one station at Cape Thordsen in the Icefjord on Spitsbergen (now Svalbard); and the United States , two stations, one at Cape Smythe, near Point Barrow, Alaska, led by P. H. Ray, the other at Fort Conger on Lady Franklin Bay, Ellesmere Island, led by A, W. Greely.
Both American stations, and the Russian station at Sagastyr, were maintained for two successive years. In addition to meteorological and earth magnetism observations, most stations carried out studies of the aurora and of electrical earth currents. Some of them made regular observations of the tides and of ocean temperatures, Many of them also made ethnographical, zoological, botanical, and geological observations of greater or less importance.

EA-Met. Hobbs: First International Polar Year


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----. Observations of the International Polar Expedition 1882-83 , Fort Rae, London, 1886.

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Steen, A.S. Beobachtungsergebnisse der norwegischen Polarstation Bossekop im Altenfjord, 2 vols., Christiania 1887. 1888.

Wohlgemuth, E. v. Die österreichische Polarstation Jan Mayen , 3 vols. Vienna, 1886.

William H. Hobbs