Social conditions on German polar expeditions 1868 to 1939


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urack [ at ] awi-bremerhaven.de

Abstract

1. IntroductionThe research into the history of polar exploration is mainly focused on the evolution of science and its institutionalisation. Social conditions of the members of German polar expeditions have not been the subject of scholarly research. In the official records of the expeditions one can rarely find references to social factors. Such comments were often deliberately avoided.My PhD-Project is based on sources such as unpublished logbooks, diaries and letters. The dissertation also considers the question of how social conditions contributed to the success or failure of an expedition - or if they were not that crucial at all. References to foreign expeditions shall supply additional material for comparative studies.Three expeditions are chosen in this paper:A. The Antarctic expedition 1901/03, led by Erich von DrygalskiB. The Antarctic expedition 1911/12, led by Wilhelm FilchnerC. The Arctic expedition 1930/31, led by Alfred WegenerThe time of the two first expeditions presented here is the period of the German Kaiserreich. In the following text, some aspects of these two expeditions are directly compared. The third expedition is in the period of the Weimarer Republik, with significant different boundary conditions, is treated separately.4. SummaryIn this presentation only a few factors and events can be discussed. The three expeditions were very different in their characteristics. The scientific outcome of all three expeditions was very satisfactory.The particular burden was caused by the extreme climate and hostile surrounding.Concerns about the social life, hierarchy and authority were an important issue, much more important than today. On the one hand, Filchner was an army officer. He tried to solve the problems in a military manner. Using guidelines of the army and neglecting the personal problems of his crew often conflicts were intensified instead of solved. On the other hand, Drygalski encouraged the collaboration between officers, scientists and the crew. He formed teams for specials tasks with people who complemented each other in a natural way. Wegener was respected not only for his convincing scientific competence but also for his close relationship to his crewmembers. His death was a big loss.In my PhD thesis I investigate German expeditions up to 1939. Afterwards methods and the character of polar research changed significantly. In the 1950 financing was easier because of high military and political interests, also the logistics and equipment were very much improved



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Conference (Talk)
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Published
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Crisis and Transition, VIIth Noth Sea History Conference/ New researchers in Maritime History, 26-28. August, Bremerhaven, Deutschland..
Eprint ID
14483
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Rack, U. (2005): Social conditions on German polar expeditions 1868 to 1939 , Crisis and Transition, VIIth Noth Sea History Conference/ New researchers in Maritime History, 26-28. August, Bremerhaven, Deutschland. .


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