Robert E. Peary documented his trip from 1909 to the North Pole with a Kodak No. 4 folding pocket camera. Although the camera was lost, the images taken with it were used by the National Geographic Society in 1989 to document that the excursion had been carried out. In this photo, Peary explores the Arctic using a telescope.
A German soldier attaches a Nazi flag to an obelisk denoting the edge of the Arctic Circle in northern Norway, May 1940. The pistol be is wearing appears to be a Polish ViS (or ‘Radom’) 9mm P35 (P). presumably captured in September 1939.
Boreal Woodland Reindeer or Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou)
Genetically and physiologically, Reindeer are the same species as Caribou.
The name Reindeer probably came from the Sami (native Laplanders) name for the species, Raingo. The name Caribou came from the Mi'kmaq (First Nations language spoken from Nova Scotia all the way through Boston) name, qalipu, meaning “snow shoveler”, coming from its winter foraging habits.
The species lives throughout the arctic circle, and there are many subspecies, specialized for life on everything from the open tundra, bushy plains, dense woodland, and rocky mountain forests. Both sexes grow antlers that are branching and flat at the end. These are the only Cervidae where all individuals grow antlers. The antlers are crucial to foraging during the winter, when the species subsides off of mosses, fungi, and lichen beneath the snow.
In the wild, golden eagles and wolverines can occasionally take out calves, but the most prolific hunter of both juvenile and adult reindeer is the grey wolf. In native-managed herds, the opportunistic wolverine is the primary threat to the young and injured.
The Wild Beasts of the World Vol II. Frank Finn, 1909.
Austrian prisoners of war along the Murmansk Railway. This is an actual three-color photo, taken by color photography pioneer Sergei Produkin-Gorskii.
December 8 1916, Romanov-on-Murman [Murmansk]–With mainland Europe and the Bosporus closed off by the Central Powers, Russia had few routes for trade with the outside world. The Trans-Siberian railroad linked Russia with the Pacific, but had limited capacity, not to mention the cost of rail shipment over thousands of miles. Transshipment via Sweden was possible, but was generally frowned upon by the neutral Swedish government, and then would require travel over the German-dominated Baltic. This left the route north of Norway, through the Barents Sea. This was open for less than half of the year due to ice, and was under increasing threat from German submarines, who were unlikely to greatly anger any neutrals (except Norway) by sinking shipping in the area.
The northern route was also quite long, with the only rail-connected port on Russia’s northern coast at Archangelsk, requiring a journey around the Kola Peninsula and into the White Sea. In an attempt to ease access to foreign trade, the Russians built a new port to the west of the Kola Peninsula, naming it Romanov-on-Murman [now Murmansk]. Unlike Archangelsk, Murmansk was ice-free year round due to the Gulf Stream. On December 8, the Russians finished the railway link to Petrograd [St. Petersburg], constructed over the last year and a half, mainly using labor from 70,000 German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war. Conditions were extremely difficult in the northern climate–combined with disease and inadequate food supplies, over 25,000 of the prisoners died during the construction of the railway.
Here’s an interesting “Before and After” pic… this is a sustainably Inuit hunted polar bear head that we cleaned at the Prehistoria Natural History Centre!
While some people take personal offense to the Inuit’s traditional lifestyle, their limited (and sustenance) hunting of animals is not what puts these species at risk. For thousands of years these incredibly hardy and ingenious people have managed to exist in the most inhospitable climate on Earth, while building a truly rich culture.
If you would like to protect the northern ecosystems, do not fault the Inuit for using their local resources to survive… do your part to reduce your personal carbon footprint! The warming of our world, undeniably accelerated by our vast civilizations, is the real source of harm.
Francis Crozier for Valentine’s Day. Many will see irony and perhaps dark humor in this, but for those who don’t: he died alone in the Arctic after having had his marriage proposal to his love Sophia Cracroft rejected.
In recognition of Black History Month, we are
posting weekly about the life and accomplishments of the first person to set
foot at the North Pole… It is Matt Henson Monday!
In 1891, Matthew Henson and Robert
Peary sailed North together on the first of six Arctic expeditions that they
would undertake together. The North Greenland Expedition of 1891-92 saw Matthew
Henson as Peary’s “assistant,” a title that he would keep for all six Arctic expeditions.
Henson proved his capability again in the Arctic, meeting the challenges of
Arctic survival and exploration as well as (perhaps better than) any other
southerner. Donald B. MacMillan described Henson as “the best field man aboard
ship.” Henson’s intelligence and talent
were enhanced by the many skills he learned from the Inughuit men and women,
whom Peary hired to support the expeditions.
More on this next week!
Not only did Matthew Henson excel as an
Arctic explorer, but he himself possessed a deep appreciation for the Arctic.
As he wrote in his autobiographic account of the 1908-1909 North Pole
expedition, A Negro Explorer at the North
There is an irresistible fascination
about the regions of northernmost Grant Land that is impossible for me to
describe. Having no poetry in my soul, and being somewhat hardened by years of
experience in that inhospitable country, words proper to give you an idea of
its unique beauty do no come to mind. Imagine gorgeous bleakness, beautiful
blankness. It never seems broad, bright day, even in the middle of June, and
the sky has different effects of the varying hours of morning and evening
twilight from the first to the last peep of day… Artists
have gone with us into the Arctic and I have heard them rave over the wonderful
beauties of the scene, and I have seen them at work trying to reproduce some of
it, with good results but with nothing like the effect of the original.
Louise Boyd (1887-1972) was an
American explorer of Greenland and the Arctic, who in 1955 became the first
woman to fly over the North Pole. She became famous for her polar adventures,
with newspapers worldwide giving her nicknames such as “The Girl Who Tamed the
In 1928 she
organised a dangerous and lengthy expedition to find the disappeared Norwegian
explorer Roald Amundsen. Although the search was fruitless, she was given the
Chevalier Cross of the Order of Saint Olav by the government of Norway, the
first woman to be honoured thus. Her expeditions to Greenland carried great
scientific value, as she surveyed and collected hundreds of botanical
specimens. During World War II she worked as a United States spy.