English Arctic Expedition. Nares. Markham. Dutch Arctic Work. Swedish Arctic Expedition.
In England the very important branch of geographical research relating to the Arctic regions was neglected by the Government during this interval of fifteen years, while Americans, Swedes, Norwegians, Germans, Austrians, and English yachtsmen were making praiseworthy efforts with more or less success.
The resumption of English Arctic research on an adequate scale is due to the exertions and arguments of Admiral Sherard Osborn from 1865 until 1875. He set forth the valuable results to be obtained, and the means of success. Basing his arguments on long experience, he showed that it was necessary for success that an expedition should follow a coast-line, that is should pass beyond any point previously reached and there winter, and that the work should be completed by extended sledge parties in the spring.
At length an expedition was fitted out on these principles, the Smith Sound route was selected, and in May 1875 the "Alert" and Discovery" sailed from Portsmouth under the command of Captain Nares. As regards the ice navigation the success of the expedition was complete. Captain Nares, in the face of unparalleled difficulties, brought the ships to a point farther north than any vessel of any nation had ever reached before, wintered the "Alert" in 82º 27´ N., and, in the face of still greater difficulties, brought both vessels safely home again. The extended sledge-travelling called forth an amount of heroic devotion obstacles than had ever been encountered before, which add a proud page to the history of English naval enterprise.
The exploring parties were led by Commander Markham and Lieutenants Aldrich and Beaumont. Advancing over the great frozen Polar Sea, Markham reached 83º 20´ 26" N., the highest latitude ever attained by any human being. He thus won the blue ribbon of Arctic discovery. Aldrich discovered 200 miles of coast to the westward, while Beaumont added to our knowledge of the north coast of Greenland.
The results of the Arctic expedition of 1875-76 were the creation of a young generation of experienced Arctic officers, the discovery of 300 miles of new coast-line and of a large section of the Polar Ocean, the attainment of the highest latitude ever reached by man, a years magnetic and meteorological observations at two stations both further north than any before taken, tidal observations, the examination of the geology of a vast region and the discovery of a fossil forest in 82º N., and large natural history collections representing the fauna and flora of a new region.
The return of this memorable expedition again incited our neighbours to further efforts. In the summer of 1878 the Dutch entered the field, and the schooner "William Barents," under Lieutenants de Bruyne and Koolemans Beynen, made a useful reconnaissance of the Barents Sea; while Professor Nordenkiöld left Sweden in July 1878, in the well-equipped steamer "Vega," to achieve the North-East Passage. In August he rounded Cape Chelyuskin, the most northern point of the Old World, and reached the mouth of the Lena.
But much work remains to be done in the polar regions, in order to complete the connexion between Aldrichs furthest in 1876 and McClintocks in 1854, to complete the discovery of the north side of Greenland, to explore the northern bounds of Franz Josef Land, and to discover lands north of Siberia.
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