German South Pole Expedition
• Report by Karl about the Kerguelen expedition at the 14th German Geographer's Meeting in Berlin (1903)
The Gauss was a well known polar ship which brought the German South Pole Expedition to Antartica for the journey of 1901-1903.
Two big expeditions took simultaneously place: An English one under command from Captain Scott on the "Discovery" and a German one led by
Drgyalski on the "Gauss". They started within 5 days from one another from Europe and were meant to complement one another while inspecting
differnt sectors of Antartica.
The ship's name was chosen to honor the famous mathematician Karl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) who also worked on the terrestrial magnetism, indicating
his important contribution to the austral exploration.
The Gauss was constructed in the shipyard of Kiel from 1899 to 1901 and had 3 masts while being 46 m long and 6.3 m wide. She was equipped with a
coal motor that was essential for navigation on ice. The iron parts were substituted as far as possible by bronce ones so as not to disturb the
magnetic measurements. The tripulation consisted of 32 sailors and 5 officers. The leadership of the German South Pole Expedition was conferred to
Erich von Drygalski (1865-1949), a renowned geophycicist and glaciologist. The scientists of the group were: Ernst Vanhôffen, zoologist;
Hans Gazert, physician and bacteriologist; Emil Philippi, geologist; Friedrich Bidlingmaier, meteorologist and geomagnetologist. To this group came a
second one which sailed via Australia and was supposed to remain stationed at the Kerguelen Islands for one year: Emil Werth, botanist, Josef Enzensperger,
meteorologist; Karl Luyken, technician. It was intended that this group would be picked up by the Gauss on its journey
The Gauss started from Kiel on August 11th 1901. She arrived at the Crozet Islands the oncoming December 25th. All scientists went off board
on Possession Island for a couple of hours gathering rock and vegetal specimens. Afterwards, on January 2nd 1902, the Gauss entered Royal Pass on
the Kerguelens and met the small group of 3 scientists that had arrived already two months before. These three scientists, who came via Sydney, brought
equipment, coal and sled dogs for the Gauss. In the Gulf of Morbihan they had settled at the ancient English astronomical station
form 1874 on Observatory Bay. With them were a mechanic and a cook. Chinese coolies brought from Sydney got sick; some of them died, the others were sent
back to Australia.
This group, which stayed on the Kerguelens, was meant to make meteorological and geomagnetical measurements.
The Gauss loaded all material which was meant for her, 20 dogs (the same number rested at Kerguelen), coal and fuel supplement made of ...
On January 31st 1902 the Gauss started on her polar mission. But she arrived too late in Antratica and stuck in pack ice from February 22nd
1902 to February 8th 1903. She came back to Kerguelen on April 19th 1903, 15 months after her departure, to pick up the second group. But at
Observatory Bay there was nobody! After reaching the Cap on the following June 10th Drygalski learned about the tragedy that had struck.
At the beginning of the southern hemisphere summer 1902-1903 the group had got sick. E. Werth was the first struck, then Enzensperger. It was beri-beri.
After gruel suffering which he wrote down in his personal journal, Enzensperger died February 2nd 1903. Werth was saved by a ship thet arrived April 1st
1903 from Australia and took the rest of the group back to Sydney. The exact cause of the epidemy is not known to this day.
The Gauss arrived at Kiel December 1st 1903. This beautiful ship built for polar navigation could not be conserved. To pay for a part of the cost
of the expedition it was selled to Canada to serve at Hudson Bay after being renamed for "Artic".
It took Drygalski more than 25 years from 1905 to 1930 to publish the results of the expedition: 20 volumes with results and 2 atlases. Drygalski died
1949 with the bitter feeling that his expedition was not taken notice of at cost of the huge world-wide success of Scott.
On the southern islands at the northern coast of the Gulf of Morbihan remain some tombs of the chinese coolies, crosses with rice stems and
besides the stella of Enzensperger: Nobody has found them as of now. Were they lost to the gravel or to a regrettable act of vandalism?
Bibliothèque de France