Meet the Explorers
Let’s meet the members of Fort Conger’s three most famous expeditions:
The British Arctic Expedition (1875-76)
The return to power of Benjamin Disraeli in 1874 brought with it a new interest in polar exploration by the British Admiralty. Decades earlier, the objective of arctic expeditions had been the Northwest Passage. Now, it was science that compelled the British to head north again – along with the possibility of reaching the North Pole! On May 29, 1875, HMS Alert and HMS Discovery set sail from Portsmouth with a combined crew of 120 officers, seamen and marines.
Captain Henry Frederik Stephanson, born June 7, 1842
Captain of HMS Discovery, overwintered in 1875-76 at Discovery Harbor, Ellesmere Island, which would later become home to the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition and Robert Peary. As a result of his contributions to the British Arctic Expedition, Stephanson was appointed a Companion to the Order of the Bath.
Captain George S. Nares, born April 24, 1831
Captain of HMS Alert and commander of the British Arctic Expedition. Nares gained experience in the Arctic as second mate of HMS Resolute, which under the command of Sir Edward Belcher, had been sent in search of the lost Franklin Expedition. The effects of scurvy, coupled with a lack of adequate equipment, led Nares to return to England a year earlier than planned. This resulted in a Parliamentary Investigation, which concluded that Nares had not provided properly for his men. In was concluded by the Committee of Inquiry that greater use of lime juice and fresh game meat from Ellesmere Island would have been needed to avoid the devastating effects of scurvy on the crews. Nevertheless, the expedition was hailed by many as a success, due to the scientific work completed, and the attainment of a farthest north record. Nares was made a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (1879) and appointed as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (1878).
Dr. Edward Lawson Moss
Expedition surgeon. Also known for his skills as an artist. Moss played an essential role in caring for members of the expedition suffering from the effects of scurvy.
Lieutenant Pelham Aldrich, born December 8, 1844
Commanded a sledging party charged with exploring the northern coast of Ellesmere Island.
Commander Albert Hastings Markham, born November 11, 1841
Second in command of the HMS Alert, and commander of a sledging party that attained a farthest north record (83° 20' 26"N), despite suffering from the effects of scurvy. This record would stand until bettered by members of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition.
Christian Peterson and Hans Hendrik.
Greenlandic guides and hunters. The skills and knowledge of these individuals played an essential role in the expedition. Both were able to secure fresh meat, which helped mitigate the effects of scurvy during the sledging expeditions. Several expedition members credited Hendrik with saving the lives of many men, commenting at length on his hunting and dog driving skills, untiring energy, and appreciation of the needs of the sick.