North Pole. On 11th. November in 1876 ‘The Illustrated London News’ published our engraving above the title, ” The North Pole Expedition: The road between the Alert and the Discovery.”
‘HMS Alert’ and ‘HMS Discovery’ were two vessels supplied by the British Admiralty for the British Arctic Expedition of 1875–1876.
HMS Alert a 17-gun wooden screw sloop was launched in 1856 and HMS Discovery, launched as the whaling ship Bloodhound in 1873, was purchased as the expeditions storeship in 1874.
Led by Sir George Strong Nares, the expeditions task was to reach the North Pole via Smith Sound an uninhabited Arctic sea passage between Greenland and Canada’s Ellesmere Island.
The expedition would eventually fail in its task of reaching the North Pole, not until American explorer Robert Peary’s disputed claim of 1909, or Roald Amundsen 1926 expedition would the North Pole be conquered.
George Strong Nares took his ships north between Greenland and Ellesmere Island to the Lincoln Sea.
Expecting to find the legendary Open Polar Sea, an ice-free region surrounding the North Pole, Nares found only a desert of ice.
Although a sledging party set a new record for the farthest north reached, the expedition was in grave danger of failure with poorly equipped men suffering from scurvy, and wearing inappropriate clothing.
Nares retreated south in 1876 rather than risk another winter in the frozen wastes of what would later become the Canadian North West Territories and Nunavut (Canada’s newest and most northerly territory.)
However, notwithstanding its failure to achieve its goal, the expedition did go further north than any previous attempt; was responsible for the naming of several topographical features discovered on their journey; and created a photographic record of the Northern indigenous peoples.
The channel between Greenland and Ellesmere Island was subsequently named Nares Strait in honour of Vice-Admiral Sir George Strong Nares, KCB FRS.