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Alfred de Quervain's Swiss Greenland expeditions, 1909 and 1912

  • William Barr (a1)

In 1909, with two companions Swiss meteorologist Alfred de Quervain travelled to the Uummannaq area of west Greenland, to the same area investigated by Erich von Drygalski in 1892–1893. A major objective was to investigate the changes in the nearby outlet glaciers since Drygalski's visit. Man-hauling sledges, de Quervain and his companions also made a sortie into the interior of the ice cap, penetrating to a distance of about 100 km and to a height of about 1700 m. Having thus whetted his appetite, in1912 de Qervain mounted a further expedition aimed at making a crossing of the ice cap, only the second after that of Fridtjof Nansen in 1888, and along a trajectory significantly further north. De Quervain hoped to determine the shape and height of the ice cap along this trajectory. With three companions and using dog-sledges de Quervain set off from the Disko Bugt area of west Greenland and crossed the ice cap to the area of Ammassalik (now Tasiilaq) on the east coast. In 31 days on the ice the party travelled some 640 km, reaching a maximum altitude of 2510 m. A comprehensive range of scientific observations was effected en route. A support party of three men remained at the western edge of the ice cap for the summer to conduct meteorological and glaciological studies. Thereafter two of this group spent the winter of 1912–1913 at the Danish Arctic Station at Godhavn as guests of Morten Porsild to conduct aerological studies using pilot balloons and, to a lesser degree, captive balloons. All quotations in this paper are translated from the German by the author. This article is the first English-language account of de Quervain's expeditions.

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Polar Record
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