From: Monthly Weather Review (1901)

    We quote the following from an article published in the National Geographic Magazine for October, 1901, by Dr. Georg Kollm, Editor and Secretary of the Geographical Society of Berlin:

    The object of the German Antarctic Expedition is the scientific exploration of the South polar regions, particularly on its Indo-Atlantic side.

    In pursuance of this object, it left Germany on the 11th of August, 1901, and is proceeding to Three Island Harbor, Royal Sound, in the Kerguelen Islands, where a base station will be established. In December, 1901, it is expected that the expedition will be ready for its real work of exploration and will push on toward the south as far as practicable. Should land be reached, a station will be founded and maintained for a year and the ship wintered there. Whether any later attempt to push still farther south will be made is not yet determined. It will not, at all events, be undertaken unless the conditions should prove particularly favorable.

    The expedition has general orders to remain until its tasks are satisfactorily executed, but in any case not to remain beyond June, 1904, at which date it must report at some harbor in communication with home. Should no news be received of the expedition by the first of June of that year, it will be in order to consider the expediency of fitting out a relief ship.

    The leader of the expedition, Dr. Erich von Drygalski, of Berlin, was appointed by His Majesty the Emperor, and has thoroughly studied the problems of the south polar regions. He has been placed in absolute control of the south polar ship Gauss, its personnel and equipment. All the arrangements for the work to be carried on from the time the ship left Germany are under his direction and subject entirely to his control. Marine laws regulate the position of the ship’s company toward its leader.

    The expedition is an undertaking of the German Empire and is fitted out through the Secretary of State for the Interior, Herr Dr. Graf von Posadowsky-Wehner. It sails under the Imperial Service flag, and its officers and men bear special service designations authorized from the highest quarters. It is thoroughly well equipped, both scientifically and practically, for its mission. In addition to the funds provided by the Empire, about 40,000 marks ($10,000) in small amounts have been contributed by private societies. The interest aroused in the expedition throughout the Empire has been very great, and has led to the presentation of many gifts and offerings which will add much to the efficiency of the equipment.

    The scientific members of the expedition are Prof. Dr. E. Vanhoffen, Kiel, for zoology and botany; Dr. H. Gazert, Munich, physician and bacteriologist; Dr. E. Philippi, Breslau, for geology and chemistry; Dr. F. Bidlingmaier, Lauffen, for terrestrial magnetism and meteorology.

    The personnel selected for the Kerguelen station consists of Dr. E. Werth, from Munster, as biologist; Dr. K. Luyken, from Munich, as meteorologist, and two seamen.

    The Kerguelen station is chiefly intended for magnetic and meteorological observations, which, as well as similar work conducted by the German chief expedition, will be carried on in accordance with the international program agreed on with England. This program has been sent to all States having magnetic-meteorological stations, as well as to the stations themselves, with the request for cooperation. Many have already signified their readiness to do so. It will also be followed at the station established by the Argentine Republic on Staten Island. Cooperation in all other sciences with the English expedition and all other expeditions to be sent out by other States has been regulated in the best manner by the division into departments of work.

    Mention has already been made of the kite work that will be undertaken by this expedition.1

    On August 6, 1901, the Discovery sailed from Cowes carrying the British National Antarctic Expedition under command of Com. Robert F. Scott, R. N., with Dr. George Murray as scientific director.

    The proposed work of the party has been carefully outlined by the presidents of the Royal Society and of the Royal Geographical Society, and we quote from sections 1, 2, 10, 11, and 19 of their instructions to the commander of the expedition.

    1.—The Royal Society and the Royal Geographical Society, with the assistance of His Majesty's Government, have fitted out an expedition for scientific discovery and exploration in the antarctic regions, and have entrusted you with the command.

    2.—The objects of the expedition are: (a) To determine, as far as possible, the nature, condition, and extent of that portion of the south polar lands which is included in the scope of your expedition, and (b) to make a magnetic survey in the southern regions to the south of the fortieth parallel, and to carry on meteorological, oceanographic, geological, biological, and physical investigations and researches. Neither of these objects is to be sacrificed to the other.

    10.—You will see that the meteorological observations are regularly taken every two hours, and, also, in accordance with a suggestion from the Berlin committee, every day at Greenwich noon. It is very desirable that there should, if possible, be a series of meteorological observations to the south of the seventy-fourth parallel.

    11.—As regards magnetic work and meteorological observations generally, you will follow the program arranged between the German and British committees, with the terms of which you are acquainted.

    19—If, on the other hand, you should decide not to winter, you will bear in mind that it is most important to maintain scientific observations on land throughout the winter, and therefore, if you are able, in consultation with the director, to find a suitable place for a landing party between Cape Johnson and Cape Crozier, and decide that such a party can be landed and left without undue risk, the following instructions will apply:

    (a) You will land a party under the command of such person as you may appoint. Such party shall include the director, the physicist and one of the surgeons, and such other persons as you may consider desirable, but no person is to be left without his consent in writing, which you will be careful to obtain and preserve.

    (b) You will give every practicable assistance in establishing on land this party, which you will supply with all available requisites, including [p.422] a dwelling hut and observer's hut, three years' provisions, stores, fuel, sledges, and dogs.

    (c) No landing party is to be established on any other part of the coast than that between Cape Johnson and Cape Crozier, as it is above all things essential that in case of accident the approximate position of the party should be known.

    (d) Before it is so late as to endanger the freedom of your ship, you will proceed north of the pack and carry out magnetic observations with sounding and dredging over as many degrees of longitude (and as far sooth) as possible, so long as the season and your coal permit, and then return to your base station, whence you will telegraph your arrival and await further instructions.

    The National Geographic Magazine for November, 1901, has the following note:

    The Antarctic, carrying the Swedish south polar expedition, sailed from Gothenburg: October 16. Prof. Otto Nordenskjold, the leader of the party, states that they will proceed to Buenos Ayres and Terra del Fuego and then push as far south as is found possible. When winter comes on a party of six under Nordenskjold will 1and and spend the winter making scientific observations. The Antarctic meanwhile will return to Terra del Fuego in charge of one of the scientists of the party, who will conduct researches in that little explored country. Thus, while the Germans are exploring the regions south of the Indian Ocean and the British that south of the Pacific Ocean, Dr. Nordenskjold and his party will be at work in the regions south of the Atlantic Ocean. Professor Ohlin and M. K. A. Anderson go as zoologists, Dr. Bodman as hydrographer, Dr. Skottoberg as botanist, and Dr. Ekolof as medical officer.

    With these three well equipped expeditions in the antarctic regions and the numerous expeditions actively engaged in the far north,2 we may reasonably hope that our knowledge of geography and meteorology will be materially advanced.

H. H. K.

1. See Monthly Weather Review for April, 1901, p.177. [below]
2. See the National Geographic Magazine for May 1901, which mentions eight arctic expeditions now in the far north, or planning active work in the region.

From: Monthly Weather Review, September 1901, p.421-422. 
(source p.421, p.422)


    We have received information that the German South Polar Expedition will systematically make kite ascensions in the trade winds from aboard ship during the southward journey, and continue the work in the antarctic regions.

    The expedition is fully equipped with aerial apparatus, all substantially of the Weather Bureau pattern and the scheme will be that followed at Washington, with modifications required by the conditions and resulting from extensive experiments with the Weather Bureau outfit at the Deutsche Seewarte.

    The kites are of three sizes, the large Marvin, like those used by the Weather Bureau of 6-1/3 square meters surface, Hargrave kites of 4 and 2-3/4 square meters surface, and light Eddy kites of 2-3/4 square meters, which are very advantageously employed in lifting and sustaining the larger kites with the instruments in light winds.

    This appears to be the first occasion on which preparations have been made for the systematic exploration of the upper air conditions in the polar regions.

From: Monthly Weather Review, April 1901, p.177. (source p.177)

See also:
  • Today in Science History event description for birth date of Erich von Drygalski on 9 Feb 1865.  Excerpt from 
  • Excerpt from "The Siege of the South Pole," by Hugh Robert Mill (1905).
  • "The German Antarctic Expedition," by  Dr. Erich von Drygalski, The Geographical Journal, Royal Geographical Society, Vol XVIII, No. 3, September 1901,  pages 279-282.