Polar Record

Research Article

The ‘American supply trail’: archaeological notes on the remains of the Ziegler polar expedition in Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa, 1903–1905

P.J. Capelottia1

a1 Division of Social Sciences, Penn State Abington College, Abington, PA 19001, USA (pjc12@psu.edu)


Between 1898 and 1905, three American expeditions attempted to reach the geographical North Pole from the archipelago of Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa [Franz Josef Land] and each went to extraordinary and expensive lengths to stage their work. The third of these, the Ziegler polar expedition (1903–1905), led by Anthony Fiala and funded by the American baking soda tycoon William Ziegler, set up numerous camps and caches of supplies along its various expedition routes through the islands. The papers of Anton Vedoe and Ernest Leffingwell at the Rauner Special Collections Library at Dartmouth College reveal both the locations and contents of the caches Fiala ordered to be established in spring 1905, as he made his second and final attempt to reach the pole. These caches extend from the expedition base camp (Camp Abruzzi) at Bukhta Teplitsa [Teplitz Bay] on Ostrov Rudol'fa [Rudolf Island] to the main base of the preceding 1901–1902 Baldwin-Ziegler expedition (Camp Ziegler) on Ostrov Aldzher [Alger Island]. Little is known of the condition of these sites, especially the main cache site of Kane Lodge on Ostrov Grili [Greely Island]. As such, they hold the potential to provide new sources of archaeological data to study American polar ambitions at the turn of the 20th century. While these sites remain unexplored, increasing tourism in the islands necessitates informed planning and field research to establish the nature and stability of these remains so that they may be preserved and the potential effects of tourism mitigated.

(Received March 2010)

(Online publication December 02 2010)