In the brig Advance, Elisha Kent Kane, MD led the Second Grinnell Expedition to search for Sir John Franklin and his men. During August, 1854 with the ship fixed in ice, Kane sent Isaac I. Hayes, MD south from Rensselaer Harbor to reach civilization to arrange rescue.
An Angekok to his tribe, the Inuk Kalutunah was described by Dr. Hayes as “sturdy, good-natured, and voluble.” He had a natural curiosity about the outside world (Upernavik) and was interested in many of the possessions of Hayes and his party, the “kabulenet” or white men. Generally, Hayes’ relationship with Kalutunah and the Inuit was amicable, that is bartering food (meat and blubber) for simple supplies, such as wood, needles, and/or knives. Out of this relationship, it seemed that Hayes and his Inuit friend learned a great deal about each other, both in language and customs.
Fresh meat, as opposed to stone-moss soup, was necessary for the explorers’ survival. Without sizeable amounts of Inuit-provided bear, seal, and/or walrus meat, they would have died of disease and/or starvation, entombed in their rock-crevice hut in sub-zero Arctic temperatures.
There was a dark, tenuous side, however, regarding the relationship of Dr. Hayes and the Inuit. At times, they were dishonest, withheld best cuts of meat, and eyed their possession with envy. Ever calculating weakness, the Inuit refused to sell, loan, or otherwise hire their dog and sledges for Hayes and party to return to the brig Advance. If Hayes and his men died, the Inuit could lay claim to all their possessions. Fortunately the “naturally shrewd” Petersen and argus-eyed Hayes saw through their devious plans and eventually gained the upper hand to secure dogs and supplies for the three-hundred mile trek back to the Advance and to Dr. Kane. Once reunited, the true Arctic argosy began – the eighty-three day push south to Upernavik.
Frances Hennessey has been fascinated with Arctic exploration for some time, and has concentrated on the writings of Isaac I. Hayes, MD. Frances writes informally on Arctic-related topics, and writes poetry, some of which are vignettes of her reading and personal experiences. She also tweets @ArcticBoat1854 and has a poetry blog www.oceanic-visions.com
In the brig Advance, Elisha Kent Kane, MD led the Second Grinnell Expedition to search for Sir John Franklin and his men. During August, 1854 with the ship fixed in ice, Kane sent Isaac I. Hayes, MD south from Rensselaer Harbor to reach civilization to arrange rescue. Johan Carl Christian Petersen, while sick with scurvy and rheumatism, was the first to volunteer to assist and guide Dr. Hayes in arduous, nonetheless, unsuccessful trek south to Upernavik. Petersen’s knowledge of the Arctic and Inuit and practical abilities were instrumental in preventing the likely death of Hayes and the rescue party.
Born in Copenhagen June, 1813, Petersen was initially trained as a cooper. Seeking adventure, he moved to Disco, Greenland, married an Inuit woman, learned the language and developed a reputation as a capable mechanic who was able to repair or fabricate items on ship or in the field. He was also an excellent hunter, trapper, and ice navigator, and as Hayes describes, a man of “courage, caution and energy.”
During his time with Hayes, Petersen manufactured items necessary for survival from knives from keg hoop-metal to a complete dog sledge with runners of hoop-metal and hardwood. He sewed fur clothing using a “needle and palm,” a device normally used to mend sails. He repaired the party’s boats when damaged from ice and rocks, and was instrumental in constructing a wood and sail hut in a sizeable rock crevice that served as their main shelter for long weeks against Arctic cold and snow.
Of note, however, was Petersen’s ability to understand and interpret not only the Inuit language but infer their intentions and deceptions, including a murder attempt on his life and that of William Godfrey. He negotiated or traded with Inuit for sledge dogs and particularly for food critically needed to recover from several weeks of starvation, disease, and physical exhaustion.
The loyalty and bravery of the Dane Petersen can be understood in his parting words to Hayes as he left on dog sledge for the Advance: “If we ever reach the ship, we will come back for you, or perish in the attempt, as sure as there is a God in heaven.”
Wet plate collodion photography is a featured element of the Arctic Visions exhibit. Specifically the work accomplished by photographers John L. Dunmore and George Critcherson while aboard the Panther in 1869.
This is Quinn Jacobson’s short video about how to prepare and expose wet plate collodion negatives.
Looming large behind all of the polar spectacles of Bradford and Dunmore and Critcherson, as well as the career of Dr. Isaac I. Hayes, there stands the figure of Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, by far the most famous Arctic explorer of his day. He was the ship’s surgeon on the First Grinnell Expedition, and the commander of the Second Grinnell, and it was his exquisitely written and illustrated books about these voyages which stirred in so many readers a mad passion for everything polar. When heading west on the Oregon trail, it was said that pioneers often took but two books with them — “the Bible and Dr. Kane” — and when he died in 1857, his funeral train was the longest of the century excepting Lincoln’s; at every town and whistle-stop the local citizenry turned out, wearing black armbands and holding black-draped portraits in memory of the great explorer. An enormous procession followed in Philadelphia, with the Governor and many other dignitaries among Kane’s pall-bearers.
Kane’s exploits, too, were among the first to be widely shown in pictorial form, although photography was yet too much in its infancy to supply the demand. Instead, Kane’s sketches were turned into watercolors by the gifted artist James Hamilton, then turned out as mezzotints by John Sartain, the pre-eminent engraver of his time. These scenes, in turn, were the basis for numerous moving panoramas, enormous canvasses hundreds and even thousands of feet long, that scrolled by with scenes in sequence, narrated — in Kane’s case — by actual members of his expedition, including William Morton. The same scenes were turned into magic lantern slides, although not photographically, but as hand-colored ones. The fascination of these images was a key reason that William Bradford himself was drawn to the Arctic; his hand-annotated copy of Kane’s narrative is part of the Arctic Visions exhibition. Bradford’s admiration for Kane also explains why Bradford so eagerly sought out the services of Dr. Hayes, who had served as Kane’s medical officer on the Second Grinnell before leading his own polar voyage in 1860. In recent years, Kane’s career has attracted renewed interest, with three new biographies, including Mark Sawin’s aptly-titled Raising Kane, research for which was supported by the Elisha Kent Kane Historical Society.
Russell A. Potter has been fascinated with the Arctic regions for many years, and has written and lectured extensively on many different aspects of its history. His book Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1875, is required reading for anyone interested in our Arctic Visions exhibit. In addition to contributing to this blog he is providing critical guidance as Curatorial Consultant, and has authored the Introduction to our re-publication of Arctic Regions.
Person Represented: Henry Oscar Houghton, publisher.
After purchasing an 1860, 1st edition of An Arctic Boat Journey in the Autumn of 1854 by Isaac I. Hayes, I discovered two pages were stuck together. Upon separation, I discovered that this book was Dr. Hayes’ presentation copy to publisher Henry Oscar Houghton and reads, “H. O. Houghton Esq. with the regards of his friend I. I. Hayes. Boston Feb 27th 1860.” The marbled inside cover bears Houghton’s bookplate with the motto “Tout Bien Ou Rien,” which translates to “everything well (done) or nothing (attempted).” This was Houghton’s business motto when he established the successful Riverside Press on the Charles River in 1852.
Houghton formed a partnership with Melancthon M. Hurd, a New York publisher, and after some setbacks, the firm dissolved. Nevertheless, Hurd and Houghton published Hayes’ 1867, 1st edition of the legendary The Open Polar Sea. In 1880, Houghton and Mifflin formed Houghton, Mifflin and Company, publisher of the 1883 edition of Hayes’ An Arctic Boat Journey. Photo of Henry O. Houghton, 1846.
Frances Hennessey has been fascinated with Arctic exploration for some time, and has concentrated on the writings of Isaac I. Hayes, MD. Frances writes informally on Arctic-related topics, and writes poetry, some of which are vignettes of her reading and personal experiences. She also tweets @openpolarsea and has a poetry blog www.oceanic-visions.com