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Explorer Nansen's Theory Based On A Myth.

Opinion of Experts on Arctic Matters.

Dr. Dall And Colonel Melville Declare That The Story Was Exploded Long Ago -- How the Danes Were Imposed On.

The recent reports concerning Dr. Nansen's expedition to the Arctic region have revived the discussion as to the alleged Jeannette relics found on an ice floe on the southwest coast of Greenland. The general opinion among scientific men, who have investigated the matter, seems to be that the relic story is a myth. Explorer Nansen's theory that it was possible to drift to the pole in the ice floes was based largely on the alleged discovery of pieces of the Jeannette expedition. Dr. Dall, the Arctic expert of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington says the story was totally exploded the moment it gained currency. He had associated with him in the Smithsonian Institution, Dr. Emil Bessel, surgeon of the Polaris Expedition under Dr. Hall, when the announcement came from Europe that fifty-eight objects from the Jeannette had been found on an ice floe on the southwest coast of Greenland and had been exhibited by the Danish Government at Amsterdam.

This was so totally at variance with all knowledge of Arctic matters that Dr. Bessel and himself proceeded to investigate it. They questioned a number of seamen who had been on the United States man-of-war Yantic, under Commander Wilde, to that portion of Greenland at the time the relics were said to have been discovered. Among them were Ninderman and Noveo, of the Jeannette party. The Yantic had been to the north looking for clews (sic) of De Long's party, under the supposition that survivors might possibly make their way south through Greenland. These sailors united in the statement that some of the younger officers on the ship, the midshipmen or ensigns, had gotten up a lot of alleged relics and put them on an ice floe near the ship to fool some of their superior officers. It was simply intended as a Naval Academy prank, a boyish joke, and wholly without seriousness. The floe drifted off; the Yantic's officers did not find the "relic," but, as subsequently appeared, they fell into the hands of Esquimos and passed thence to the Danish Government.

Dr. Dall says that records of unquestioned accuracy demonstrate that no system of currents exists in the North Polar Ocean, such as are well known in temperate or tropical waters.

Commodore Melville, chief engineer of the navy, brands the Jeannette relic story as an utter impossibility. He says the first report from Europe of the find, which came a little over ten years ago, described two men's bodies as being found side by side, covered with canvas, on an ice floe, with a lot of other articles. He promptly nailed that lie, accounting for every one missing from the Jeannette, and proving that not a man could have been on a floe covered with canvas.

Except those in Lieutenant Chipp's boat, which sank in open water, the whereabouts of every body was known. Then the Danes retracted that portion of the discovery, but still claimed to have the other relics.

"I tried in every way in my power," Commodore Melville says, " to have the story sifted. I offered every inducement to secure an opportunity to examine the relics, knowing that I could tell in an instant every article on board the Jeannette and every inch of wood in her. I pointed out that such relics, or at least a portion of them should come to America, where they belonged, but I could get no satisfaction in any direction. I was convinced that if any such relics were found in Greenland they were taken there by the hand of man, and not by currents."

R.E. Peary, the explorer, has this to say about the relics: "I have never before heard of any practical joke in connection with the matter, but I have been informed by Chief Engineer Melville that he had made every effort to authenticate the report, and that he does not believe that the articles found on the coast of Greenland were from the Jeannette. He does not place the slightest credence in it. The drift of the Jeannette relics was the principal fact on which Nansen based his theory, but he had other facts besides this. Personally I don't know, but acting on what Chief Engineer Melville has said to me, I have no confidence in the drift of the relics."

General Greely said at Washington Monday night: "With regard to the finding of the so-called Jeannette relics, I can only say that it is my belief, as well as Melville's, that the articles found never belonged to the Jeannette party. Certain articles were certainly found, but a number of facts have subsequently been brought forth which clearly show that the articles found were either thrown out by officers of Danish or American vessels as a joke or that they were objects discarded by my own expedition. This latter supposition is natural, for the north and south drift in this part of the Arctic regions might have brought some of our material down Baffin's Bay the next year, when these articles were found."

Reproduced with permission: L.L. Dyche, Explorations (Newspaper Clippings Related to Polar Exploration), Vol. 1 & 2. University Archives, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence, KS.


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Original Source:
  Hartford Courant , Hartford CN, Feb. 19, 1896.  
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  Jennifer F. Holvoet, Ph.D.  
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