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The Arctic voyages of Louis-Philippe-Robert, Duc d'Orléans

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 September 2009

William Barr*
Arctic Institute of North America, University of Calgary, Calgary AB T2N 1N4, Canada (


Louis-Philippe-Robert, Duc d'Orléans (1869–1926), the Orléans claimant to the French throne, mounted four private expeditions to the Arctic, in 1904, 1905, 1907, and 1909. During the first of these, on board his private yacht, Maroussia, and accompanied by his wife, Marie Dorothée, he visited Svalbard where he hunted reindeer while his wife, an accomplished amateur artist, executed a number of delightful paintings. In 1905 he chartered the ice strengthened Belgica and employed Adrien de Gerlache de Gomery as her captain; he also recruited an impressive group of scientists. He again visited Svalbard then pushed west through the pack ice to east Greenland. He was able to penetrate further north along that coast than his predecessors, the Germans under Koldewey in Germania, had in 1869–1870, and discovered and named Île-de-France and the Belgica Bank. He shot large numbers of polar bears. In 1907, again on board Belgica, and again with de Gerlache in command of the ship, and again with a contingent of scientists on board, Orléans headed out into the Kara Sea from Matochkin Shar. Belgica soon became beset in the pack ice and drifted slowly south with the ice to emerge through Karskie Vorota after a very frustrating month. Thereafter an attempt to reach Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa was foiled by heavy ice. Finally, in 1909, again on board Belgica under de Gerlache's command, Orléans visited Jan Mayen, east Greenland, Svalbard and Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa, with hunting as his primary aim. From all four expeditions Orléans brought back substantial numbers of skins of birds and mammals that were mounted and displayed in his private museums. On his death they were bequeathed to the French people and exhibited in the specially built Musée du Duc d'Orléans in Paris and later in the Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle. The scientific data and specimens collected by the scientists on the 1905 and 1907 expeditions resulted in a substantial number of scientific reports in their various fields.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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