Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Adolphus Greely

In 1881, Lieutenant Adolphus W. Greely led the US Lady Franklin Bay Expedition to northern Ellesmere Island as part of the first International Polar Year (a series of coordinated international expeditions to the polar regions). One of the aims was to create an Arctic base. However, the adventure ended with Greely and six others being rescued in June 1884. Soon after, the expedition received international attention due to evidence of cannibalism.

Michael Robinson writes on Time to Eat the Dogs that "the Greely Expedition was supposed to represent a new kind of Arctic exploration, one focused on international, collaborative science rather than pell mell dashes to the North Pole. In the end, however, the expedition signaled the end of serious collaboration between Arctic explorers and scientists for decades". This is followed by a excerpt about Greely from The Coldest Crucible. Michael was also an advisor and contributed to a recent PBS documentary about the exhibition which can be viewed here.

Incidentally, the post includes page images from the Illustrated London News. Between 1842 and 1971, the paper was one of London's major publishing institutions, pioneering the use of drawings in the service of reportage. At its peak, the ILN had a circulation of about 300,000 and was the publication of choice for the Victorian middle classes, transforming illustrations into a credible, factual, news reporting tool. Previously, illustrations had been used mainly for political caricatures or for sensational events like public hangings. Compared with the dense, text heavy, pages of other papers from the time, the ILN is a joy to view (and the reason why I decided against including Greely content from the Manchester Guardian in the post).

See here for access to the ILN digital archive.

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