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Disaster To Arctic Explorers

Mishap to the Mikkelsen-Leffingwell Party.

Ship Was Filled With Water and Was Deserted.


Have Now Had Time To Return After Dash.

Had Hopes of Finding An Unknown Continent.
Athabasca Landing, Canada, Sept. 6 --

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

How The Trip Was Planned.

The Mikkelsen-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 Cape 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 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 value.

"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 vegtation growing. Perhaps we may find a little moss. There surely is, however, plenty of game. Muskoxen 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.

"The region north of Alaska and Banks Land comprises some 150,000 square miles, and has been always described as a sea of ice. Indication (sic), 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 infererence 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 dogs, sleds 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.

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Original Source:
  Topeka Daily Capital, Topeka, KS: Sept. 07, 1907, pg. 2.  
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  Jennifer Holvoet, Ph.D.  
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