Viewing page 3 of 8

3

Once having left the land the two routes, so far as we know, or can reasonably infer, are practically the same. Prof. Heilprin, who has made a special study of the subject, says the currents and the nature of the ice are likely to be found more favorable to the north of Franz Josef Land than to the north of Greenland. The path lies over the frozen ocean. In winter--from November to May--the ice-sheet is comparatively solid. There is always motion, drifting to and fro with the currents and the winds, but in extreme cold weather this movement is at a minimum, and the ice is not much broken up. "Leads" or channels between the ice-fields are met, even in the dead of winter, but not in such numbers as later in the year.

That the surface of this frozen ocean can be traveled with sledge and boat is already demonstrated. Parry, Markham, DeLong and Melville, the Siberian explorers, Nansen, have all done it, under varying conditions. So has the writer, amid such conditions as to teach him the difficulties of the road and the best means of overcoming them.

Arctic sledging has been developed to an art. McClintock, Payer, Nansen, the Siberians, have all contributed to its perfection. Invaluable were the suggestions made by that most practical and plucky Arctic traveler, Commander Melville. No better sledging outfit was ever put in the field than that which Gen. Greely prepared for the heroic Lockwood and Brainard, and with which they placed the American flag at the "farthest north," where it remained "the farthest" till Dr. Nansen wrested the honor away from us.

An effort will be made in providing the equipment for this new American expedition (which it is hoped will again give us the honor of "the farthest," and perhaps the Pole itself) to profit by all experience and attain as near perfection as possible.  But the lines which experience has demonstrated to be the best will be strictly followed, without innovation or experiment, but with a desire to improve upon standard methods and devices.

The rate of speed which may be attained in traveling over the ocean ice-sheet depends upon three things. First--The amount of power (in dogs and men) in proportion to weights to be carried. Second--Perfection of the equipment. Third--Condition of the ice.

As to the last we can only judge by the experience of others. Nansen's journey, from having been in the same part of the sea as that which we propose to traverse, is the best guide. He made an average of eight miles per day, his journeys ranging from four miles to twenty. If he had had more dogs he could easily have made an average of 12 miles. He "sighed daily for the Olenek dogs," the pack which he was to have taken aboard at the mouth of the Olenek river in Siberia, but did not get.  He could have done better, too, had he had more men, so that he could have been on the road an average of 10 or 11 hours per day instead of 6 or 7.  He could have done better, again, had his equipment been always prepare to cross leads directly in line with his course.  His kayaks (until repaired in June) were unfit to go into the water, and much time was lost in making long detours seeking a crossing upon the ice.

The highway of frozen ocean is not an easy one. There are many rough places--hummocks and pressure-ridges; ugly channels filled more or less with brash or debris from the grinding floes; occasionally deep, treacherous snow covering "pockets" or interstices between irregular blocks of ice. Then there are level fields or floes upon which one will go for miles as fast as the dogs can walk or trot.
Satisfactory travel amid such conditions may be attained only if all details and principles are carefully attended to in the organization and equipment of the party. Three things are indispensable: First--Enough dog power to take all the loads where the road is good or passably good, without other help than driving and steadying from the men. Second--
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact transcribe@si.edu.