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News of Disaster to Ship and Three Members of the Mikkelsen-Leffingwell Expedition

Ship Filled with Water

Then the Party Had to Abandon the Vessel, The Duchess of Bedford, to Her Fate.
Captain Mikkelsen, Ernest Leffingwell and J. M. Marks Overdue After a Dash for an Unknown Continent.
Science, Object of Trip

Members of the Expedition Hoped to Bring Back Information That Would Be of Great Value.


News of the loss of the schooner Duchess of Bedford, the ship belonging to the Anglo-American Arctic Expedition, which hoped to find a new continent north of the Mackenzie river, is brought here by Alfred Harrison, who has been in the Arctic circle for two years. He came here on the steamer Midnight Sun.

Mr. Harrison said Ernest (sic) Stefansson of Harvard university, after whom the expedition had been called, himself brought the news of the loss of their boat to Herschell island. He also brought the news of the disappearance of three members of the party and expressed the fear that they had met death in the frozen north.

The missing men are Captain Mikkelsen, a Dane; Ernest Leffingwell of Chicago and J. M. Marks. They left the ship in February with sixty days' provisions for the supposed land to the north and had been gone seventy days. No news was received from them. One of their teams of dogs had returned. It was regarded as probable that the party would never be heard from again.

The unexplored region north of Alaska And Western Siberia
Mikkelsen and Leffingwell planned to dash Northwest from Cape Prince
Albert in the hope of finding an unknown continent. They expected to
finally turn south and land near Wrangle Island.

The Duchess of Bedford Steffansson thought probably had sunk. The ship had filled with water, probably from the ice strain, but they had been able to remove everything of value to the main shore.

Planned A Daring Dash.
Through That Arctic Section Directly North of the Bering Strait.

The Mikkelson-Leffingwell expedition sailed for the North from San Francisco last year, 1906, May 22. The expedition's route lay through Bering strait, eastward along the Alaskan coast to Banks Land, then north to Camp Prince Albert, then a dash northwest until due north of Wrangle island on the Siberian coast, when the party would turn south. In the dash from Cape Prince Albert to

Captain Mikkelsen, one of the leaders of the
Mikkelsen-Leffingwell Expedition,
who has disappeared in the Arctic regions.

the northwest the party hoped to discover the unknown land. Mr. Leffingwell who, by the way, was with Mikkelsen a member of the Ziegler-Baldwin Polar expedition, in discussing their plans just before sailing, said:

"Our trip is in the interests of science first of all. There is an abundance of land there which any one could have and which to my knowledge is not of much money valued.

"My special work will be the study of the geology of the country, which exists there, I am practically certain. Whalers and Eskimos driven out of their course by storms have reported that a body of land was there. The character of the land is not like that of Greenland. It is not covered with glaciers. The amount of precipitation is not sufficient, I believe, to cause snow fields.

"It must be for the most part a desolate country of wastes of bare rock, with little vegetation growing. Perhaps we may find a little moss. There surely is, however, plenty of game. Muskoxen (sic) and reindeer exist there, I am sure. Our chances of getting to the country are good. Every summer there is open water in the proximity. Whalers have cruised near in the summer. I do not know whether the land is made up of islands or is another continent. There is plenty of room for a seventh continent, but I doubt if such exists.

Ernest Leffingwell

"The region north of Alaska and Banks Land comprises some 150,000 square miles, and has been always described as a sea of ice. Indications, however, go to show that a big body of land exists in this region. The Esquimaux of Prince Albertland (sic) and Northern Alaska points state this to be the case, while the direction of the prevailing ocean currents gives rise to the opinion that some body lies in their path. It is also a well established fact that flocks of migratory birds travel poleward from the Siberian, Alaskan and northern mainlands annually, and the natural inference is that they are not making for ice fields, but for land."

The plan was for the ship to hug the Alaskan coast around to Banks Land and then up to Cape Prince Albert. Then Mikkelsen and Leffingwell were to start west. They planned to take with them provisions for 140 days, with forty dogsleds and a horse. Their arrangements for this trip were unique as the provisions decreased and there was less to carry, the horse was to be killed, the men and dogs sharing in his carcass. By the time the horseflesh was consumed, the dogs were to be in turn slaughtered and eaten, and when these were exhausted, the venturesome explorers planned to haul along the remaining supplies themselves.

A very careful study based on many tests was made with regard to the kind of loads to be carried over this part of the trip, something of small bulk and yet of sustaining power being called for. A vegetable diet was to be put to a practical test on this trip, and alcoholic liquors dispensed with entirely. A noted dietetic expert in England prepared foods and had them put up in tins and sealed, and a Battle Creek firm contributed a supply of food for use on the two men's lonely and perilous journey.

It is probable that Mikkelsen and Leffingham had not started on the long northwest dash, however, as the schedule called for a start in the spring of 1908.

One of the things it was hoped to discover in this search for an unknown continent was a primitive tribe who had never been in association with civilization.

One reason for believing that another race of Arctic inhabitants might possibly be found in this new Polar world was that a whaling captain recently visited the remote island in the Beaufort sea region and found a veritable lost tribe of natives living practically in the stone age. They numbered a few more than fifty, had no wood or metal and possessed not an implement or utensil of modern manufacture. The neighboring Esquimaus (sic) of the Alaskan and Siberian coasts have improved firearms and other up to date domestic and hunting outfits. The arrows and harpoon points of these primitive men were formed of flint, their crude lamps and cooking pots were made of limestone slabs cemented together with a mixure of oil, soot and blood.

The bone needles used in sewing their strange and bulging footwear were formed from the pinions of birds. Almost all the cups and dishes of this tribe were made of whalebone. Their winter huts were built of the skulls of the whale. One of the queerest of their belongings was a toboggan or sledge made of strips of whalebone. Their low state of civilization has given rise to the supposition that they belong to a race of men who have never yet had any intercourse at all with the outside world.

Mr. Leffingham is a graduate of the University of Chicago. Captain Mikkelsen is a Dane and has been much interested in polar explorations. The expedition was sent out by the English and American Geographical societies and an American magazine. The expedition flew the Stars and Stripes and carried a commission from the United States government

The wife of Captain Mikkelsen was Gwendolen Hawthorne, a granddaughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne They were married in 1905.

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Original Source:
  Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO Sept. 6, 1907.  
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  Jennifer Holvoet, Ph.D  
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