map the name of Wrangell Island, cancelling the designation of Kellett Land which the island had borne for 32 years apparently chiefly to emphasize that British discovery rights were considered to have lapsed through prolonged neglect and that American rights were being created in their stead through exploration.
and temporary occupation.
Following 1849 Wrangell Island (Kellett's Land) had been British by a discovery right that gradually lost its value through neglect, until the Americans (or any other nation) were free to occupy it; fol lowing 1881 the island was similarly U.S. territory. But it seems elementary logic that if 32 years of British neglect cancel British rights, an equally long period of neglect by any other nation would cancel the rights of that nation.
It is not known We do not know of any printed record that any human beings landed on Wrangell Island for 33 years following the American landing in 1881, although it seems likely that of all the many whaler American whalers who cruised in sight of the island between 1881 and the end of the whaling industry about 1906, some might have made a landing. and so it became Still, Wrangell Island is considered to have become once more a "No Man's Land" open to colonization by any country that cared to go to that much trouble for the sake of acquiring ownership.
In 1912 I had just returned from a four-year Arctic expedition that had been successful enough so that I found myself in a position to organize another. I formulated ambitious plans which were laid before the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the National Geographic Society in Washington. These organizations, together with the Harvard Travellers’ Club of Boston, gave me $50,000
dollars; and two wealthy men of Philadelphia, largely through the advocacy of my friend, Henry G. Bryant, president of the Philadelphia Geographical Society, were going to give me, one of them a ship which I had already selected, and the other money enough to take her through dry-dock into a first-rate condition. But I was a Canadian by birth and my two previous expeditions had been supported by the University of Toronto and the Geological Survey of Canada. I was anxious that my native country should again cooperate, and laid my plans accordingly
before Sir Robert Borden, then Prime Minister of Canada. Sir Robert said at once that Canada ought to take the whole expense and responsibility of the expedition since our purpose was to explore the Arctic Ocean in which Canada had a logical interest. Upon my suggestion he wrote letters to the American scientific organizations concerned asking them to surrender the expedition. This they did upon the condition (laid down by the National Geographic Society) that our sailing date must not be delayed beyond 1913 and that the scientific program of the expedition should remain substantially as already outlined by me.
When we sailed north the Spring of 1913 one paragraph of our orders from the Canadian Government instructed us to discover what lands we could in the Arctic, taking possession of them in the name of the King, and to revisit lands previously discovered by British subjects and reaffirm British possession. The latter part of this paragraph brought us into direct relation with Wrangell Island as a land originally discovered by a British naval expedition.
However, we did not have the intent to sail for Wrangell Island. Indeed, our plan was to go in a different direction, but Fate took a hand. The ice hemmed in one of our ships, the Karluk, late in the summer of 191
43, and carried her a prisoner west along the north coast of Alaska and then in the direction of Wrangell Island, near which she sank in January 1914 of that year, the men landing early in March. Our expedition at this stage had three ships. I was with the other two at Collinson Point, in northeastern Alaska, ignorant for more than a year of the fate of the Karluk, which was under the charge of her sailing master, Captain Robert A. Bartlett. After making a landing on Wrangell, Captain Bartlett instructed his men to remain there, while he, with one companion, crossed the 100 mile ice-bridge to Siberia and proceeded 700 miles across country to Emma Harbour to send out a wireless call for help.
Many ships responded. The Russian Government instructed their ice-breakers, Taimyr and Vaigatch, to proceed to Wrangell Island. They had not been able to get within sight of the island, however, when they received a wireless telling that the Great War had started and that they must return south. The United States revenue cutter "Bear" made an attempt but also failed. Several private ships tried. The successful one was "the King and Winge" under her owner Olaf Swenson. Her Captain, Jochimsen, was used to the sort of ice he had to contend with and wormed his way up to the island. On his southward way a day later he met the
"Bear ", 30 or 40 miles from Wrangell, and transferred to her (and to Captain Bartlett who was on board the "Bear’ ") the men he had picked up. The "Corwin " (the same that had landed in Wrangell Island in 1881, but now a private ship sent out by a friend of mine, Mr. Jafet Lindeberg) arrived at the island a day later to find the fresh trace of the luckier "King and Winge ".
Meantime, the crew of the Karluk had spent six months on Wrangell Island. That in itself is a long story of adventure and unfortunately also of tragedy. The seventeen on the island were divided into two parties and camped about 40 miles apart. One party lived to a considerable extent by hunting. They saw an abundance of game, but had difficulty in getting the walrus which formed the main part of it because they lacked the Eskimo type of skin boat (umiak) which is so light and strong that two or three men can drag it over bridges of intervening ice to launch into water beyond. Still, they secured enough game so that fresh meat was a large part of their diet. This seems to have been the reason why they remained in excellent health, while a serious malady (apparently nephritis) developed in the other party that lived mainly on provisions brought ashore from the ship, and two deaths resulted--Malloch, a Canadian, and Mamen Nanen, a Norwegian, both
as strong and fine young, men as ever went on a
Polar expedition. Breddy, a sailor of British birth, died from an accidental gunshot wound s
On the Canadian holiday, July 1, 1914, the Canadian flag was hauled up as a part of the ceremony of reaffirming possession of Wrangell Island --according to our general instructions from the Government to that effect. The party were at the time under
the command of the senior officer present, engineer John Munro a Canadian. The man who actually hauled up the flag was Frederick Maurer. I had first met him at Herschel Island on the Arctic coast of Canada in 1912 when on my way home from my second expedition and when he was a member of the whaling crew of the steamer Belevedere. Later, when he heard I was outfitting a new expedition, he had applied and had been assigned to the Karluk. This hoisting of a British flag by a typical young American of the Middle West was the beginning of a series of events destined to be of international significance.