Polaris

Emil Bessels was chief scientist and medical officer on George Francis Hall's ill-fated American North Pole Expedition of 1871-73 on board the ship Polaris. Bessels' book, translated from the German in its entirety for the first time, is one of only two first-hand accounts of the voyage, and it is the only first-hand account of the experiences of the group which stayed with the ship after it ran afoul of arctic ice, leaving some of its crew stranded on an ice floe. Bessels and the others spent a second winter on shore in Northwest Greenland, where the drifting, disabled ship ran aground. Hall died suspiciously during the first winter, and Bessels is widely suspected of having poisoned him. Bill Barr has uncovered new evidence of a possible motive.

Polaris includes considerable detail which does not appear elsewhere. It is the only account of the expedition which includes rich scientific information about anthropology, geology, flora and fauna. It provides much more information than other accounts on the Greenland settlements Polaris visited on her way north. Bessels' is the only published first-hand account of the second wintering of part of the ship's complement on shore at Polaris House, near Littleton Island, and of that party's attempt at travelling south by boat until picked up by the Scottish whaler Ravenscraig. The same applies to the cruise aboard the whaler, Arctic, after Bessels and his companions transferred to that ship.

Essential reading for researchers and students of arctic exploration history, this book is also a compelling read for the interested general reader.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Front Cover 1
Series Page 3
Full Title Page 4
Copyright Page 5
Contents 10
List of Figures 12
Expedition Members 14
Acknowledgments 16
Foreword 18
Dedication 30
Preface 32
1 | Origin of the expedition and its outfitting 38
2 | From New York to Newfoundland 56
3 | From Newfoundland to Greenland 76
4 | From Holsteinsborg to the northernmost settlement on Earth 110
5 | Historical review 140
6 | Into unknown territory 160
7 | The first days in Polaris Bay 182
8 | The first sledge journey 204
9 | Hall’s sledge trip 226
10 | In the realm of darkness 248
11 | The New Year 270
12 | Through darkness to the light 286
13 | The southern sledge trip 302
14 | Early summer 320
15 | The boat voyage north 332
16 | The summer 344
17 | Southward 360
18 | On terra firma 376
19 | An ethnographic sketch 392
20 | Further progress 414
21 | The start of the ice floe drift 444
22 | Between hopelessness and optimism 460
23 | Spring on the floe 470
24 | The seals 484
25 | Salvation 492
26 | The boat voyage in arctic waters 498
27 | Whaling 524
28 | The search 550
29 | Homeward bound 560
Epilogue: Motive for Murder 566
Appendix 1 572
Appendix 2 574
Appendix 3 578
Appendix 4 584
Notes 594
Bibliography 638
Index 644