Friday, January 29, 2016

Delaware County's 19th century Arctic Explorer

Mill dam on Cobbs Creek c.1900

 He Was Much Interested in the Latest Exploration 
 Well Known in This County

                The following from the Philadelphia Press, will be read with interest by the many Delaware countians who know Amos Bonsall, the survivor of the famous Kane expedition to the Arctic.  Mr. Bonsall, whose home is now in West Philadelphia, formerly resided in Upper Darby.  Training School, at Elwyn, and a manager of the House of Refuge, at Glen Mills.  The Press says: 
                “No Philadelphian probably felt a livelier interest yesterday in the Duke of Abruzzi’s achievement in reaching the farthest point north in search of the pole than Amos Bonsall, president of the Geographical Society.  Mr. Bonsall and John Wall Wilson, a native of Concord, N.H., who, at last accounts, some months ago, was in rapidly failing health, are the only survivors of the second Grinnell expedition to the polar regions in 1853, commanded by Dr. Bonsall, may be, at this time, the only survivor.  In early life he became a commissioned officer in the United States Navy.
                “The first Grinnell expedition of 1850, sent out in search of Sir John Franklin’s party of 1844, was commanded by Lieutenant DeHaven, U.S.N., of this city, and Dr. Kane, who was a surgeon in the navy, went with it as medical officer.  Mr. Bonsall was an officer of one of the two vessels in this expedition.  The second expedition, in the brig Advance, was commanded by Dr. Kane and Mr. Bonsall was sailing master of the vessel.  Nearly all the important surveys in Arctic latitudes, by which the geographical boundaries of northern Greenland and Baffin’s Bay were established were made by Amos Bonsall.  As president of the Geographical Society and a member of other scientific bodies.  Mr. Bonsall has devoted some study to Arctic research apart from his own experience as an explorer among the seas and glaciers of the frozen north.
                A DARING VOYAGE – “The Duke of Abruzzi’s feat in reaching the farthest point north,” said Mr. Bonsall, yesterday, “at once challenges interest in every part of the world.  But the information that comes to us is yet too meager for any extended comments on its importance in the field of Arctic research.  We only know from his own record of his voyage among the ice that he has reached a point nineteen miles nearer the Pole that any previous explorer.  That in itself is important when one considers the obstacles and almost insuperable barriers to the progress of Arctic travel, and the inexhaustible perseverance it takes to overcome them.  I have that respect for a man who adds nineteen miles to the record of our progress toward the pole that the sporting world has for an athlete, who surpasses all previous records of strength or skill, or a horse that lowers the records of the turn by a fraction of a minute.  It is a feat that challenges praise when we consider the immense obstacles to its accomplishment. 
                “I have always thought and still think that Nansen and his companion Johansen in 1696 undertook a task that taxed the last resource of human hazard and determination when they left the side of the Fram fastened in the ice to pursue a winter journey farther north on sledges.  I think that fact has never been surpassed in the annals of daring exploration, except perhaps by Andree’s suicidal expedition in a balloon.  Every candid mind in the world shares the one opinion there can be no doubt that Andree’s balloon enterprise was one of the most melancholy of absurdities.
                “One of the interesting things that may develop from a more definite knowledge of the Duke of Abruzzi’s journey is the effect of the flow of the Snitsbergen ice.  The drift of ice packs in the Polar seas, so far as it has been investigated, is always westward.  It was one of the earliest theories of Arctic explorers that this was produced by the earth’s rotation.

                “Sir Edward Parry was one of the earliest explorers to note the effect of this current in changing his latitude while traversing fields of ice in the opposite direction.  The Polar current flows south between the coasts of Greenland and Norway and through Baffin’s Bay, and north from the coast of Japan, between Asia and North America, at a uniform rate of three miles an hour.  This current most make a circuit of the pole, as shows partly by the relics of the Jeanette which drifted from the islands north of Siberia to the shores of Baffin’s Bay.  This was Nansen’s theory when he attempted to drift across the pole, and it will probably be found that Abruzzi’s vessel drifted in the ice packs north of Siberia to the extreme northern latitude which has been reported.
                “I notice that the Duke of Abruzzi laid out relays of provisions on the ice.  That is something that was never attempted before with success.  Peary’s experience in trying to keep provisions where they could be found on the returning voyage was a disastrous failure.  They were buried and lost in the snow.
                “The Duke of Abruzzi is a daring fellow, but perhaps few Philadelphians know that his ascent of Mt. S. Elias in Alaska.  IN July 1898, was accomplished on plans laid out for the undertaking by Henry G. Bryant of this city.
                “Mr. Bryant pointed out how the summit could be reached from the interior instead of the coast.  The Duke appropriated this plan and accomplished the feat with the aid of imported Alpine guides.  Mr. Bryant was compelled to abandon the undertaking for the lack of guides"
Special thanks to Mary Giove for her typing expertise!! 

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