Dr. Hayes in his first book, An Arctic Boat Journey, demonstrated his abilities at gaining both scientific and financial support for his second Arctic expedition, search for the legendary Open Polar Sea. Of note, Chapter 34 “Concluding Remarks” and the following “Appendix” illustrate Hayes’ ambitious plan to return to the shores of Arctic Greenland.
In Chapter 34, Hayes methodically sets forth his logistical issues and general vision for his second (1860) expedition well beyond “The North Water” to the time-shrouded Silurian cliffs of Ellesmere Island. Hayes, as well as the scientific community, believed that once so-called polar “barrier of ice” had been crossed, open water may exist.
Borne out of the First and Second Grinnell search and rescue expeditions with Elisha Kent Kane, MD, Hayes developed a unique vision if not a calling for the exploration of the eastern High Arctic, especially Smith Sound and Kennedy Channel, the isolated and oft times ice-cluttered passageway between Ellesmere Island and Greenland.
Like many who ventured north in search of the lost Franklin Expedition, Hayes made advances and discoveries of the Arctic regions that may have been otherwise delayed for decades or at least until the advent of steam-powered, iron-clad wooden schooners. Franklin’s search for a navigable Northwest Passage may have influenced Hayes to conduct his own search for an open region of Arctic Ocean. Whether Hayes’ open ocean was a transient, summer polynya, his navigation vision nearly has been realized from present-day warming and subsequent opening of Arctic waters.
To rally scientific and financial support, Hayes relied on Kane’s observations made during the Second Grinnell Expedition as published in the “Proceedings” of the October 12, 1858 meeting of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of Boston:
The announcement of an open sea within the Arctic Ocean was made in those words by Dr. Kane after the return of his man [William] Morton from a sledge excursion in June, 1854. ‘It must have been an imposing sight, as he stood at this termination of his journey, looking out upon the great waste of waters before him. ‘Not a speck of ice,’ to use his own words, ‘could be seen.’ There, from a height of four hundred and eighty feet, which commanded a horizon of almost forty miles, his ears were gladdened by the novel music of dashing waters, and a surf, breaking in among the rocks at his feet, stayed his further progress.
In addition to numerous American benefactors, Hayes receives international support from M. De La Roquette, Vice-President of the Geographical Society of Paris. His letter, dated January 21, 1859, provides both support and a tentative date for Hayes’ Arctic expedition:
For the resolution adopted by the American Geographical and Statistical Society, I perceive that the expedition will probably leave in the spring of 1860, under the command of Dr. Hayes, its promoter, and that its expenses will be covered by means of a subscription. The attachment which I have always felt for Dr. Kane, and which he kindly shared, and the honor which your learned Society had done me by electing me an as their Honorary Member, leaves me ground to hope that they will allow me to place my name among the number of subscribers with a sum of five hundred francs, which I hold for their disposition.
Within the thirty pages of the “Appendix” of An Arctic Boat Journey, Hayes documented the scientific support for his next expedition. By design, his book was published during the early winter months of 1860. This tactical timing can be verified by Hayes’ marbled-covered presentation copy to his friend H. O. Houghton, dated, “Boston, Feb 27th, 1860.” Within five months, Hayes, the published Arctic book author, tripped anchor in Boston Harbor and lead his own expedition along the Greenland Coast.
Frances Hennessey writes informally on 19th century Arctic exploration, concentrating on Hayes. Fran has a small collection of Hayes first editions, two of which are signed by the author. She tweets @openpolarsea and has a poetry blog: www.oceanic-visions.com
Charles Francis Hall may well have been the most passionate — and most peculiar — of all nineteenth-century Arctic explorers. He was not born to the sea — in fact, for the first half of his life, he was an ordinary man, a businessman, a family man firmly secured to the land. Born in New Hampshire, he came to Cincinnati in the late 1840’s and established a shop that engraved stamps and seals for business use. He owned a printing press, and put out an irregular news-sheet known as the Cincinnati Occasional, in which he vented his spleen about various subjects, and advertised his own wares. Apparently affected by the death of Dr. Kane, he took up a sudden passion for the Arctic, and in 1860, after the final record of the Franklin expedition had been found, took off for New York and a meeting with Henry Grinnell, patron of Kane’s search expedition. One might think that Grinnell would have discouraged Hall’s notion that perhaps some of Franklin’s men still lived and could be found, but instead he encouraged it, and Hall, with his new friend’s help, found passage north on the whaler “George Henry,” Sidney O. Budington, captain.
While wintering in the Arctic, Hall made the acquaintance of two Inuit guides — Tookoolito (“Hannah”) and Ebierbing (“Joe”). They became his fast companions, and returned with him to the U.S. the next spring, as he announced he’d found traces of the sixteenth-century Frobisher expedition. What Hall really wanted, though, was a fresh chance to search for Franklin, and with the help of an east coast tour with Hannah and Joe, he raised funds to return, and this time made it to King William Island, where Franklin’s men had met their fate. He collected an enormous amount of Inuit testimony, but never did find any men alive, though his hopes were often raised and then dashed. After his return from this expedition, he chose a new goal, the North Pole, and managed to out-maneuver Arctic veteran Dr. Isaac I. Hayes in getting Congressional approval and funding for a fresh expedition — all he needed was a worthy vessel.
Remarkably, an 1870 letter survives from Hall to Bradford in which he seeks the latter’s advice for the best ship to obtain for his northward voyage. Hall hadn’t apparently met Bradford before — his letter begins “Dear Sir” — but on his friend Grinnell’s recommendation, he was most anxious to obtain his views. The letter reads in part:
“You kindly offered to give me any information I might desire relative to your voyage to Greenland in in the fall of 1869. Mr. G. furthermore thought it advisable that I should visit you at Fair Haven … but I cannot at present spare the time to come there … I believe it was the Panther that you chartered for that Voyage. What was her tonnage & what do you think of her qualities for the North Pole Voyage I am to start at the next Spring?”
In the end, Hall chose a different vessel, the “Polaris,” and set off on his voyage in 1871, setting a new record for furthest north, only to be poisoned with arsenic, in all probability by his own ships’ surgeon. He was buried in northwest Greenland at the place he’d named “Thank God Harbor” on November 9th. 1871. Fittingly, in 1875, Bradford painted a view of the “Polaris” as one of his last “Great Paintings.”
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.
“The Motliest-Looking Crowd That It Was Ever My Fortune To Encounter”: Photographs of Native North Americans in The Arctic Regions
Submitted by guest blogger, George Schwartz. He is a doctoral candidate in American & New England Studies at Boston University. For twelve years he was as an Assistant Curator in the Maritime Art and History and Exhibitions and Research departments at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, where he contributed to a pair of Polar art exhibitions. He is currently working on his dissertation entitled “Collecting and Arranging the Most Important Aids to a History of the Globe”: A Reconsideration of the Salem East India Marine Society in the Context of Antebellum American Museology.
An aspect of The Arctic Regions that has not received enough critical attention in the prior scholarly analyses of the volume is the twenty-five plates depicting native inhabitants from Greenland.1 Some photographs are quite shocking examples of an imperialist gaze common in the many travel volumes of the Orient during this time, such as the poor Inuit boy in Plate 120 who stares in fear at the camera (fig. 1).
Why has this aspect of Bradford’s book been overlooked? J.C.H. King and Henrietta Lidchi in the Department of Ethnography at The British Museum argue that while the list of atrocities committed by the United States government towards Native American tribes was mounting by 1869, this was not so much the case for native Greenlanders. “For Eskimoan peoples there were no equivalent cycles of violence and romanticism, no clash between the urban and frontier understanding of Arctic people. Instead, the Eskimo was usually a heroic figure, frequently a helper and provider of food, never a hostile [people]…In a very real sense native peoples in the Arctic remained noble savages in a way that American Indians did not. There was no comparable ‘fall from grace.’” 2 This view presents another dichotomy in a volume filled with dualities as many of Dunmore and Critcherson’s photographs and Bradford’s narrative text pertaining to native people in The Arctic Regions still treat them as a visual spectacle—and as a lower race—in concert with Victorian attitudes. (There is historical precedent for this depiction of Arctic natives, discussed in great detail by Russell A. Potter in his 2007 volume Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1885.)
Bradford’s interest in ethnography did not begin on the Panther expedition. On his earlier voyages to Labrador, he collected kayaks, canoes, fishing gear, and other Inuit artifacts at this time and on subsequent voyages, and created a studio display that one visitor noted as “one great cabinet of northern curiosities.”3 The following year, Bradford had William H. Pierce—another James Wallace Black studio photographer—take photographs of Inuit people. Potter notes that one photograph was not a fortunate snap shot but a carefully staged picture: “Bradford and Pierce had the Inuit erect a skin tupiq, heap up an array of sleds, kayaks, and other personal effects, then pose in front of it almost as though it were a theatrical backdrop.”4 This “truthful” image shows that Bradford worked with his photographers in constructing understanding of non-Western people.
Afar on the open polar sea I love to ride, with
Dr. Hayes and Sonntag by my side. We run on
A vigorous, close-hauled tack, approaching
Baffin Bay. Under the low-angled summer sun,
We steer a two-masted schooner amongst great
Arctic majesties: breaching whales with blowing
Plumes and ocean-swimming polar bears.
As we made the remote Greenland coast, we
Marvel at a myriad of architectural delights.
Like ancient pyramids and imposing Byzantine
Towers a hundred feet in height, icebergs gleam
And glisten in summer light, fresh water
Cascading from their flanks and ocean waves
Breaking on their carved-out breadths, crashing
With roaring might.
An Arctic boat journey begins, call of northern
Wild, leads in ice floes open and close beneath
Protesting brine. What marvelous sights we glean
Splendor of snow-crested mountains and plateaus,
Alluring desolate climes. By dog sledge we hunt
Polar bears against blowing snow and across
Frozen seas. As shots ring out, through ice
Hummocks the wounded beast escapes. Ravenous
For the kill, dogs howl for blood, red splashes
Congealing on frozen snow.
Afar on the open polar sea, I love to ride with
Dr. Hayes and Sonntag by my side. The Arctic’s
Noble hand rules mountains and moraines, a
Clockwork of proportioned time, as glaciers creep
And a thousand shrieking winds penetrate mortal
Flesh of men to their weary souls. Sacrificing
Blackened fingers and toes are painful hazards,
Venturing too close to Captain Inglefield’s
Cloud-shrouded Ellesmere Land.
Beckons the Arctic night, a magical dome of stars,
Planets, and transparent light, reflections of a
Quiescent moon. Void of sun’s warmth, no
Blossom to adorn, Hayes and I venture into the
Frozen darkness, upon a groaning sea, lamenting
Sonntag’s death, the day cold won his life. In
Silent grief, we admire his sidereal passion,
Constellations that keep a constant vigil over
His solemn, rock-tomb grave.
Afar on the open polar sea, I love to ride with
Dr. Hayes by my side. We venture a thousand
Miles north to Grinnell Land, to reach the
Channeled narrows, to stand on lapping shores
Of the open Arctic Ocean. With sextant in hand,
An exhausted sighting made, and with only a
Transient polynya seen, we never lost faith or
Hope of returning to our dream, to Greenland
Shores and bays, stone-slab Viking ruins,
Remote and grisly plains, Land of Desolation.
This poem generally follows the thematic stanzas of Thomas Pringle’s longer poem, “Afar in the Desert.” It also incorporates images of Dr. Hayes’ second book, The Open Polar Sea, including the death of his best friend, August Sonntag, who served as Hayes’ second in command and as ship’s astronomer.
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 also writes poetry, some of which are vignettes of her reading and personal experiences. She tweets @OpenPolarSea 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.
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