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150Mil BC
In 1999 Norwegian scientists discovered an undersea meteor crater in the Arctic Ocean 125 miles north of Norway that dated to this time. It measured 25 miles wide. The meteor was estimated at 1 1/4 mile wide traveling at 18,600 mph.
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150Mil BC
In 2006 researchers in Norway announced the discovery of the remains of a short-necked plesiosaur, a prehistoric marine reptile the size of a bus, that they believe is the first complete skeleton ever found. The 150 million year old remains of the 33-foot ocean going predator were found on the remote Svalbard Islands of the Arctic. Researchers in 2008 said it was the biggest of its kind known to science with dagger-like teeth in a mouth large enough to bite a small car.
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55Mil BC
Arctic temperatures averaged 74 degrees. This was part of a planet-wide warming period called the Paleocene Eocene thermal Maximum (PETM).
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49Mil BC
A giant bloom of the Azolla fern at this time coincided with one of the biggest climate shifts known. Surface sea temperature in the Arctic dropped from 13°C to -9°C. In 2014 scientists suspected that the fern bloom was responsible for the temperature drop as it pulled CO2 from the atmosphere.
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45Mil BC
A planet-wide cooling period began that led to cycles of ice ages.
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3.5Mil BC
A brief period of global warming took place about this time warming the Bering Strait and allowing hundreds of species of marine life to migrate from the Pacific through the ice-free Arctic to colonize the Atlantic.
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600000 BC
DNA evidence in 2012 indicated that the polar bears species dated back to about this time.
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125000 BC
A long period of global warming began that lasted to about 11.5k BC. Polar meltwater raised the sea level by 4-6 meters.
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28000 BC
In 2001 Russian and Norwegian archeologists reported evidence that date to about this time of humans camped at Mamontovaya Kurya on the Usa River at the Arctic circle. A tusk was dated at 36,600 years of age and plant remains at 30,000.
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28000 BC
In 2003 Russian scientists reported evidence of a hunting site on the Yana River, Siberia, 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle that dated to about this time.
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15000 BC
The Barents Sea ice sheet, stretching from northern England to Siberia, disintegrated in a period perhaps less than 1000 years, probably because of warming seas.
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1597 Jun 20
Willem Barents, Dutch explorer who discovered Spitsbergen & Bereneil, died. In 1995 Rayner Unwin authored “A Winter Away from Home,” an account of Barents’ Arctic voyages.
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1800 Apr 15
James Ross discovered the North Magnetic pole.
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1831 May 31
Captain John Ross, English explorer, identified the magnetic north pole on the west coast of the Boothia Peninsula, Netsilik territory.
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1833 Feb 17
Lt. George Back departed Liverpool, England, on the packet ship Hibernia with 4 men to search for missing Arctic explorer Captain John Ross. Ross had left England in 1829 to seek a Northwest Passage by way of the Arctic Ocean.
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1833 Oct
Capt. John Ross (1877-1856), Arctic explorer, returned to England.
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1845 May 19
May 19, The HMS Erebus and Terror sailed from England under Sir John Franklin to navigate through the Arctic and find the elusive Northwest passage. Sir John Franklin and his 128-member crew all died on the journey and the ships vanished. By 1847 the British Admiralty had received no reports of Franklin. [see Franklin Jun 11, 1847]
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1846
1854
John Rae (b.1813), Scottish-born explorer, helped map the western shore of Hudson’s Bay and the Arctic over this period. He discovered the last link of the Northwest Passage. In 2002 Ken McGoogan authored “Fatal Passage,” an account of Rae’s explorations.
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1847 Jun 11
A written record was found in 1859, indicating that Sir John Franklin died on this day, and that Erebus and Terror were abandoned in April 1848. The crews' deaths have been attributed to either scurvy or lead poisoning originating from the solder on food tins. Both ships and the remains of most of the 129 crewmen have never been found. After commissioning three unsuccessful search expeditions, the British Admiralty posted a reward for anyone who could ascertain the fate of the crewmen of the HMS Erebus and Terror, who had sailed from England in May 1845 to navigate through the Arctic and find the elusive Northwest passage. Success was anticipated with Franklin commanding well-equipped crews and ships, but by 1847, the British Admiralty had received no reports of Franklin. Subsequent expeditions found evidence of the Franklin Expedition. Three graves dug into the permafrost were discovered in 1850 on Devon Island, their headstones dated 1846. In 2010 Anthony Brandt authored “The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage.” The book pivoted around explorer John Franklin (1786-1847).
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1848 Apr
The British ships Erebus and Terror of the Franklin Expedition to the Arctic were abandoned [see Franklin expedition 1850]. Wreckage of the HMS Erebus was found in 2014. Wreckage of the HMS Terror was found in 2016.
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1850 May
An American expedition, organized by shipping magnate Henry Grinnell, departed to the Canadian Arctic to search for Sir John Franklin and his 1845 Expedition. In late August it joined with British rescue ships. They soon found 3 graves dug into the permafrost of Beechey Island with headstones dated 1846. A written record was found in 1859, indicating that Franklin died on June 11, 1847, and that Erebus and Terror were abandoned in April 1848. The crews’ deaths have been attributed to either scurvy or lead poisoning originating from the solder on food tins. Both ships and the remains of most of the 129 crewmen have never been found.
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1853 May 30
The 2nd Grinnell Expedition, authorized by the US Congress in March, departed from New York to search for a more direct route to the Polar Sea. It was led by US Navy surgeon Elisha Kent Kane, who had taken part in the first 1850 Grinnell Expedition, which succeeded in finding evidence of the 1845 Arctic expedition of Sir John Franklin. Kane and his men were forced to abandon their ship in 1855. they were rescued by a Danish ship and returned to New York in October 11, 1855.
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1854
The Investigator, deployed in 1850 with a 66-man crew, was abandoned after being locked in the grip of Arctic ice for two winters. The crew, led by Captain Robert John LeMesurier McClure, left behind a cache of equipment and provisions on the shore of what is now part of Aulavik National Park. The British ship was sent to search for two lost vessels that were part of Sir John Franklin's ill-fated 1845 Royal Navy expedition to discover the Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic to the Pacific through Canada's Arctic archipelago. Canadian archeologists discovered the wreckage of the ship in 2010 at the remote Mercy Bay site in the Northwest Territories.
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1857 Feb 16
Elisha Kent Kane (b.1820), US Navy surgeon and Arctic explorer, died of a stroke in Cuba.
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1866 Aug 8
African-American Matthew Alexander Henson was born in Maryland. He and four Inuits accompanied U.S. Naval Commander Robert E. Peary when he planted the U.S. flag at the North Pole on April 6, 1909. Henson became an Arctic expert during Peary's first two failed expeditions. By the third attempt, which began in July 1908, Henson's strength, knowledge of the Eskimo language and dog driving skills made him an essential member of the team. Whether Peary's party actually reached the North Pole or missed it by as much as 60 miles due to a navigational miscalculation remains controversial to this day.
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1879 Jul 8
The steamship USS Jeannette under Lt. George W. De Long departed San Francisco on an expedition to reach the North Pole. [see June 12, 1881]
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1881 Jun 12
The steamship USS Jeannette sank under ice during an expedition to reach the North Pole. The crew, having abandoned the ship, prepared 3 lifeboats in an attempt to reach Siberia. Less than half survived. Chief engineer George W. Melville (d.1912) made it back to NYC on Sep 13, 1883, and in 1900 became engineer in chief of the US Navy. In 2014 Hampton Sides authored “In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette.”
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1881 Jul
US Army Lt. Augustus W. Greely led a scientific expedition to Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic and called the site Ft. Conger. 25 American soldiers set forth to establish a scientific base in the Arctic. There were only 6 survivors. In 2000 Leonard Gurttridge authored "Ghosts of Cape Sabine," which told their story.
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1897 Jul 14
Swede Saloman Andrée (b.1854)) and 2 accomplices, Knute Fraenkle and Nils Strindberg, in the Ornen balloon were forced down after 64 hours in the first expedition to fly by balloon from Spitsbergen across the North Pole. Their attempt to return ended on White Island. Their fate was only discovered Aug 5-6, 1930, by Norwegian whalers.
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1897
Swede Saloman Andrée attempted the first expedition to fly by balloon across the North Pole. The fate of the venture was only discovered Aug 5, 1930.
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1905 Aug 19
Roald Amundsen and his crew of 6 aboard Gjøe, a converted herring boat, made contact with the US Coast Guard cutter Bear, which confirmed their crossing the Northwest Passage following a 26-month journey. Amundsen continued by dogsled to the Yukon while his crew completed their journey at Point Bonita, California, just outside the Golden Gate.
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1906 Oct 19
The crew of Roald Amundsen aboard Gjoe, a converted herring boat, arrived off the coast of San Francisco following their crossing of the Northwest Passage in a 26-month journey.
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1908 Apr 21
Arctic explorer Frederick A. Cook claimed to have discovered the North Pole a year ahead of Peary. Many historians suspect that neither explorer succeeded. The term “Dr. Cook weather” refers to an incident where Dr. Cook once left a chilly New York baseball game after which the city papers trumpeted; “Game called, even too cold for Dr. Cook.” Cook's assertion was later proved false. In 2005 Bruce Henderson authored “True North: Peary, Cook, and the Race to the Pole.” [see Apr 6, 1909]
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1908 Jul 6
Robert Peary's expedition sailed from NYC for north pole.
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1909 Apr 6
Explorers Robert E. Peary, Matthew A. Henson and four Inuits became the first men to reach the North Pole along with 4 Eskimos. Peary used Ellesmere Island as a base for his expedition to the North Pole. The north coast of Ellesmere lies just 480 miles from the Pole. He was accompanied by Matthew Henson, an African-American, who had spent 18 years in the Arctic with Peary. The claim was disputed by skeptics and in 1988 the original navigational records were uncovered from the dog-sled voyage indicating that Peary probably never got closer than 121 miles from the North Pole. In 1989 the Navigation Foundation upheld that Peary reached the North Pole.
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1920
The first Arctic onshore oil wells were sunk in Canada’s Mackenzie River valley.
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1921
Vilhjalmur Stefansson organized an expedition to the Arctic Wrangel Island and became trapped there with 3 companions and an Eskimo seamstress named Ada Blackjack. In 2003 Jennifer Niver authored "Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic."
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1925
An unusual first of sorts took place as two nations tried to reach the North Pole by air. Norway’s all-out effort was made by a team composed of the first explorer to reach the South Pole, Roald Amundsen, and a rich young American adventurer, Lincoln Ellsworth. The attempt by the United States was on the hidden agenda of a relatively unknown naval aviator (Richard Byrd) who was eager to try such a flight during an expedition on which he had teamed up with a well-known Arctic explorer (Donald B. MacMillan) who wanted no part of an attempt to reach the pole. The MacMillan Arctic Expedition marked the first productive use of aircraft in Arctic exploration and also brought aviator-explorer Richard Byrd into the national limelight.
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1926 May 9
Americans Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett made the first flight over the North Pole. [see 1888-1957, Byrd] Two teams of aviators competed to be the first to fly over the North Pole. American Navy Lt. Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd and pilot Floyd Bennett claimed victory when they circled the North Pole. But even today experts suspect that faulty navigation caused Byrd to miss the North Pole. Later archivists determined that Byrd was probably 150 miles short of the pole. His tri-motor Fokker monoplane named Josephine Ford probably came within 2.25 degrees of the pole.
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1926 May 11
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen launched the dirigible Norge on a planned flight, not merely over the pole, but all the way across the Arctic to Alaska. Byrd and Bennett in their Josephine Ford plane briefly accompanied Norge in a gesture of goodwill.
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1926 May 12
Italian Col. Umberto Nobile of the Italian army piloted his Norge dirigible over the North Pole with Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.
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1926 May 14
Amundsen reached Alaska.
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1928 May 23
Italian Gen. Nobile reached the North Pole for a 2nd time with a 16-man crew aboard the dirigible Italia.
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1928 May 24
The dirigible Italia crashed while attempting to reach Spitzbergen. Nine men survived the initial crash. In 2000 Wilbur Cross authored "Disaster at the Pole," a revised edition of the 1960 version of the disaster led by Italian aviator Umberto Nobile. The Russian film "Krasnaya palatka" (1969), starring Sean Connery, detailed the Nobile expedition and attempted rescue. This movie was released in North America under the title "The Red Tent."
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1928 Jun 3
An amateur radio operator in Archangel, Russian, picked up a distress signal from the crew of the Italia and reported the crew’s location. A 2nd report from an American amateur changed the location and proved to be a hoax.
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1928 Jun 17
The 1st airplanes appeared in the vicinity of the Italia crew.
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1928 Jun 18
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen (b.1872) flew to the North Pole with a crew of rescuers to search for the survivors of the dirigible Italia. They were never seen again.
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1928 Jun 20
A plane passed overhead and dropped provisions to the Italia crew.
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1928 Jun 23
A small Swedish military plane under Lt. Einar-Paul Lundborg landed with skis and took Gen. Nobile back to Spitzbergen. Lundborg then flew back for another pickup but crashed on landing and was trapped with the Italia survivors.
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1928 Jul 6
Lundborg’s navigator returned to the Arctic with a smaller plane and picked up Lt. Lundborg.
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1928 Jul 11
The Russian icebreaker Krassin picked up 2 Italia crew members, who had tried to trek to land.
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1928 Jul 12
The Russian icebreaker Krassin rescued the rest of the dirigible Italia crew members. In 1969 Gary Hogg authored ”Airship Over the Pole: The Story of the Italia.” In 2000 Wilbur Cross authored “Disaster at the Pole.”
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1930 Aug 5
The Norwegian steamer Bratvaag anchored near the inhospitable shores of White Island on the far northeastern tip of Spitsbergen. Harpooners Olaf Salen and Carl Tusvik had gone ashore to skin walrus, when they suddenly kicked a rusted tin can. After examining the relic, they hastily searched their immediate area. Protruding from a snow bank was the darkened prow of a small boat with a boathook sticking out. Precisely painted letters on the wood were still legible: "Andrée's Polar Expedition of 1897."
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1931 Aug 28
Hubert Wilkins, Australian explorer, reached within 550 miles of the North Pole in the submarine Nautilus.
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1942 Jun 27
The Allied Convoy PQ-17 left Iceland for Murmansk and Archangel. As their escorts turned away, the ships of the doomed Allied convoy PQ-17 followed orders and began to disperse in the Arctic waters.
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1944 Jan 28
Matthew Henson received a joint medal from Congress as co-discoverer of the North Pole.
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1951 May 29
C.F. Blair became the 1st man to fly over the North Pole flight in single engine plane.
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1952 May 3
The first airplane landed at geographic North Pole. It was a ski-modified U.S. Air Force C-47, piloted by Lieutenant Colonel William P. Benedict (d.1974) of California and Lieutenant Colonel Joseph O. Fletcher of Oklahoma. In 2002 Charles B. Compton authored "Born to Fly: Some Life Sketches of Lieutenant Colonel William P. Benedict."
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1958 Aug 1
The US atomic sub USS Nautilus 1st dove under the North Pole.
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1958 Aug 3
The nuclear-powered submarine USS Nautilus became the first vessel to cross the North Pole underwater. The Nautilus was decommissioned in 1980 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982.
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