Exhibitions

As American expeditions headed north to search for British commander John Franklin, Arctic exploration quickly became an American enterprise. [4-1] From 1850-1900, American explorers led more than a dozen expeditions on missions of discovery. Most celebrated among these was Elisha Kane who survived two winters in the Arctic before leading his crew to safety. Kane’s two-volume Arctic Explorations went through multiple editions and sold over 150,000 copies over the next decades. If it served as a source of inspiration for readers, it also operated as a guidebook for future explorers, who used it to emulate Kane’s persona and popular campaigns in the decades to come. By the 1880s, however, tragedy led Americans to reassess their interest in the Arctic. From 1879-1884, expeditions led by George Washington DeLong and Adolphus Greely resulted in the deaths of thirty-nine men, five times as many as had died on all previous voyages combined. [4-2] While these disasters diminished support for Arctic exploration among scientists and politicians, they proved beneficial to newspaper publishers who found that news about expedition catastrophes sold better than stories of accomplishment. [4-4] [4-6] [4-7] As a result, newspapers increasingly became financial backers of American exploration in the late nineteenth century. [5-3] [5-4]

Boat's Crew from the Farm Attaching the Tow Line to the America

Walter Wellman (author), USA,1858-1934
A.R. Keller & Company (publisher), USA, est. 1892
Boat's Crew from the Farm Attaching the Tow Line to the America
from The Aerial Age - A Thousand Miles by Airship Over the Atlantic Ocean, 1911
photograph in bound volume
Courtesy of George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine

The Sinking of the Jeannette

after M.J. Burns (artist), USA, active 1880s
George T. Andrew (engraver), USA
George Washington De Long (author)
Houghton, Mifflin & Co. (publisher), USA, 1844-1881
The Sinking of the Jeannette
from The Voyage of the Jeannette. The Ship and Ice Journals of George W. De Long, Volume II, 1883
wood engraving on wove paper in bound volume
Courtesy of George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine

Arctic Life: Cutting a Way Out of the Ice from Winter Quarters

George C. Leighton (publisher)
Arctic Life: Cutting a Way Out of the Ice from Winter Quarters
from The Illustrated London News, May 29, 1875
wood engraving
Courtesy of the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education
OML-1875-30

13710.0001
“The Loss of the Jeannette,” The Graphic, 20 May 1882

Focused on reaching the North Pole, the DeLong Expedition expected to find open water north of Bering Strait. Instead it found an endless sea of pack ice which captured the expedition vessel Jeannette and carried it west across the polar sea north of Siberia. In June 1881, after twenty-one months adrift, the ice finally crushed Jeannette, forcing De Long and his crew to beat a retreat to the Siberian coast in whaleboats. Of the thirty-three members of the expedition, twenty-one perished of exposure and starvation, including DeLong himself.

The Graphic (publisher), England, est. 1869
The Loss of the Jeannette: On the March after Leaving the Ship - Breaking Up Camp from The Graphic, May 20, 1882
engraving
Courtesy of the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education
OML-1882-16

13711.0001
The Arctic Expedition Packing Up the Sledges Ready for a Start

The Graphic (publisher), England, est. 1869
The Arctic Expedition Packing Up the Sledges Ready for a Start
From The Graphic, May 29,1875
engraving
Courtesy of the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education
OML-1875-31

13715.0001
The American Franklin Search Expedition: Graves of the Comrades of Sir John Franklin

H.W. Klutschak (artist)
The Illustrated London News (publisher)
The American Franklin Search Expedition: Graves of the Comrades of Sir John Franklin from The Illustrated London News, June 25, 1881
engraving
Courtesy of the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education
OML-1881-24

13712.0001
The Sinking of the "Eira," August 21, 1881

B. Leigh Smith (illustrator), England, 1828-1913
The Graphic (publisher)
The Sinking of the "Eira," August 21, 1881
from The Graphic, September 9, 1882
engraving
Courtesy of the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education
OML-1882-17

13713.0001
“The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson” The Graphic, 7 Jan 1882

As America came to grips with Arctic disasters in the 1880s, some took comfort in the long precedent of polar tragedy. The failure of Britain’s Franklin Expedition was only the most recent episode in the calamitous history of polar exploration. Vitus Bering, discoverer of the waterway between Asia and North America, died of scurvy in 1741. Henry Hudson, for whom Hudson Bay and the Hudson River were named, was cast adrift by mutineers in 1611 and left to die, a scene made famous by John Collier’s painting The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson. Here The Graphic reproduces Collier’s scene for its readers.

after John Collier (artist), England, 1850-1934
The Graphic (publisher)
The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson
from The Graphic, January 7, 1882
engraving
Courtesy of the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education
OML-1882-18

13714.0001