How four young scientists from Zurich made the first west-to-east crossing of Greenland's ice cap in 1912.
As polar exploration reached its zenith, and in the same month that Captain Robert Falcon Scott perished in Antarctica, four young scientists from Zurich took ship for Greenland. Though they had little previous experience of arctic travel, their ambition was to achieve the first west-to-east crossing of the northern hemisphere's largest ice cap, making scientific observations along the way.
Few outside Switzerland have heard of this expedition or its leader, the meteorologist Alfred de Quervain, in spite of its success. In thirty-one days in the summer of 1912, the party sledded across 640 kilometres of untracked snow and ice. Nobody died or fell into a crevasse, although there were some near misses. The voyage was more than a well-executed feat of arctic travel: de Quervain and his colleagues collected data still used today by scientists researching the effects of climate change on Greenland's ice cap. De Quervain's popular account of his adventures, published in German in 1914, is both a minor classic of exploration literature and a sympathetic portrayal of life in Greenland's remote coastal settlements in the early twentieth century.
Published to coincide with the expedition's 110th anniversary, Across Greenland's Ice Cap includes the explorer's original text, translated into English by his daughter and son-in-law; a historical and biographical introduction by Martin Hood; reflections on the journey's scientific legacy by the geographers Andreas Vieli and Martin Lüthi; and a treasure trove of hand-tinted lantern slides reproduced in full colour.
Preface to This Edition / Martin Hood ix
Introduction / Martin Hood xiii
Alfred de Quervain’s Scientific Legacy: An Appraisal / Andreas Vieli and Martin Lüthi xxvii
About the Colour Plates xxxiii
A Note on the Text xxxv
Across Greenland’s Ice Cap
Translators’ Foreword 3
Author’s Preface 5
1 Plans and Preparations 7
2 The Sea Voyage 16
3 Old Friends 22
4 The Dog School 27
5 Northward with the Fox 36
6 Crossing the Rock Border 45
7 To the Inland Ice Lake 55
8 Over the Top of Greenland’s Firn Region 61
9 Eastern Mountains Ahead! 75
10 To Angmagssalik by Umiak 87
11 With the Eastern Eskimos 90
12 Return via Iceland: Scientific Results 97
The Summer of the Western Party / Paul-Louis Mercanton 103
A Winter in Greenland / August Stolberg 123
About the Authors, Translators, and Editors 141
Alfred de Quervain (1879-1927) was a Swiss meteorologist who led the first west-to-east crossing of central Greenland’s ice cap.
"The details of Alfred de Quervain's expedition have until now been inaccessible to the English-speaking world. This scientific work represents a baseline for present studies of changes to the Greenland ice cap due to global warming. In addition to the exciting details of the journey and the scientific value of the results, the startled reaction of Greenlanders on first hearing Swiss yodelling and the amusement of the Greenlander Ania Ohlsen at the Swiss scientists' efforts at trying to repair kamiks make for a humorous narrative."
– William Barr, University of Calgary and editor of John Rae, Arctic Explorer: The Unfinished Autobiography
"The traverse of Greenland by a group of Swiss scientists led by Alfred de Quervain in 1912 was remarkable in what it achieved scientifically and safely, as well as in the fact that its great legacy has been ignored – until this book. The colour plates are amazing, and the lively tone of de Quervain's account takes our minds to these earlier times of exploration, when the world was still to be discovered by superior minds with determination and skill. I warmly recommend this book to anyone interested in polar regions, Greenland, Greenlanders, or human adventures."
– Eric J. Rignot, University of California, Irvine, and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory