INTO THE REALM OF THE POLES
Russian bid to raise wreck of US Navy ship that tried to be first to conquer the North Pole and whose crew trekked 500 miles across Arctic ice in desperate survival battle
An ambitious Russian plan has been launched to raise the wreck of an historic vessel that sank during an American hero's 19th century attempt to be the first to reach the North Pole.
USS Jeannette floundered in Arctic waters off Siberia after becoming stuck in ice during the daring voyage to the top of the world in 1881, and has remained there ever since.
Under the command of naval officer George Washington De Long, the elegant three-master, a former British gunboat, was 141ft long and kitted out in gold and bronze with its own on-board fireplaces.
After it sank off the Russian coast, the story of how 13 men survived following an epic escape on foot across frozen Siberia became a legendary tale of courage.
Now the vessel could once more rise from its watery grave.
SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO
Equipped: The USS Jeannette before it set sail for the Arctic. It was designed to keep its crew of 33 alive in the frozen wastes, with fireplaces on board and fittings in gold and bronze
Survival: Some of those who finally made it back to safety pictured after surviving their ordeal. In all 23 of the crew lost their lives
Ice-bound: This painting portrays the end of the USS Jeanette, stuck fast in ice which would eventually crush it. Its crew are unloading the supplies packed into the three-master
Remembered: There are two memorials to the USS Jeanette. This one is at the mouth of the Lena River, where the survivors finally came ashore. The Lena is the largest of Siberia's rivers
American author Hampton Sides, who wrote an acclaimed book about the ship's dramatic final voyage last year, said he has already approached the US Navy for assistance but feared the current icy political climate would prevent a salvage operation.
On the other side of the Bering Strait, Siberian adventurer Andrey Y -- well-known in Russia as a director, screenwriter, TV personality and traveler whose real name is Andrey Khoroshev -- has begun his own initiative to raise the wreck in consultation with the Geographic Society, whose board of trustees is headed by Vladimir Putin.
'This vessel lies at a depth of only 18 meters [54 feet], with the known location down to one kilometer [two-thirds of a mile]. So in modern day conditions, to find and raise it is not such a hard task,' he told The Siberian Times.
'Imagine what kind of event it would be, and what it would do for our relations with America which are not very good right now.
'So perhaps we should give them a generous present by raising it.'
Whether such a salvage operation would be seen as a 'generous present' or a grab at American property in the context of increasingly tense relations between Moscow and Washington remains to be seen.
Epic: The map shows Henrietta Island, the freshly-discovered land which the USS Jeanette was stranded beside - and gives some idea of the sheer remoteness of the sea where the crew found themselves
Sinking: Contemporary illustrations told the story of the USS Jeanette, claimed by the might of the ice
Hell: The first stage of their trek saw the crew drag their boats across pack ice which persisted even in the Arctic's summertime
Dismal: After their trek across the ice the crew took to their three boats but one capsized with the loss of seven men. The two remaining boats separated and took different routes to land
Safety: The woodcut shows how so few survived when they eventually gathered at Yakutsk, capital of the Siberian territory now known as Sakha
The vessel is a memory of America's bid to reach the North Pole and the effort comes amid an increasingly aggressive grab by Putin's Russia over Arctic territories.
Moscow - along with the US, Canada and other countries bordering the Arctic - are staking conflicting territorial claims to the potential oil and gas bonanza.
In recent months, Putin has ordered Russia to re-establish military bases in the region, and despite economic problems caused by Western sanctions over Ukraine plus low oil prices, he is pouring investment into his vast northern coastline.
This month has seen a major army drill in the Russian Arctic region.
Ground Forces Commander Col. Gen. Oleg Salyukov said this week: 'The Arctic brigades' role is to defend the Russian national interests.'
He vowed that 'specialized equipment and weaponry will guarantee their effective operation in the northern latitudes'.
Russia is currently making a claim to the United Nations that major undersea ridges are an extension of the Siberian land mass. If approved, Moscow will get the right to exploit the energy riches.
Eight years ago, a submarine planted a titanium Russian flag on the seabed under the North Pole, signaling Putin's intentions.
Last summer, the Kremlin strongman broke off from speaking about strife-torn Ukraine to tell a youth camp audience: 'We should pay more attention to issues of development of the Arctic and the strengthening of our position here.'
The US Geological Survey estimates that the Arctic Circle includes 22 per cent of global recoverable energy resources, and Putin is determined to get his hands on the lion's share.
The USS Jeanette harks back to America's attempts to claim the same territory.
And the vessel herself represents a tale of adventure in the most difficult circumstances - and a dramatic battle for survival.
Built in 1861, as the Royal Navy Philomel-class gunboat HMS Pandora, she lies off the most northerly island of Russia's diamond-rich Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia.
Snow-bound: Henrietta Island, which was named by the crew of the USS Jeanette today
Pack ice: The scale of the ice around Henrietta Island shows why the USS Jeanette became stuck
Mapped: The thin black line shows the progress of the different boats towards land. Just 10 men survived
Captain: George Washington De Long was captain of the USS Jeanette but was one of those to lose his life
Mission: Kremlin-backed adventurer Andrey Khoroshev wants to lead the Russian expedition to raise the USS Jeanette
Large crowds watched her set sail from San Francisco on her fateful voyage on 7 July 1879, to begin a daring bid backed by the US government to reach the North Pole.
She progressed well through the Chukchi Sea but, just two months after leaving port, she caught fast in ice near Wrangel Island and drifted northwards for almost two years.
During their ice-bound odyssey floating through the Arctic waters, De Long and his crew maintained unique scientific records of their journey.
'A full meteorological record is kept, soundings are taken, astronomical observations made and positions computed, dip and declination of the needle observed and recorded - everything we can do is done as faithfully, as strictly, as mathematically as if we were at the Pole itself, or the lives of millions depended on our adherence to routine,' he wrote in his journal.
They even discovered two previously unknown islands and duly named them Jeannette and Henrietta. But their success was short-lived and on 12 June 1881, the pressure of the creaking ice crushed and sank their ship.
The men did have enough time to salvage food onto small boats but they were left marooned more than 500 miles north of the Siberian mainland.
Yet what happened next became legendary as the crew, dragging their provisions across the ice, somehow survived ~ and even discovered more land which they claimed for America, though it is now Russian.
Author: Hampton Sides approached the US Navy to discuss the possibility of them retrieving their own vessel but says the current political climate makes it unlikely. He is pictured with a mammoth tusk
Memorial: The USS Jeannette Jeannette Monument in the United States Naval Academy Cemetery. Its design was based on the cairn raised in Siberia in the aftermath of the death of most of the crew
Remembered: Hampton Sides published his history of the epic struggle of the Jeannette last year
This uncharted outpost was named Bennett Island, after eccentric US newspaper tycoon Gordon Bennett Jnr who had funded the Arctic mission.
None of the 33 crew were lost in the sinking but 20 perished - including Captain De Long himself - during the grueling trek to reach the mainland.
Some wreckage from the Jeannette was found in June 1884 on an ice floe close to southern Greenland, allowing scientists to establish that Arctic ice was in constant motion.
Writer Hampton Sides - author of 'In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Voyage of the USS Jeannette' - recently said he was keen on finding the ship to ensure a piece of US history is not lost forever.
'We know almost exactly where the Jeannette is because when it sank, De Long's men took very meticulous positional readings.
'The only problem is that it's in Russian waters, near some islands that are somewhat disputed - the De Long Islands (named after the captain).
'So the hurdles for finding the Jeannette are more geopolitical than archaeological.
'I'm hoping this book might create an environment that down the line, when our relationship improves with the Russians, we could send out an expedition to recover the ship.
'I've spoken with some folks in the Navy and at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) who are interested.
'It's certainly one of my passions. One of my secret wishes.'
The voyage was 'at the very end of the nautical age of polar exploration, when there were still people who thought you could somehow reach the North Pole by ship,' he said.
'The North Pole seemed as inaccessible as the moon. There was also a good bit of nationalism behind it. We wanted to beat the British and the Scandinavians and the other powers.'
It took until 1908 for the first men to eventually reach the North Pole on foot.
INTO THE ANTARCTIC
They are a stunning insight into an almost alien world. Now researchers have unveiled incredible new images which reveal the smooth underside of icebergs. The stunning patterns reveal centuries of material from the Earth's oceans.
Large old icebergs contain centuries of windblown sediment and minerals, visible as layers when they roll over.
WHY DO ICEBERGS FLIP OVER?
Salt water is much denser than fresh water, causing icebergs to float. As they melt in the ocean, their weight distribution can change, causing some icebergs to flip over completely. However, this is an extremely rare occurrence as 90 per cent of any iceberg is below the surface, meaning the balance is rarely in favour of a complete flip. The images, from the U.S. Antarctic Program, show an overturned iceberg with some penguins on top.'It contains centuries of windblown sediments and minerals,' said Nasa, which published the images.
'It really is the stuff of dreams.'The pictures were taken in Iceberg Alley, a region in the western Weddell Sea where a large concentration of icebergs move in a north-northeast direction following the clockwise circulation around the Weddell Sea gyre. Large old icebergs contain centuries of windblown sediment and minerals, visible as layers when they roll over.Scientists have analysed the relationship between iron and nutrients contained in these icebergs and the organic carbon production that is released into the ecosystem. Salt water is much denser than fresh water, causing icebergs to float. As they melt in the ocean, their weight distribution can change, causing some icebergs to flip over completely. However, this is an extremely rare occurrence as 90 per cent of any iceberg is below the surface, meaning the balance is rarely in favour of a complete flip.
When a flip does occur, the consequences can be devastating.
For instance, larger iceberg flips can trigger tsunamis that can damage nearby ships.
Their undersides can vary in colour from blue to green, and they will stay that colour for the rest of their lives.
It is such a stunning colour because ice absorbs red light, and reflects blue.
Salt water is much denser than fresh water, causing icebergs to float. As they melt in the ocean, their weight distribution can change, causing some icebergs to flip over completely.
The pictures were taken in Iceberg Alley, a region in the western Weddell Sea.
Not all icebergs are white: This photograph by Alex Cornell proves that their undersides can come in spectacular shades of colours
Last month while on an expedition to Antarctica, Alex Cornell was stunned when he spotted an 'alien' blue iceberg floating across the landscape.
Unlike the icebergs around it, the surreal sleeping beast was completely free of snow and debris, revealing a polished azure surface.
What Mr Cornell witnessed in Drake Passage was an incredibly rare phenomenon; a flipped iceberg caused by an imbalance in frozen water.
'Antarctica is one of those places where you can point the camera in any direction and come away with something spectacular,' Mr Cornell told Fstoppers.
'Typically icebergs are white, with blue accents near the water - this by contrast was alien-blue. More like a galactic artefact than anything terrestrial.'
The San Francisco-based photographer added that the glacier was likely to be extremely old, with the blue being 'the glacial equivalent of aging white hairs.'
Experts say the iceberg could be anything from tens to hundreds of thousands of years in age.
While on an expedition to Antarctica, San Francisco- based Alex Cornell was stunned by an blue iceberg floating across the landscape
Unlike the icebergs around it, the surreal sleeping beast was completely free of snow and debris, revealing a polished blue surface
What Mr Cornell witnessed was an rare phenomenon; a flipped iceberg caused by an imbalance in its frozen body. Around 90 per cent of any iceberg is below the surface, making iceberg flips an uncommon occurrence
Travelling through the Drake Passage between the southern tip of South America at Cape Horn, Chile and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica
Using his Canon 5D Mark II and a 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, Mr Cornell was able to capture some incredible views of the iceberg and its surroundings.
Around 90 per cent of any iceberg is below the surface, making iceberg flips an extremely rare occurrence.
Salt water is much denser than fresh water, causing icebergs to float.
But when they melt, their weight distribution can change, making some icebergs to flip over completely.
But when one does occur, the consequences can be devastating.
For instance, larger iceberg flips can trigger tsunamis that can damage nearby ships.
Hugh Corr, a glacial geophysicist at the British Antarctic Survey told i100.co.uk he had rarely seen an image of a flipped iceberg that was so stunning.
While it is difficult to tell its scale, Mr Corr suspects it is reasonably small – much smaller than those than can reach up to eight miles long.
This beautiful images was taken from Cierva Cove. The back of Cierva Cove is a glacial face, which regularly calves ice into the bay
Views of the iceberg and its surroundings
A seal relaxed in Cierva Cove. The area is southeast of Cape Sterneck in Hughes Bay, along the west coast of Graham Land, Antarctica
'[It] is one of those places where you can point the camera in any direction and come away with something spectacular'.
Their journeys would end in tragic circumstances, crushed up against the rocks with the precious cargo lost and some of the crew members dead.
But, no matter the treacherous conditions, every time a ship ran aground off the coast of Cornwall, members of the Gibson family would be there to take photos of the vessel's demise.
These ghostly images of shipwrecks were first taken 150 years ago when John Gibson bought his first camera and have now been put together in a collection which is expected to be sold for between £100,000 and £150,000 at an auction next month.
Crowded: The Dutch cargo ship Voorspoed pictured surrounded by horses used to help take away the cargo after it was wrecked at Perran Bay, Cornwall in March 1901. All of those on board died in the incident as the ship travelled from to Newfoundland, Canada to Perranporth, Cornwall.
History: The Minnehaha was shipwrecked in 1874 as it travelled from Peru to Dublin, it was carrying guano to be used as fertiliser and struck Peninnis Head rocks when the captain lost his way. The ship sank so quickly that some men were drowned in their berths, ten died in total including the captain.
Taken by four generations of the family of photographers over a period of 130 years, the 1000 negatives record the wrecks of more than 200 ships and the fate of their passengers, crew and cargo as they travelled from across the world through the notoriously treacherous seas around Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
At the very forefront of early photojournalism, John Gibson and his descendants were determined to be first on the scene when these shipwrecks struck. Each and every wreck had its own story to tell with unfolding drama, heroics, tragedies and triumphs to be photographed and recorded - the news of which the Gibsons would disseminate to the British mainland and beyond.
The original handwritten eye-witness accounts as recorded by Alexander and Herbert Gibson in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries will be sold alongside the collection of images.
Dark: The Norwegian sailing ship the Hansy,was wrecked in November 1911 on the eastern side of the Lizard in Cornwall. Three men were rescued by lifeboat and all of the rest of the passengers managed to escape up onto the rocks.
Hypnotizing: turbulent ocean during a storm
Tempest: Waves crash as the ocean swells
Bad weather: The Bay of Panama was wrecked under Nare Head, near St Keverne, Cornwall during a huge blizzard in March 1898. At the time it was wrecked it was carrying a cargo of Jute, used to make hessian cloth, from Calcutta in India, 18 of those on board died but 19 were rescued.
The Gibson family passion for photography was passed down through an astonishing four generations from John Gibson, who purchased his first camera 150 years ago.
Born in 1827, and a seaman by trade, it is not known how or where John Gibson acquired his first camera at time when photography was typically reserved for the wealthiest in society.
However by 1860 he had established himself as a professional photographer in a studio in Penzance.
Returning to the Scillies in 1865, he employed his two sons Alexander and Herbert as apprentices in the business, forging a personal and professional unity which would be passed down through all the generations which followed.
Inseparable from his brother until the end, it is said that Alexander almost threw himself into Herbert’s grave at his funeral in 1937.
The family’s famous shipwreck photography began in 1869, on the historic occasion of the arrival of the first Telegraph on the Isles of Scilly.
At a time when it could take a week for word to reach the mainland from the islands, the Telegraph transformed the pace at which news could travel.
At the forefront of early photojournalism, John became the islands’ local news correspondent, and Alexander the telegraphist - and it is little surprise that the shipwrecks were often major news.
On the occasion of the wreck of the 3500-ton German steamer, Schiller in 1876 when over 300 people died, the two worked together for days - John preparing newspaper reports, and Alexander transmitting them across the world, until he collapsed with exhaustion.
Although they often worked in the harshest conditions, travelling with hand carts to reach the shipwrecks - scrambling over treacherous coastline with a portable dark room, carrying glass plates and heavy equipment - they produced some of the most arresting and emotive photographic works of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Crash: The French ship, the Seine was on her way to Falmouth with a cargo of nitrate when she ran into a gale off Scilly on Decermber 28, 1900. She ran ashore in Perran Bay, Perranporth, Cornwall, but thankfully all crew members were rescued with Captain Guimper reported as the last man to leave the ship before she was broken up in the next flood tide.
Crash: The German owned 300ft merchant vessel the Cita, sunk after it pierced its hull and ran aground in gale-force winds en route from Southampton to Belfast in March 1997. The mainly Polish crew of the stricken vessel were rescued a few hours after the incident by the RNLI and the wreck remained on the rock ledge for several days before slipping off into deeper water.
Generations: When Herbert Gibson died, the business changed hands to his son James (left) who had assisted him for ten years. Frank (right) left the Isle of Scilly after a family argument and went to learn about new technology which helped advance the business when he returned in 1957
Storm: A French trawler called the Jeanne Gougy pictured being engulfed by waves at Land's End in 1962. It was on its way to fishing grounds on the southern Irish coast from Dieppe in France when it went aground on the north side of Lands End in the early hours of November 3rd. Twelve men including the skipper were lost, swept away by massive waved before they could be rescued.
Rex Cowan, a shipwreck hunter and author said: 'This is the greatest archive of the drama and mechanics of shipwreck we will ever see - a thousand images stretching over 130 years, of such power, insight and nostalgia that even the most passive observer cannot fail to feel the excitement or pathos of the events they depict.'
Spy author John Le Carre said of the collection: 'We are standing in an Aladdin’s cave where the Gibson treasure is stored, and Frank is its keeper.
'It is half shed, half amateur laboratory, a litter of cluttered shelves, ancient equipment, boxes, printer’s blocks and books.
Precious cargo: The Glenbervie, which was carrying a consignment of pianos and high quality spirits crashed into rocks Lowland Point near Coverack, Cornwall, in January 1902 after losing her way in bad weather. The British owned barque was laden with 600 barrels of whisky, 400 barrels of brandy and barrels of rum. All 16 crewmen were saved by lifeboat.
'Many hundreds of plates and thousands of photographs are still waiting an inventory. Most have never seen the light of day. Any agent, publisher or accountant would go into free fall at the very sight of them.'
And fellow author John Fowles said: 'Other men have taken fine shipwreck photographs, but nowhere else in the world can one family have produced such a consistently high and poetic standard of work.'
The archive will be sold as a single lot in Sotheby’s Travel, Atlases, Maps and Natural History sale.
Lost: The Mildred was traveling from Newport to London when it got stuck in dense fog and hit rocks at Gurnards Head at midnight on the 6th April 1912. Captain Larcombe and his crew of two Irishmen, one Welshman and a Mexican rowed into St. Ives as their ship was destroyed by the waves.
Saved: British ship, the City of Cardiff was en route from Le Havre, France, to Wales in 1912 when it was wrecked in Mill Bay near Land's End. All of the crew were rescued
Stuck: The steamer City of Cardiff pictured trapped on rocks with steam still coming out of the chimney, it was washed ashore by a strong gale in March 1912 at Nanjizel. The Captain, his wife and son, and the crew were all rescued but the vessel was left a total wreck.
Sinking: A British built iron sailing barque, The Cromdale, ran into Lizard Point, the most southerly point of British mainland, in thick fog. The three-masted ship was on a voyage from Taltal, Chile to Fowey, Cornwall with a cargo of nitrates. There were no casualties but within a week the ship had been broken up completely by the sea.
Apprentice: Alexander Gibson was invited by his father John into the business in 1865
The Gibson family originated from the Isleof Scilly and have 300 years of family history.
John Gibson acquired his first camera whilst abroad around 150 years ago when photography was still mainly reserved for the wealthiest members of society.
He had to go to sea from a young age to supplement the income from a small shop on St Mary’s run by his widowed mother.
Making ends meet on St Mary’s was a constant struggle and he learned to use the camera and set up a photography studio in Penzance.
Both Herbert and Alexander learned the art of photography at their father’s knee and Alexander was to become one of the most remarkable characters in Scilly.
He had a passion for archaeology, architecture and folk history. He took endless pictures of ruins, prehistoric remains, and artifacts not just in Scilly but all over Cornwall.
Herbert by contrast was a quiet man, a competent photographer and a sound businessman. There can be no doubt that without his steadying influence, the business aspect of their photography might not have survived Alexander’s more flamboyant approach.
Frank spent some time working for photographers in Cornwall learning about new technology.
But Frank returned to Scilly in 1957 and worked in partnership with his father for two years.
After this time it was apparent that they could not work together and James retired to Cornwall and sold the business to Frank. Under Frank’s stewardship the business expanded. He produced postcards and sold souvenirs to supplement the photography, and opened another shop. Scilly is always in the news and there is always demand for pictures by the press.