A Brief History of Arctic Exploration

Arctic Exploration

A brief history of Arctic explorers and expeditions

Russell A. Potter, Ph.D.

Fascinated by exploration of the far north? This article, originally written as a Google "Knol," will tell you something of its history, especially in the so-called "heroic age" from the 1840's through the early 1900's. Consider it a guidebook for the armchair traveller headed north.


When the Ancients made the first maps of the world, they marked the edges of their cartographic reach with signs of fear and unknowing: shipwreck-filled seas,  ravenous monsters,  and bottomless chasms.  In the south they inscribed the words "hic sunt leones" -- literally "here are lions", a sure warning to venture no further. To the West, it seemed, lay the realms of the blessed;  from Homer's Odyssey to the Irish "Voyage of Brendan," there was an endless procession of enchanted islets, fog-draped coasts, and hidden kingdoms inhabited by departed spirits.  Then there was the East, which even before Marco Polo was famed as an exotic land rich in jade and rare spices --  things greatly coveted by Europeans -- but these treasures were protected  by powerful warlords, high mountain ranges, and by the sheer distance and expenditure required to reach them.

But it was the North, the direction whose arrow-shaped sign seemed to point to oblivion, which was the seat of the darkest and strangest nightmares of all.  Herodotus placed the "Anthropophagai" or man-eaters not in the tropics but to his North (somewhere around what is now Serbia).  The Greek mathematician Pytheas sailed north with a hundred oarsmen in 325 B.C., reaching Scotland and ultimately Iceland, which he named Thule, the End of the Earth (whose other End was yet unguessed), a place rarely visited afterwards, save by those such as the Norse who possessed both seafarer's stamina and settler's stubbornness.  The meaning of the far North, to the rest of the western world, was that of an insoluble riddle, a final extremity, a reference-point that marked the end of reference.  Why would anyone want to go there?  What motivated the earliest explorers, in any case, was less often a quest for the unknown, but the smell of commerce, whether it was the quest for a quicker route to the riches of Cathay or the belief that there was gold beneath the icy stones.

The story of Arctic exploration involves many nations and peoples -- and of course, like other lands in what Europeans called the "New" world, large areas of the Arctic were already inhabited by peoples such as the Sami of Lapland, and the Yupik, Inupiat, and Inuit of North America.  From the era of the Vikings through that of Elizabethan navigators, explorers sought not so much new territory, as ways through to further shores.  In the nineteenth century, the quest for a "Northwest Passage" became a national obsession for Britain, as did the Pole itself for the United States later in the century.  Still, despite enormous effort and sacrifice on the part of these two nations, many of the most successful expeditions were led by Danes and Norwegians, whose experience and willingness to learn from native methods distinguished their efforts.

The Norsemen

The Norsemen, or Viking explorers were cut from a different cloth than those who came after them. They wanted new land, and meant to settle on it, and were used to the cold climate. In the ninth century, they reached and colonized Iceland, erecting the first building of what would later be Reykjavik in 874. Restless still, they reached Greenland in 984, but their settlements there proved less enduring. They distrusted the local Inuit, whom they called Skraelings, and resolutely refused to depend on fish and sea mammals, preferring to farm. By the fifteenth century, the last of their settlements there vanished; excavations of bones from the sites showed signs of malnutrition, as well as suggestions of armed conflict, either with each other or the Inuit. In the meantime, Leif Ericson had sailed even beyond Greenland, discovering regions he named Markland and Helluland. The exact identity of these regions is disputed, but clear signs of Viking habitations have been found at L'Anse-aux-Meadows in Newfoundland.

Early Explorers

Sir Martin Frobisher was one of the first Englishmen to set foot in the Arctic, and his motives were almost entirely monetary. Like many other Elizabethan voyagers, he hoped to find the fabled strait across the northern half of North America that would prove a dramatic shortcut to the Orient, and trade. He did not find it, but in 1576 he did sail up the bay that would later bear his name, and stay long enough to have a brief hostile encounter with the local Inuit. When a small party of his men did not return as he'd expected, he took a local Inuk hunter hostage, and when this produced no result, sailed back to England leaving his men to fend for themselves. More than three hundred years later, local Inuit told the explorer Charles Francis Hall (see below) the story of how the abandoned men had managed to build a small boat and sail away, though they never reached home. Though he abandoned his men, Frobisher did bring back some small black stones he'd found on shore -- stones whose glitter convinced him they might contain gold. Assays of the stone seemed to prove his hunch correct, and in 1577 he returned, collecting larger amounts of the black ore, and seeking to barter for the return of his men, not knowing they had sailed away on their own. The larger quantity of ore he collected was again tested, and again said to contain gold; in 1578 he set sail again, this time with a flotilla of fifteen ships, containing all the makings of an Arctic colony, including bricks and mortar. Several of the ships foundered, and the poor soil and cold soon convinced the would-be colonists that this was no place to settle. A forge was built, along with some wooden structures, and enormous quantities of the black stone were excavated. On his return from this voyage, the ore was taken to a specially constructed smelting plant in Dartford, Kent, where the grim truth was revealed: it contained no gold at all. What remained was used to build a stone wall which can still be seen in Dartford today.

Henry Hudson, like Frobisher, was an adventurer in search of wealth and reputation. Together with his able navigator, Robert Bylot, he discovered two key geographical features of North America: the Hudson River, and Hudson Bay. It was the second of these that proved his downfall; as he ordered his ship to trace the coast of the Bay in search of further outlets, dissent and eventually mutiny broke out among his men. Hudson, together with his young son and a few other sailors loyal to him, was put on a small boat and cut adrift. Bylot and the other mutineers managed to navigate their way home, and talk their way out of what could have been very serious charges. The fact that Hudson, an Englishman, had explored the Hudson River under the Dutch flag, may have made the English less inclined to punish his former crew. Centuries later, Hudson's ultimate fate remains unkown, but his name survives via both the river and bay, as well as the Hudson's Bay Company, incorporated in 1670 and now one of the world's oldest corporations.

The Heroic Age

Sir John Ross was a Scotsman and an officer in the British Royal Navy. Together with a second expedition led by William Buchan, he was dispatched in 1818 by the British Admiralty with orders to explore the limits of Baffin Bay, which had been so little visited since its discovery that some held it a mere fable. Ross fulfilled his charge admirably, circumnavigating the whole bay and discovering a hitherto-unknown group of Inuit later known as the Polar Eskimos or Inighuit in North-West Greenland. Their settlement at Etah was at the time the northernmost settlement on earth; Ross, in a gesture to his homeland, dubbed them "Arctic Highlanders." On his return voyage, however, although he sailed into Lancaster Sound, he turned back, believing further passage was blocked by a chain of mountains. This cost him greatly on his return, as he was pilloried in the press and retired out of the Navy. Nevertheless, he would return to the Arctic two more times: first as the head of a private expedition which, in 1829-1833 discovered the site of the North Magnetic Pole, and second in 1850 in search for his old friend Sir John Franklin.

Sir William Edward Parry was John Ross's second in his voyage of 1818, and the most vocal critic of the decision to turn back in Lancaster Sound.  As his reward, the Admiralty ordered him back, now in command of two ships, the Hecla and Fury.  Returning to the place of his disappointment, he found clear sailing to the west through a channel he named Barrow Straits after John Barrow, the Admiralty secretary who had supported his return.  He managed to sail further west than any other nineteenth-century explorer, reaching (and naming) Melville Island before be turned back by heavy ice floes.  He wintered over in the Arctic -- a first -- and managed to bring most of his men home safe and sound.  He commanded three further expeditions, but none had the success of his first.

Sir John Franklin was a member of four expeditions and the commander of three, and despite the tragic loss of life on two of these expeditions, was directly or indirectly responsible for the greatest advances in exploration of Arctic North America in the entire nineteenth century.  His first expedition in 1818 under the command of David Buchan, attempted to sail north of the Spitsbergen islands, but was forced back by heavy ice.  His second, an overland expedition meant to explore the lands around the mouth of the Coppermine River, ended in near-disaster, as short supplies and extreme cold hindered his return march.  Nearly all of the French-Canadian voyageurs who had paddled and steered his canoes on the northward voyage died; the canoes were lost, and the few stragglers who made it back to the base camp came within days of starving to death.  There was also at least one probable case of cannibalism among his men.  Thanks to the timely arrival of help from the Dene first nations people, summoned by Franklin's subordinate George Back, Franklin and the last few survivors were nursed back to health.  On his return to England, he found that his brush with starvation had earned him the sobriquet, "the man who ate his boots," which had the strange effect of making him more famous than infamous.

Franklin returned the next year and completed a more successful survey of the Arctic coastline to the west, discovering, among other sites, Prudhoe Bay, which would much later be known for its vast oil deposits.  He then retired from Arctic service, serving for a time as the Governor of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania).  Yet in 1845, although fifty-nine years old, he was recalled to command one final expedition in search of the Northwest Passage aboard the ships "Erebus" and "Terror" The entire crew of 129 men was lost, and their fate remained a mystery for fourteen years; even today his ships have never been found, and what happened to the last survivors is largely unknown. The mystery gripped the public both in Britain and the United States, both of whom eventually launched multiple expeditions in search of Franklin and his men.  Although none were rescued, these expeditions mapped a vast area of the eastern Arctic, and eventually proved the existence of a Northwest Passage, although no single vessel managed to navigate it.

The Search for Franklin

After two years and no word from the expedition, Lady Jane Franklin began to lobby the Admiralty to send a search party. The alarm was slow to grow, however; since the crew carried supplies for three years, the Admiralty waited another year before launching the search and offering a £20,000 reward for providing relief to Franklin's men. Not only was this a huge sum for the time, but Franklin's disappearance had captured the popular imagination. At one point, there were no fewer than ten British and two American ships headed for the Arctic. Ballads telling of Franklin and his fate became popular; one of them, "Lady Franklin's Lament," commemorating Jane's search for her lost husband, is still sung to this day by artists such as Martin Carthy and Sinéad O'Connor.

In 1850, several expeditions converged on Beechey Island, in Wellington Channel, where the first relics of the Franklin expedition were found: a winter encampment with the remains of an observatory, a smithy, an attempt at a garden, and -- most ominously -- the graves of three of Franklin's sailors who had died from natural causes in the winter of 1845-46. Despite extensive searching, no messages were found to have been left there by the Franklin party to provide any indication of his progress or intentions. The bodies of the sailors had been preserved in the frozen ground, and autopsies conducted when the bodies were exhumed in the mid-1980's found that tuberculosis was the most immediate cause of death, though there was also toxicological evidence of lead poisoning. The photograph above shows the graves as they appeared in 2004, when I visited the site during the filming of Arctic Passage: Prisoners of the Ice. (Photo: Russell Potter)

In 1854, Dr. John Rae, a surveyor employed by  the Hudson's Bay Company, discovered further evidence of the fate of Franklin's men. In the midst of his survey of the Boothia Peninsula, Rae met an Inuk hunter, "In-nook-poo-zhee-jook," who told him of a party of 35 to 40 white men who had died of starvation near the mouth of a river. On his return to his base at Repulse Bay, Rae offered to pay for any artifacts or stories; the Inuit gave him many objects that were identifiable as having belonged to Franklin and his men, and told accounts of starvation and cannibalism among Franklin's men. On Rae's return, his report was published in the Times; Lady Franklin denied that such accounts could be trusted, and enlisted the able pen of Charles Dickens to publicly cast doubt on Rae's claims.

In 1857, Lady Franklin commissioned one more expedition under Francis Leopold McClintock to investigate Rae's report. In the summer of 1859, the McClintock party found a document in a cairn on King William Island left by Franklin's second-in-command, giving the date of Franklin's death. The message, dated April 25, 1848, also reported that the ships had been trapped in the ice, that many others had died, and that the survivors had abandoned the ships and headed south towards the Back River.

McClintock also found several bodies and an astonishing amount of abandoned equipment, and heard more details from the Inuit about the expedition's disastrous end.  In a cairn near the site he found one final note, which related how the ships had become trapped in the ice in 1847.  Sir John Franklin himself had died in June of that year, and when the ice did not release the ships in the spring of 1848, his second-in-command Francis Crozier ordered them abandoned.  Over a hundred officers and crew man-hauled sledges filled with supplies over land, eventually succumbing to a combination of exhaustion, exposure, scurvy, and (though they didn't know it) possible lead poisoning from their tinned provisions.

Elisha Kent Kane participated in two American-sponsored searches for Franklin; he served as a naval surgeon with the De Haven expedition in 1850-51, and led his own relief expedition from 1853 to 1855.  The De Haven expedition reached Beechey Island shortly after the British vessels had discovered Franklin's campsite, and Kane wrote a series of dispatches describing the scene which were widely reprinted.  On his return, he expanded these into a book, seeking to raise the funds for a second search expedition.  With assistance of shipping magnate Henry Grinnell, Kane managed to secure a ship and crew for his second attempt.  Believing that there was an "Open Polar Sea" beyond the ice-barrier, Kane ordered his vessel to head straight north from Smith Sound into what is now known as Kane Basin; he thought it possible that Franklin's ships might have also reached open water near the pole.  In any case, his ship became trapped in its winter quarters too far south to make much further progress, although on one expedition Kane's steward William Morton claimed to have sighted the distant shores of the Open Sea (he probably saw an Arctic mirage, or else a smaller patch or lead of open water).  Kane was immediately lionized on his return, accounts of which occupied the entire front page of the New York Times. Unfortunately, he could add little information to the Franklin search, and after completing his second book succumbed to a fever which aggravated his chronic heart condition, and died in Havana early in 1857.

Charles Francis Hall, apparently inspired by Kane's adventures, became convinced that some of Franklin's men might still be alive.  Even McClintock's news, brought home in 1859, did not dissuade him.  Remarkably, he too found a friend in Henry Grinnell, and through him secured passage on a northbound whaling ship in 1860.  The ship did not, as it happened, manage to get Hall near the site where Franklin's ships had been abandoned, but it wintered over near a band of Inuit on Baffin Island who told Hall about a much earlier lost expedition, and the men it left behind.  Hall was astonished to realize that this must have been Sir Martin Frobisher's expedition more than three hundred years previous, and embarked on a mission to rediscover the site.  He was fortunate to secure the aid of two Inuit guides, Tookoolito ("Hannah") and Ebierbing ("Joe"), who assisted him in finding the site, and taught him the basics of sledge travel.  On his return in 1862, Hall brought his Inuit friends with him, and caused a sensation when they were exhibited at P.T. Barnum's American Museum in New York.  They returned with him for his second expedition (1864-1869), on which Hall finally made it to King William Island, where he found only more bones, and Inuit tales of men who "fell down as they walked."  Reluctantly, he concluded there were no possible survivors.

Hall did not, however, lose his Arctic passion.  He lobbied heavily for the U.S. Congress to support a mission to discover the North Pole, and appoint him its commander.  He eventually succeeded, and was given command of the Polaris Expedition which sailed in 1871. Unfortunately, he did not have control over who was appointed to accompany him, and found that he did not get along with the German-speaking scientific officers, particularly Dr. Emil Bessels, appointed for him.  On the arrival of the ship in northwest Greenland after setting a new record for furthest north, Hall set out on sledge expeditions to plan his route for the following season.  On his return, he fell suddenly ill, and when treated by Dr. Bessels, only got worse. Joe and Hannah remained loyal to him throughout his ordeal, and believed him when he insisted that he had been poisoned.  After seeming to recover, Hall relapsed and died on November 8, 1871.  He was buried on shore at the spot he had named "Thank God Harbor."  Dissent among the survivors led to a partial abandonment of the Polaris, which then unexpectedly broke free and was steered away from shore; together with the other survivors caught on the ice, Hannah and Joe embarked on a remarkable seven-month journey south by riding out a series of ice-floes until they were able to attract the attenton of a passing ship; they were rescued on April 30, 1873.

The International Polar Year

Adolphus Washington Greely, who had served with distinction in the US Civil War at a young age, was appointed to command the expedition which would be the United States' contribution to the first International Polar Year (1881).  The idea was for a series of research stations, established at intervals by many nations, to monitor polar conditions.  Greely was sent by ship to a far northern point on Ellesmere Island, where an enormous cargo of supplies and construction materials was offloaded.  Greely and his men built Fort Conger at the site, a large frame building which was at the time the most northerly in the Western Hemisphere.  They took meteorological and magnetic observations, and embarked on several sledge surveys, all according to the original plan.

Greely's party was meant to be re-supplied by ship, just as it had originally been deposited, but his orders were clear: if no ship appeared, he was to assume that the ice had rendered resupply impossible, and to march south to Cape Sabine, where caches of additional supplies, and eventual relief, would be delivered.  Greely dutifully abandoned Fort Conger and set about a treacherous retreat, eventually arriving at the rendezvous point.  What he did not know was that not only had the original supply ship failed to reach Fort Conger, but that the ship designated to leave supplies at Cape Sabine had departed hastily, leaving only a tiny fraction of the promised provisions.  Greely and his men settled in to wait, making what forays they could to gather additional food. All but six of Greely's men died of starvation (excepting one who was shot on Greely's orders for hoarding food), and by the time a ship finally came to relieve them, everyone was within days of certain death.  Somehow -- and imputations of cannibalism have persisted over the years -- Greely, his stalwart second Sergeant David L. Brainard, and three other men lived to tell their tale; the rest were sealed up in metal coffins, lest friends and family behold their dreadful state.  Greely himself nevertheless was received as a hero; he spent a long career in the US Army Signal Corps, eventually rising to the rank of Brigadier General; he was awarded the Medal of Honor not long before his death.  Fort Greely in Alaska in named in his honor.

The Passage at Last

Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer, became the first person to achieve the long-sought goal of sailing a ship through the Northwest Passage.  He managed this feat by doing almost everything in a manner different from previous British and American expeditions: they used large ships, while he used the tiny Gjøa, a 48-ton sloop; they brought preserved food; he hunted for fresh meat and fish; they scorned Inuit methods of travel and living; he spent a year in an Inuit settlement learning their ways.  The Gjøa and her crew completed the Passage on December 5, 1905, but weather conditions forced them to endure the rest of the winter in the ice.  Anxious to broadcast the news to the world, Amundsen was obliged to travel 500 miles by dog-sledge to Eagle City, Alaska, to send a telegram. His funds were so low that he had to send it collect!  Even though his success hinged on rejecting the methods adopted by British explorers such as Franklin, Amundsen regarded them as heroes, and was greatly disappointed when he was snubbed by the Royal Geographical Society.

Amundsen went on to a distinguished career as an explorer, and on December 14, 1911 he and four companions reached the geographic South Pole, more than a month before the British expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott.  Amundsen and his men, their provisions lightened after the outward leg of their journey, ate their dogs on the return journey.  Scott's men, who had rejected the use of dogs in favor of man-hauling his sledges, died of exhaustion and exposure at a camp only a few miles from their last supply depot.  After his success at the South Pole, Amundsen sailed the North-east passage, and became active in early attempts at polar aviation.  In June of 1926, he flew aboard the Italian airship Norge, piloted by Umberto Nobile, on the first successful crossing of the Arctic by air.   Just two years later, Amundsen, along with four French aviators, flew north again in an attempt to locate Nobile's airship, which had gone missing on another flight.  Amundsen and his plane were never seen again.

The Pole and Beyond

The closing years of the nineteenth century saw an increasing interest in reaching the pole.  After the British explorer George Strong Nares declared in 1876 that there was no way through the ice of the highest latitudes, it was the United States which continued the effort.  The American naval commander Robert Peary made it a lifetime obsesssion.  Like Hall and Amundsen, Peary studied Inuit techniques and learned the rigors of guiding a sledge drawn by dogs.  Together with Matthew Henson, he made several attempts on the Pole, using the settlement of the Polar Eskimos or Inughuit at Etah, in northwest Greenland, as his base.  In April of 1909, he and Henson, along with Ootah, Egigingwah, Seegloo and Ooqueah their Inughuit companions, reached their furthest north.  Peary, on his return, claimed to have reached the North Pole, but subsequent analysis has cast his claim in doubt.  The most exhaustive study, Sir Wally Herbert's The Noose of Laurels, concludes reluctantly that Peary's claim is unsupportable, but there are still some who claim Peary could have made it.  His claim was complicated by that of Frederick A. Cook, his rival, who made a claim that he'd reached the Pole earlier; Cook's claim is widely regarded as false.

Donald MacMillan, who served under Peary and was part of his last expedition, carried on work in the north for many years.  Soon after Peary's claim of the Pole, MacMillan returned to search for the elusive "Crocker Land," a mass of stone which Peary claimed to have sighted amidst the ice on an earlier journey.  It turned out to be chimerical, but MacMillan continued to return to the Arctic, perfecting his sledging techniques, exploring, and training young scientist-adventurers from Bowdoin College, his alma mater.  The Peary-MacMillan Institute at Bowdoin contains much of his and Peary's papers, and serves as a center for polar research.

Knud Rasmussen, a Danish explorer born in Greenland, spent many years traveling among the Inuit of Greenland and Canada, perfecting his method of long-distance sledge travel.  He undertook six of what he called the "Thule" expeditions, after Pytheas's name for the far north; together these constitute the longest series of sustained cross-country expeditions ever undertaken in the Arctic.  The Fifth Thule Expedition (1921-1924) was the most ambitious of these, retracing the entire territory of the Northwest Passage by sled.  On his journey, Rasmussen encountered Inuit hunters, the sons and grandsons of men who had encountered the survivors of Sir John Franklin's expedition nearly eighty years earlier; they recounted their stories with remarkable accuracy, relating the same events as their ancestors had told to Charles Francis Hall in the 1860's.  After his Sixth Thule Expedition in 1931, Rasmussen returned to Denmark to lecture and assist with the making of a film about the East Greenlandic Eskimos. He died unexpectedly in 1933 after apparently eating a piece of bad seal meat, and falling ill with pneumonia.

Sir Wally Herbert may justly be regarded as the last great figure of the heroic era of polar exploration.  He gained his early experience in the south as part of the British Antarctic Survey, surveying mountains in the Queen Maud range.  From 1968 to 1969 he led the British Trans-Arctic expedition, which was the first -- and to date the only -- to cross over the entire North Polar ice cap.  Along the way, Herbert and his companions reached the geographic North Pole.  Herbert's party were the first to attain the North Pole on foot, reaching it on April 6, 1969. At nearly that same moment, the astronauts of the United States' Apollo 9 mission were taking the famous photograph of the Earth rising above the Moon, a fitting marker of the end of a certain kind of earthly exploration, and the beginning of the exploration of space.

Further Reading

People are always asking me for the best books in which to learn more about the exploration of the far North.  I often recommend the Canadian historian Pierre Berton's The Arctic Grail, which gives a dramatic rendering of the search for both the Northwest Passage and the Pole.  Some people do feel, though, that Berton is rather harsh in his condemnation of many of the British and American explorers' techniques, and his claim that their ignorance of Inuit methods cost them their lives. There are other books which detail at least part of these great stories, and which give the heroic age a more generous shrift; among these I'd recommend Fergus Fleming's Barrow's Boys (Sir John Barrow was the Second Secretary of the British Admiralty, and the man who dispatched British expeditions from 1818 to 1845).  James Delgado's Across the Top of the World: The Quest for the Northwest Passage, offers a richly illustrated account of this period.  Finally, Jean Malaurie's Ultima Thule offers a massive coffee-table sized compendium, richly illustrated with original engravings, photographs, and documents, which stretches from the early nineteenth century to the 1950's and Malaurie's own expeditions.

For the most immediate sensation of the rigors and excitements of Arctic exploration. however, it's hard to beat the books written by the explorers themselves.  Among the best of these, I would recommend Sir John Franklin's Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea, along with Sir Francis Leopold McClintock's Voyage of the Fox in Arctic Seas, which recounts his search for Franklin.  Elisha Kent Kane's narratives of the First and Second Grinnell expeditions are available as reprints, and Adolphus Greely's Three Years of Arctic Service is a gripping volume, as is his compendium Handbook of Arctic Discoveries.  Knud Rasmussen's account of his Fifth Thule Expedition, Across Arctic America, is back in print thanks to the University of Alaska Press.  Sir Wally Herbert's stunning watercolors and rich, reflective narrative make his final book, The Polar World, a wonderful discovery. 

Those interested in first-hand accounts of Inuit experiences with explorers will also want to read Penny Patrone's excellent collection, Northern Voices: Inuit Writing in English (University of Toronto Press), and anyone interested in contemporary Inuit writers should track down a copy of the late Alootook Ipellie's Arctic Dreams and Nightmares (Theytus Press).  The Arctic historian Kenn Harper, who has made a lifelong study of Inuit history, writes a regular column, Taissumani, which runs in the Nunatsiaq News, which relates many little-known chapters in the history of Inuit/Western encounters (you can also search the archive).

My own book, Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, was published in 2007 by the University of Washington Press. This fall (2010), I will have three new essays on Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen, and Sir Wally Herbert in Robin Hanbury-Tenison's new volume The Great Explorers, which is to be published by Thames & Hudson.

Recommended Links
Franklin's lost Expedition Here at my web museum about the continuing search for Franklin, you can read coverage from old Victorian-era newspapers, browse images of the Arctic in trading cards, lantern slides, and stereoviews, and read the reports of David C. Woodman's many expeditions in search of Franklin's ships.

Visions of the North is my own new blog on matters Arctic, especially Franklin.

NOVA: Arctic Passage -- Prisoners of the Ice Visit the website for the NOVA program I participated in; you can listen to an audio slideshow, view the famous final document left by Franklin's officers, learn how to build an igloo, and much more.

The Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge The premier research institute and library for polar exploration, Scott Polar has recently been putting more of its archives online.

The Arctic Book Review  Read the current issue, or browse through the past ten years' worth -- all for free.  The ultimate guide for the armchair explorer, with reviews written by folks who've spent their whole careers writing about, researching. and/or living in the Arctic.

The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum has a rich array of resources on exploration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Rachel Qitsualik has written a wide array of excellent articles about Inuit cultural history, including early encounters with Western explorers.

Time to Eat the Dogs, historian Michael Robinson's blog, offers a wide array of timely reflections on exploration, as well as links to numerous other polar resources on the web.