Happy 149th Birthday, Evelyn Briggs Baldwin

Evelyn Briggs Baldwin, who served as second-in-command of the 1898-1899 Wellman expedition to Franz Josef Land, and who led the Baldwin-Ziegler Polar Expedition in Franz Josef Land in 1901-1902, was born in Springfield, Missouri, on July 22, 149 years ago.

E.B. Baldwin, 1862-1933

E.B. Baldwin graduated with a Master of Arts degree in 1885 from what is now known as North Central College in Naperville, a school founded in the early 19th century by evangelical Methodists.  After travels in Europe, a large-wheeled bicycle tour of southern California, and a stint on the lecture tour, Baldwin took a position as school principal in Oswego, Kansas.  After five years, Baldwin went to work as an Assistant Observer for the U.S. Weather Bureau.

In 1893, Baldwin signed on as meteorologist for Peary’s second expedition to North Greenland.  At Anniversary Lodge on the shores of Bowdoin Bay, Baldwin kept notes on weather and auroral phenomena from August 3, 1893 to August 1, 1894.  On a trip across the Bowdoin Glacier in the summer of 1894, Baldwin described the sensations felt when the mass of ice began to move.  “Quick, sharp, deep-tingling, ringing, shrieking sounds frightful enough, came, not as sound usually does, horizontally, but vertically up to our ears, seeming to vibrate through our feet, our limbs, our very bodies, spitefully shouting in our ears…”

Baldwin's diary from the 1898-1899 Wellman expedition, edited by P.J. Capelotti, available from McFarland Publishers

On his return from Greenland, Baldwin’s description of Peary’s efforts as a “partial failure … clearly owing to inadequate provisions and equipment,” led to a permanent rift with Peary.  In an attempt to strike out on expeditions of his own, Baldwin in 1896 published The Search for the North Pole, a 520-page history of Arctic exploration and fund-raising tract. Baldwin’s purpose was to show how private and corporate sponsorship had led to geographic and natural resource discoveries redounding to the eternal fame of the sponsor.

The next to last chapter of Baldwin’s book was devoted to the just-announced Andrée polar balloon expedition. In the summer of 1897, Baldwin made his second journey to the Arctic, this time to Svalbard on board the tourist steamer Lofoten, captained by Otto N.K. Sverdrup, captain of the Fram on Fridtjof Nansen’s three-year polar drift from 1893-96. Lofoten arrived at Danskøya two days after the departure of Andrée in his balloon—much to the dismay of Baldwin, who apparently intended to talk his way onto the expedition. Having just missed a chance to fly toward the North Pole, the idea of using aircraft in polar exploration was one that would fascinate Baldwin for the rest of his life.

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