ExploreNorth, your resource center for exploring the circumpolar North

Return to the Home Page The ExploreNorth Blog About ExploreNorth Contact ExploreNorth

Search ExploreNorth

Dr. Antony Varicle's proposed North Pole expedition, 1905

Dr. Antony Varicle

Westmoreland Signal (Westmoreland, Kansas) - Friday, November 24, 1905

Arctic 'Trial Trip'. Party Plans to Experiment in the Yukon, 1905

    Imbued with the idea that the conquest of the north pole can only be accomplished by explorers who have become acclimated to the rigors of the arctic winter and who have had long practice with the management of dog sledges, a party of hardy ones in Dawson City, the metropolis of the Yukon district, has given an appreciative ear to the project of Dr. Antony Varicle, a Frenchman at present a resident of Dawson, who is said to be an inventor and an ardent student of polar research.

    His plans as described to a meeting of citizens of Dawson recently do not lack novelty and it is reported that Gen. Greely, who has been in the arctics himself on a memorable expedition, has declared the scheme is well founded. Certainly, he admitted the correctness of the judgment of the French explorer in deciding to make a trial trip, as it were, in the Yukon district the coming winter, where the stage is set very like the setting in the neighborhood of the pole and the experiments will be within reach of civilization.

Dr. Varicle's North Pole expedition, 1905 - the proposed route

    The real start, as reported, is to be made in June next year, so that Commander Peary need not fear keen competition as he nears his goal, for he will have had almost a year's start.

    It is the contention of the new north pole seekers that the expeditions of all former polar explorers or pole seekers have been conducted on anything but lines that would be approved by the northern travelers of experience. Yukoners found many weak points in the methods of travel, equipment and composition of nearly every polar expedition of the past.

    One contention which they think is a serious defect is that nearly every expedition sent to the arctic thus far has been composed of sailors, men who are useless on land or anywhere but aboard ship.

    It is the object and plan of Dr. Varicle to draw the great contrast right here. He will have none but the most experienced northern mushers and travelers and none but most experienced and best trained heavy Yukon dogs.

    The question of fuel and sufficient supplies to carry the expedition across the ice is the stickler. Varicle proposed to overcome this with an auxiliary expedition of mules. He can make the mules last 130 days or more by killing a mule every few days for food. The carcass of each mule killed will be converted into dog food. Varicle plans to take thirty mules and thus to supply no end of dog food. The food hauled by one mule will be fed to all the mules until the supply on the one sleigh is exhausted. Then the first mule will be killed and his carcass given to the dogs. The second mule will suffer likewise, and so on down the line until the last few mules will be many days along the route before their time will come. With ten mules, 139 days would elapse before the last mule would be killed.

    By thus supplying the dogs with mule meat each dog will have nothing to haul but supplies for the men. The knowledge of Nansen's great success with the oil burner will be utilized. No artificial heat will be needed for bodies. The oil will be only for cooking purposes. Yukoners often travel many weeks, sleeping under the open sky, with the temperature 40 to 50 or more degrees below, with only a fur robe for a bed.

Dr. Varicle's North Pole expedition, 1905 - helping out the dogs

    Varicle plans to make an experiment of a trip of several thousand miles in the Yukon basin the coming winter over rough ice, with an unbroken trail. If he can average only ten miles a day in the polar wastes he believes he will succeed.

    His plan is to start from Grant land, the base of Peary's coming poleward dash, and to dash over the ice 700 miles to the pole and then continue 600 more to Franz Josef land, at right angles to Grant land, and to make the journey in about 130 days or less. Ships will make connections at both ends and each ship will be equipped with wireless telegraph apparatus, with which the travelers can communicate when within proper distance of the ship. It is expected the wireless will help to locate the ship without delay.

    Many variations of the above article appeared in dozens of newspapers - that is the longest version of the story. About half of the newspapers used the dramatic header below.

A Yukon Expedition to the North Pole, 1905