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Low Road North: Sir Hubert Wilkins's 1931 Polar Expedition

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From the first efforts to locate the Northwest Passage in the 17th century to the flowering of arctic studies in the mid-20th century, European and American explorers and scientists have made repeated efforts to reach the North Pole. In 1931, Australian explorer Sir George Hubert Wilkins and a volunteer crew of submariners and scientists set out in a decommissioned U.S. Navy submarine to sail under water from Spitsbergen to the Bering Straits by way of the North Pole. Despite Wilkins's noble intentions, a late start and repeated mechanical problems prevented the Nautilus from ever reaching the North Pole.

This exhibition recounts Wilkins's expedition through the photograph scrapbook of Frank Blumberg, a Navy veteran and chief electrician on the expedition. His family donated Blumberg's scrapbook, consisting of both press and private photographs and related ephemera, to the American Philosophical Society in 1990. The Nautilus collection represents a small part of the material the APS Library holds on Arctic exploration, including the papers of Franz Boas (Baffinland expedition of 1883), Henry Bryant Grier (a geographer and member of the Arctic Club), Robert Fitzroy (the hydrographer), William Parker Foulke (a Philadelphia supporter of Elisha Kent Kane), and Henry Goodfellow (a sailor aboard Kane's voyage in the Advance).