129 Jeanette: The Mother of Modern Arctic Exploration

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Polar Newsreel
As the planet continues to heat up, [a third of all Antarctic ice shelves risk to collapse](https://edition.cnn.com/2021/04/08/world/ice-melt-antarctic-intl-scli-scn-climate/index.html), a new study founds. At the same time, Russia orchestrates a complex Arctic military exercise, letting [three nuclear submarines surfacing simultaneously through the ice close to the North Pole](https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2021/03/three-russian-nuclear-ballistic-missile-subs-broke-through-ice-north-pole). It remains to be seen whether this should underpin [Russia’s new, extended claim for a larger piece of the Arctic](https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/russia-arctic-ocean-canada-united-nations-continental-shelf-1.5983289). In Iceland, however, the ongoing volcanic eruption draws a lot of tourism and brings a large number of [contenders for this year’s Darwin Award](https://twitter.com/brianemfinger/status/1380670960840364034).

The Mother of Modern Arctic Exploration
Thanks to [Mia Bennett and Antoine Vanner](https://twitter.com/cryopolitics/status/1381437869491777537), today’s episode looks into the question how one one ill-fated expedition could impact so many future expeditions in the Arctic.

Following a long-standing [theory of an ice-free North Pole](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Polar_Sea) and at a time when the [United States just recently bought Alaska](https://history.state.gov/milestones/1866-1898/alaska-purchase) and started to wonder what lies beyond their new northern-most territory, [James Gordon Bennett Jr.](https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/64130/fabulously-eccentric-life-james-gordon-bennett-jr), the publisher of the most popular and profitable daily newspaper of the time, [The New York Herald](https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv64h7cg), set up the [USS Jeannette](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Jeannette_(1878)) to sail up the Bering Strait, following the hypothesised temperate ocean current, the [Kuro Siwo](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuroshio_Current), all the way to the North Pole.

Shortly after the expedition, led by US Navy Lieutenant Commander [George Washington De Long](https://www.history.navy.mil/our-collections/photography/us-people/d/delong-george-w.html), entered the Chukchi sea they charted a new group of Islands north of the [New Siberian Islands](https://arctic.ru/environmental/20160518/358045.html) but very soon got caught in ice and [locked up for the next 21 months](https://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/article/140924-jeannette-hampton-sides-north-pole-gilded-age-ngbooktalk). After almost two years in the ice, the pressure of the [ice crushes the Jeannette and the ship sinks](https://dawlishchronicles.com/2018/02/16/death-in-the-ice-the-uss-jeanette-and-svyataya-anna-expeditions/). The 33 men make their way towards the Lena Delta not without carrying [the comprehensive ship’s log containing a number of valuable information](https://www.nhd.org/sites/default/files/Ranis_Paper.pdf).

And it’s the ship’s log that [make the biggest treasure](https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-an-1879-voyage-is-a-time-machine-for-climate-change-1406937914) of that failed expedition. [Those records](https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/old-sailors-logs-sharpen-picture-of-climate-change), along with similar data housed in many other archives, are being fed into the [20th Century Reanalysis](https://psl.noaa.gov/data/gridded/data.20thC_ReanV3.html), a sophisticated weather reconstruction database developed by the [National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration](https://www.noaa.gov) that allows scientists to characterise floods, droughts, storms, and other extreme events from history - and use the violent weather of the past to understand the present.

But further, when in June 1884 [wreckage o...
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