Narrative of the North Polar Expedition. U S Ship Polaris, Captain Charles Francis Hall Commanding

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Author: Hall, Charles Francis (1821-1871)

Year: 1876

Publisher: Government Printing Office

Place: Washington, DC


696 pages with steel engraved frontispieces, 39 wood engravings and 2 photolithographs, depicting the Polaris and its deck plans, 6 maps, illustrations and appendix. Thick Quarto (10 1/2" x 8"). bound in original publisher's green cloth with gilt lettering to spine and gilt pictorial on front cover. Edited by Rear-Admiral Charles Henry Davis. [Arctic Bibliography: 18382] First edition.

Hall's third expedition was funded with a grant of $50,000 from the U.S. Congress to command an expedition to the North Pole on the Polaris. The party of 25 also included Hall's old friend Budington as sailing master, George Tyson as navigator, and Emil Bessels as physician and chief of scientific staff. The expedition was troubled from the start as the party split into rival factions. Hall's authority over the expedition was resented by a large portion of the party, and discipline broke down. Polaris sailed into Thank God Harbor—present-day Hall Bay—on September 10, 1871, and anchored for the winter on the shore of northern Greenland. That fall, upon returning to the ship from a sledging expedition with an Inuit guide, Hall suddenly fell ill after drinking a cup of coffee. He collapsed in what was described as a fit. For the next week he suffered from vomiting and delirium, then seemed to improve for a few days. At that time, he accused several of the ship's company, including Bessels, of having poisoned him. Shortly thereafter, Hall began suffering the same symptoms, and died on November 8. Hall was taken ashore and given a formal burial. Command of the expedition devolved on Budington, who reorganized to try for the Pole in June 1872. This was unsuccessful and Polaris turned south. On October 12, the ship was beset by ice in Smith Sound and was on the verge of being crushed. Nineteen of the crew and the Inuit guides abandoned ship for the surrounding ice while 14 remained aboard. Polaris was run aground near Etah and crushed on October 24. After wintering ashore, the crew sailed south in two boats and were rescued by a whaler, returning home via Scotland. The following year, the remainder of the party attempted to extricate Polaris from the pack and head south. A group, including Tyson, became separated as the pack broke up violently and threatened to crush the ship in the fall of 1872. The group of 19 drifted over 1,500 miles (2,400 km) on an ice floe for the next six months, before being rescued off the coast of Newfoundland by the sealer Tigress on April 30, 1873, and probably would have all perished had the group not included several Inuit who were able to hunt for the party. The official investigation that followed ruled that Hall had died from apoplexy. However, in 1968, Hall's biographer Chauncey C. Loomis, a professor at Dartmouth College, made an expedition to Greenland to exhume Hall's body. To the benefit of the professor, permafrost had preserved the body, flag shroud, clothing and coffin. Tests on tissue samples of bone, fingernails and hair showed that Hall died of poisoning from large doses of arsenic in the last two weeks of his life. (Wikipedia).


Corners bumped, shelf wear, spine ends and corners rubbed through, covers faded, some foxing, hinges rubbed. Over all a good to very good copy.

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