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Explorer Amundsen the First to Force the Northwest Passage

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The Sunday Star (Washington, D.C.) - Sunday, December 17, 1905

The Sunday Star (Washington, D.C.) - Sunday, December 17, 1905


    Capt. Roand Amundsen, master of the Norwegian sloop Gjoa of Christiania and first of explorers to make his way through the Northwest Passage, has arrived at Eagle City, Alaska, from Herschel Island, where he completed his perilous trip from the Atlantic to the Paciflc. To get there Amundsen traveled 700 miles through snow and ice with Eskimo guides and accompanied by Capt. William Mogg of a wrecked whaling schooner, the Bonanza of San Francisco. They suffered severely from cold coming over the "divide."

    "My expedition has been very successful," said Capt. Amundsen modestly. "Successful from a scientific standpoint as well as by the conquering of the passage, which has been my life ambition. I believe that my observations will prove of great scientific value. Among these are the extreme variation and constant changes in the magnetic needle at practically the magnetic north pole. From the northern point of Peel sound to the western end of Simpson's Strait the ship's compasses were found to be useless.

Party Hugged the Pole.

    "I established an observation station at King William Land, in latitude 68 degrees 0 minutes north and longitude 97 degrees west. I believe, basing my statement on my two years of observation, that the north magnetic pole is within ninety miles of that point."

    Observations have been taken day and night for a period of three years, and in the opinion of the explorer the actual position of the magnet will be determined as soon as his observations can be figured out. Evidently, the change from the position marked by Ross has been very slight.

    Capt. Amundsen, with his crew of seven men, sailed from Christiania June 17, 1903. He has not only brought his ship through the passage that had never been complete traversed before, but he and his men arrived in the Arctic without casualty or any serious iliness.

    The route sailed was from Christiania to Baffin Bay, and then through Lancaster Sound, Barrow Strait, Peel Sound, James Ross Strait, Rae Strait, Simpson Strait, Dease Strait, Coronation Gulf and Dolphin and Union Straits to King Point, where the explorers obtained communication with the winter-bound fleet of whalers from San Francisco.

    Between King William Land and Victoria Land, says Capt. Amundsen, the passage is very shallow and narrow. There are more than a hundred islands there, and at times the soundings was as shallow as three fathoms. These islands were seen and mentioned by Rae, and Capt. Amundsen says it is now definitely proved that they are land.

Wintering at Herschel's Island.

    The Gjoa is wintering under the lee of Herschel Island, and as soon as the ice breaks away in the spring she will sail through Behring Sea to San Francisco. From the latter place she will proceed by way of Cape Horn to her home in Norway, thus accomplishing for the first time the complete circumnavigation of the American continent.

    Capt. Amundsen credits his suceess mainly to the discipline, and the harmonious endeavors of his crew, but he cannot conceal the extreme satisfaction with which he realizes that he is the first navigator to succeed in an undertaking in which many of the greatest mariners of the world have failed.

    After communication with his government and after resting at Eagle City for awhile, he will return over the route by which he came and wait with his fellow voyagers of the Gjoa for the ice to break up and permit him to sail for San Francisco.

    Capt. Amundsen made inquiries among the Eskimos wherever he went for tidings of the lost explorer, Andrae, but was unable to obtain any information about him. Some of the natives had never seen a white man before.

    Capt. Amundsen states that the coldest Weather he experienced was in March of 1904, when the mercury registered 79 degrees below zero.

North Pole Properly Located.

    A Danish naval officer, who is unnamed in a dispatch from Eagle City, but believed to be Lieut. Hansen, made astronomical observations within ninety miles of the magnetic pole on Boothia island (as ascertained by Ross) and believes he passed over the magnetic pole, but the movements of the needle made the result uncertain. Other deductions were possible from the observation, he says.

    The officer is quoted as saying that former navigators had properly located the pole.

    The graves of three men who accompanied Franklin's expedition were visited. They are marked with tombstones.

    The declination of the needle at the mouth of Mackenzie river was ascertained to be forty-five degrees east.

    In addition to a cablegram on which the tolls were $800, Amundsen has made a mail report to Nansen which was inclosed in a brass cylinder and the top soldered. It weighed twenty-one pounds.

    Capt. Amundsen has invited Dr. Anthony Varicle, who will head the Yukon-Polar expedition for the north pole, to accompany him back to Herschel.

Two Women in Marooned Party.

    In reference to the whalers who were frozen in last fall, Capt. Mogg of the whaler Bonanza, who accompanied Capt. Amundsen to Eagle, reports that the marooned colony numbers 200. This includes two women, wives of officers.

    The supply of food is ample for two years.

    A physician is with the party, and the few medicines needed will be sent back by Capt. Amundsen.

    Capt. Mogg says two women and five men left in two boats for Nome in the early fall. They expected to go to Point Barrow, thence to Nome.

    The Bonanza was caught in the ice and was beached. She was caught again and was wrecked. The supplies were saved and the whalebone transferred to another ship. Caribou, mountain sheep and musk-ox helped to vary the diet.

    Capt. Mogg says the seven whalers 200 miles east of Herschel Island intended wintering there. They are in good shape and have plenty of supplies to last for two years. Thirty-five members of the crew of the Bonanza joined the other whalers.

    Capts. Amundsen and Mogg left Herschel Island October 24, with two Eskimos and two dog teams. They followed a stretch of tundra and crossed the Right range, made thely way down Turner river to Coler river, thence to Porcupine, to the Yukon, and up that to Eagle City. The distance is approximately 500 miles, through an almost unexplored region.