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Picture Library catalogue: Cambridge East Greenland Expedition, 1933

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Cambridge East Greenland Expedition, 1933

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The Cambridge East Greenland Expedition, 1933 was primarily a zoological project. The group consisted of three members only: Colin Bertram and David Lack, both zoologists and Brian Roberts organiser and surveyor.
The aim of the expedition was to make an ecological survey in an area in East Greenland as a comparison with those already made in other Arctic regions: West Greenland (1928), Iceland (1932), Bear Island (1921 and 1932) and Spitsbergen (1921-25). They also proposed to investigate the effects of low temperatures upon the geographical distribution of animals in the Arctic. The study of temperature conditions in the different localities, and the animals found there would enable them to discover the temperature ranges they can withstand. The object of the work was to test the ability of animal life to withstand the conditions of glaciation. Roberts also wanted to follow up observations on the feeding habits of birds begun during the Cambridge Expedition to Vatnajökull (Iceland), 1932.
After time spent in Iceland visiting Myvatn (Fly Lake), Dettifoss Iceland’s largest waterfall, and Grίmsey carrying out ornithological observations, the expedition joined the 'Pourquoi Pas?' at Akureyri, North Iceland on 18 July 1933. They travelled on board the relief ship of the French Polar Year Expedition as the guests of Dr Jean-Baptiste Charcot, who generously offered them passage to Scoresby Sound on board ‘Pourquoi Pas?’ The arrangement was that they should be taken to Hurry Inlet, a subsidiary fjord running 40 miles northwards from Scoresby Sound, and left there for as long as possible. They left Akureyri in the 'Pourquoi Pas?' on 24 July and three days later reached the edge of the pack-ice 110 miles from Cape Brewster, the southern headland at the entrance of Scoresby Sound. They encountered fog and had to change direction but on 28 July, they anchored opposite an Inuit settlement in Rosenvinge Bay, spending five days at this location. The expedition members were able to visit the Inuit settlement whilst waiting for the evacuation of the Polar Year party station. They arrived at Hurry Inlet on 2 August and it was arranged that the ship would collect them again on around 15 August. The area was well suited to their aims, in that it was said to have the richest vegetation in the whole of East Greenland. They set up base camp in a narrow sandy gully at the northern end of the delta. The location was not the best, but a gale had made it impossible to choose a good landing place. The short time that they had there and the following good weather that they experienced, allowed them to concentrate on their work. Lack spent most of his time making a large collection of insects and spiders. Bertram visited all the ponds and streams in the district and investigated the fresh water fauna. Although, most of his time was taken up with experimenting on the reactions of insects to low temperatures. Roberts spent most of his time with a compass survey of the area in which they worked, and ornithology. They wrote up their notes every evening around a campfire at the base camp.
By 8 August, they had covered most of the country within reach of their base camp, and they started out across the fjord in their dingy named ‘Phalarope’. They sailed to the Fame Islands and then to Liverpool Land, where they found a good anchorage at the mouth of the river flowing from Kalkdalen (Limestone Valley). They followed up the river and about 5 miles from the sea a glacier descended from the icecap and widened out into a broad fan-shaped tongue from which the river issued. From the Fame Islands, they had seen a nunatak about 6miles in from the edge of the icecap, and they easily managed to reach this by ascending the glacier and walking across the intervening snow. A long climb brought them to the summit and they were able to carry out their plan of searching for any fauna, which might be present. From the top of the nunatak, they had a very good view of the surrounding landscape and could see much of the topographical environment in which they were located. They returned to their camp the following day and sailed back to Constable Point, arriving on 12 August. Another boat journey to Liverpool Land 13-15 August enabled them to collect specimens from the two glacier valleys south of Kalkdalen. They were back at Constable Point again on 15 August and on the morning of the 17 August, ‘Pourquoi Pas?’ was sighted near the mouth of Hurry Inlet.
Owing to a gale delaying their journey, one of the ship’s boats picked them up the following day, 18 August. After further visits to the Inuit settlement, they steamed out of the bay early on 19 August. Heavy pack ice caused some concern on the journey back through Scoresby Sound, but once they were out into open sea, conditions were excellent and Charcot decided to sail down the Blosseville Coast south of Scoresby Sound. They visited Cape Dalton and D’Aunay Fjord on the way back and reached Reykjavik, Iceland only 36 hours after leaving the Greenland coast. They spent six days in Iceland, and although Charcot was making for Brest, he arranged to put them ashore on the west coast of Scotland and they dropped anchor in Tobermoray Bay in the Sound of Mull on 2 September 1933.

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Data in this catalogue was last updated on Friday, 8th December 2017.