“NANSEN’S FRAM AND AMUNDSEN’S MAUD WERE HELPLESS WHEN DRIFTING WITH THE ICE”: SIGNED LIMITED EDITION OF UNDER THE POLAR ICE, WILKINS’ PLAN TO EXPLORE THE NORTH POLE VIA SUBMARINE
WILKINS, George Hubert. Under the North Pole: The Wilkins-Ellsworth Submarine Expedition. [New York]: Brewer, Warren & Putnam, (1931). Octavo, original three-quarter blue cloth gilt, gray paper-covered boards, gray endpapers, top edge gilt, uncut. $2500.
Limited deluxe first edition of this plan to explore Arctic waters in a submarine, number 159 of 275 copies signed by expedition leader Wilkins and submariner Sloan Danenhower. With fine original silver gelatin photographic frontispiece portrait of Wilkins, one map, 30 photographic plates, and two plans. A beautiful copy.
Wilkins, a seasoned polar explorer and a veteran of the Australian Flying Corps, made his reputation when he “successfully carried out a remarkable program of pioneering air exploration which culminated in his historic flight with Carl Ben Eielson as pilot from Barrow in Alaska, eastward over the Arctic Ocean, to Spitsbergen, in April 1928… In 1931 came his famous venture by submarine in Arctic waters made with the twofold purpose of exploring the region from Spitsbergen westward via the North Pole to the Siberian coast and experimenting with the craft as a weather station, both above and below the ice and in radio contact with the outside world. A series of mishaps and mechanical breakdowns caused the expedition of the Nautilus to be abandoned, but not before it had been shown that a submarine could operate safely beneath the polar ice” (DNB). “A work unusual in Arctic literature, Wilkins’ volume anticipates rather than reports the 1931 expedition of the Nautilus, an under-ice polar experiment led by George Hubert Wilkins. Under the North Pole is a work of composite authorship put together by Wilkins and drawing on the best polar expertise available; with contributions by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Simon Lake, Sloan Danenhower, and Harald U. Sverdrup, with Wilkins contributing the chapters on the planning of the expedition. The volume also provides a facsimile of the prophetic chapter on under ice submarines in John Wilkins’ Mathematicall Magick (the 17th-century author was apparently an ancestor of this Wilkins). Advance publication proved a wise precaution in that the expedition itself was largely a failure, remaining under ice for scarcely one hour… The submarine (renamed Nautilus in homage to Jules Verne) was lent to the expedition by the United States Navy but suffered some mysterious mechanical damage en route to Europe… When it reached the ice Wilkins found that the crew had sabotaged the ship by disabling its diving rudders, but he did force the Nautilus under the ice via other means if only for a limited duration, far short of his goal of reaching Siberia via the lower depths of the North Pole” (Stam & Stam 8.5). Issued simultaneously in a “Contributor’s Edition” of 29 copies and in a trade edition. With errata slip. See Arctic Bibliography 19493; Fitzgerald 747.
A fine copy.