The Polar Regions and the Klondike from Aquila Books
- by Michael Stillman
The Polar Regions and the Klondike from Aquila Books
Aquila Books has published a catalogue of Books and Ephemera Relating to All Aspects of the Polar Regions, as well as a Selection of Klondike Items. This makes for some cool reading on a hot July day. You will find works by many of the people whose names have become synonymous with polar exploration - Franklin, Scott, Nansen, Shackleton, Barrow, Amundsen, Ross, M'Clure, and Byrd. Others are less well-known, from missions not as famous or participants in travels headed by someone else. This is a great selection of material from the regions to the far north and far south, along with a substantial number of items related to a place not quite so far north - the Klondike and its gold rush. Here are a few selections from this recent catalogue.
To be the first to reach the South Pole was a great race, especially since the North Pole had been achieved only two years earlier. Englishman Robert Falcon Scott thought he could capture the honors, but Norwegian Roald Amundsen had other ideas. Better prepared and more knowledgeable on how to handle the extreme conditions, Amundsen raced to the South Pole in December 1911. About five weeks later, Scott arrived, only to be greeted by the Norwegian flag. From there it went from bad to worse. The weather deteriorated, storms raged, and Scott and the men who accompanied him on the last leg of the journey were unable to make it back. Their bodies weren't found for almost a year. It must have been bittersweet for the British welcoming the successful hero, Amundsen, when he toured Britain later in 1912. Item 3 is a Souvenir of Lecture: "How We Reached The South Pole." Amundsen went on a lecture tour in November-December 1912, with 26 stops in England and France in 31 days. Aquila remarks, "I think the trip to the South Pole was less arduous!" Item 3. Each item is priced in three currencies, Canadian, American and British. For convenience, we will show U.S. dollars. $680.
Here is the other side of that race, which is depicted on the cover of this catalogue. It says, Memorial Service St. Paul's Friday 14th Feb. at Noon. It was printed on February 12, 1913, two days before the service. It honored Robert Falcon Scott and his men. The poster shows footprints and sledge tracks in the snow. Here is how it relates. On the return trip, the men huddled in their tent, all hope lost, Lawrence Oats told the others "I am just going outside and may be some time." It was his message that he was going off to die. It is estimated that 10,000 people came to the service, most of whom had to remain outside. There was no room. Five hundred copies of this poster were printed, but it is such an ephemeral item that few survived. Aquila could locate only one other copy in a collection. Item 89. $10,000.
This one is an oddity. It is a newspaper of sorts, the Klondike Evening News, published in London, thousands of miles away in the days before air shipping. Evidently, it was not meant as a news source for Klondike miners, or anyone else. It was a humorous parody, apparently published in annual editions for 1898 and 1899, and then sporadically until 1909. Aquila has not been able to find any issues anywhere else, or anything else about the publication. The paper is a parody of the sort of events going on in the Klondike. Aquila writes, "It seems, to my taste at least, to have been brilliantly written, reflecting a great understanding of the events of the day and making reading the paper a great laugh!... If you start reading one issue we guarantee you will want to read them all cover to cover." Item 50 is the complete collection of issues, though single copy duplicates are also available. $2,000 for the collection.
A century earlier, British explorers had conclusively determined there was no Northwest Passage emanating from Hudson Bay. Arthur Dobbs was unconvinced. Based on ocean currents and such he was certain there was such an exit, so much so that he commissioned an exploration to prove his theory. He placed Christopher Middleton in charge of his mission. Middleton sailed to Hudson Bay and returned to England to inform Dobbs what earlier explorers reported - there is no route to a Northwest Passage from Hudson Bay. Dobbs was incensed. He wanted Middleton to tell him what he wanted to hear. Dobbs responded by attacking Middleton, initiating a pamphlet war that carried on for seven such publications. All are very rare today. Dobbs pulls no punches. The title says it all: Remarks upon Capt. Middleton's defence: wherein his conduct during his late voyage for discovering a passage from Hudson's Bay to the South-Sea is impartially examin'd; his neglects and omissions in that affair fully prov'd; the falsities and evasions in his defence expos'd; the errors of his charts laid open and his accounts of currents, streights, and rivers, confuted; whereby it will appear, with the highest probability, that there is such a passage as he went in search of. No there isn't. Middleton was right. Item 28, published in 1744. $24,000.
Middleton had his say too. Here is one of his pamphlets, also published in 1744: A vindication of the conduct of Captain Christopher Middleton, in a late voyage on board His Majesty's ship the Furnace, for discovering a north-west passage...in answers to certain objections and aspersions of Arthur Dobbs, Esq. These two apparently didn't care for each other too much. Still, Dobbs persisted, convinced that Middleton must be cooperating with the Hudson's Bay Company, which he believed was hiding the location of a northwest passage for its own competitive advantage. Item 71. $10,800.
Aquila Books may be reached at Box 75035, Cambrian Postal Outlet, Calgary, AB T2K 6J8, Canada.