Section Six: Maps in Arctic Exploration Books

32. Augustus Heinrich Petermann, 1855

Augustus Petermann issued this map of Parry Island and the Arctic Archipelago in 1855. The map illustrates the journey and discoveries of the Belcher Expedition of 1852. Edward Belcher had been tasked with the location and rescue of the lost expeditions of Sir John Franklin and Robert McClure. McClure had not been seen since entering the Bering Strait in 1850, ironically in search of Franklin’s expedition, which had been missing since 1845. After spending three years trapped in the Arctic, Robert McClure and his crew were successfully recovered by Belcher. Amazingly, McClure and his crew had managed to traverse a Northwest Passage by sea and sledge.

The fate of John Franklin and his crew remained a mystery for many years; having been trapped by ice, most of the crew attempted an overland route across King William Island to safety. According to a note found on the island, John Franklin died in June of 1847. Toxicological and forensic studies on the remains of some of the crew show that a variety of factors contributed to their deaths, including cold, starvation, and illnesses like pneumonia and lead poisoning from canned food.

The top right corner illustrates a route of William Pullen’s ship, The North Star, the only one of the five ships in Belcher’s Admiralty to return home. Towards the middle of the map, we can see the Resolute and the Intrepid, two of the four ships Belcher’s crew abandoned.

32. Augustus Heinrich Petermann, Karte des Arktischen Archipel's der Parry Inseln from Mittheilungen aus Justus Perthes' Geographischer Anstalt über wichtige neue Erforschungen (1855).
Auletta Collection

33. Augustus Heinrich Petermann, 1868

Published in 1868, this map represents Peterman’s belief in a strip of land that spanned the Arctic between northern Greenland and the newly discovered Wrangel Island. While no such land bridge exists, there is an undersea ridge from northern Greenland to Novosibirskiye Ostrova, labeled on this map as "Neu Sibirische In." This ridge, now known as the Lomonosov Ridge, was not officially discovered until the 1948 Soviet expeditions, suggesting that Petermann’s theory had some basis in science.

The red line on this map marks the route of an expedition proposed by Petermann, which was undertaken by Karl Koldewey a year later. Petermann’s belief in an Arctic land bridge was also the impetus for Karl Weyprecht and Julius Payer’s discovery of Franz Josef Land in 1873.

Interestingly, Petermann’s imagined land bridge avoids the North Pole, thus maintaining compatibility with the Open Polar Sea theory, a 16th-century concept that had been revived by Petermann and other cartographers. Supporters of the Open Polar Sea theory hoped that a navigable open sea existed beyond the initial ice pack encountered by explorers.

33. Augustus Heinrich Petermann, Karte der Arktischen & Antarktischen Regionen from Mittheilungen aus Justus Perthes' Geographischer Anstalt über wichtige neue Erforschungen (1868).
OML Collection

34. Silas Bent, 1872

This is a particularly rare map from An address delivered before the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association January 6th 1872 upon the thermal paths to the poles by Silas Bent. Bent was a U.S. Naval officer who accompanied Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry on an 1852 expedition to Japan; while on the journey, Bent observed warm-water currents and postulated that the warmer currents flowed into the Arctic, feeding the theorized Open Polar Sea.

34. Silas Bent, Map of the World Showing the principal Surface Currents of the Oceans & Thermometric Gateways to the North Pole from Gateways to the Pole (1872).
OML Collection

35. Augustus Heinrich Petermann, 1876

This map, another by Augustus Petermann, details the British Arctic Expedition of 1875-75 led by Sir George Strong Nares. The expedition was an attempt to reach the North Pole via Smith Sound. While Nares failed to reach the pole, his expedition was the first to sail through the channel between Greenland and Ellesmere Island, thus disproving the existence of the Open Polar Sea.

35. Augustus Heinrich Petermann, Skizze der Entdeckuncen der Englischen Polar-Expedition unter Nares, 1876 from Mittheilungen aus Justus Perthes' Geographischer Anstalt über wichtige neue Erforschungen (1876).
OML Collection