The Greatest Show in the Arctic: The American Exploration of Franz Josef Land, 1898–1905 (American Exploration and Travel Series)

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9780806152226: The Greatest Show in the Arctic: The American Exploration of Franz Josef Land, 1898–1905 (American Exploration and Travel Series)


In Gilded Age America, Arctic explorers were fabulous celebrities—assured of riches and near-immortality so long as they reached the North Pole first. Of the many attempts to meet that goal, three American expeditions, launched from the Russian archipelago of Franz Josef Land, ended in abject failure, their exploits consigned to near-oblivion. Even so, these ventures—the Wellman expedition (1898–99), the Baldwin-Ziegler (1901–2), and the Fiala-Ziegler (1903–5)—have much to tell us about the personalities, politics, and economics of exploration in their day. In The Greatest Show in the Arctic, the first book to chronicle all three expeditions, P. J. Capelotti explores what went right and what, in the end, went tragically wrong.

The cast of colorful characters from the Franz Josef Land forays included Walter Wellman, a Chicago journalist and bon vivant running from debts, his mistress, and an illegitimate daughter; Evelyn Briggs Baldwin, a deranged meteorologist with a fetish for balloons and a passion for Swedish conserves; and Anthony Fiala, a pious photographer in search of God in the Arctic. Featuring an international cast of supporting characters worthy of a three-ring circus, The Greatest Show in the Arctic follows each of the three expeditions in turn, from spectacular feats of financing to their bitter ends. Along the way, the explorers accumulated considerable geographic knowledge and left a legacy of place-names.

Through close study of the expeditions’ journals, Capelotti reveals that the Franz Josef Land endeavors foundered chiefly because of poor leadership and internal friction, not for lack of funding, as historians have previously suspected. Presenting tales of noble intentions, novel inventions, and epic miscalculations, The Greatest Show in the Arctic brings fresh life to a unique and underappreciated story of American exploration.

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About the Author:

P. J. Capelotti, Professor of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University, is author or editor of numerous books on history and archaeology, including Shipwreck at Cape Flora: The Expeditions of Benjamin Leigh Smith, England’s Forgotten Arctic Explorer and Life and Death on the Greenland Patrol, 1942.

Review:

"[Capelotti's] book is an excellent read that has the makings of a script for a dramatic film. For the discerning scholar, it is an essential work for further research on an increasingly important region in the High Arctic all too frequently passed over or simplified in mainstream historiography of polar geography and exploration."

-Aant Elzinga, Polar Research

"Capelotti's purpose is to describe what happened and analyze why the expeditions failed so abysmally. Thanks to access to new source material and close reading of the correspondence, the author acts like a detective on the trail of the various expeditions, from the political background to the treacherous ice to the incompetent leadership. This is no hero story, but more often it has the aspect of a doomed plot. With the key at times the logistical details - the number of polar bears shot, killed and slaughtered sled dogs and ponies all presented with chilling objectivity - Capelotti evokes a picture of both astonishing dedication and icy futility."

-Torgny Nordin, Svenska Dagbladet

A "succession of engagingly written and sometimes brilliantly researched volumes has produced new and detailed accounts of one expedition after another, enriching the official published and archival resources with newsprint, memorabilia and the letters and diaries of participants preserved by their descendants.  Peter Capelotti is one such exploration historian, who in 2013 published Shipwreck at Cape Flora, a fine account of the five voyages of the British amateur yachtsman Benjamin Leigh Smith to Svalbard and Franz Josef Land in the 1870s and 80s. Now he has written an even more impressive portrayal of three more expeditions to [Franz Josef Land]...  And P. J. Capelotti is surely right in attributing the disabling paralysis of indecision that overcame all three leaders to their growing realization of the appalling gap between the breezy promises they had made in New York and the physical and mental reality of a long-distance dogsled journey over sea ice. It was a gap that none of them ever came close to bridging."

-Jonathan Dore, Times Literary Supplement

"painstaking research ... that has uncovered the remarkable intricacies of  the American exploration of Franz Josef Land"

-William Barr, Arctic Book Review

"P.J. Capelotti's latest book seems a natural outgrowth and culminationof interests that have occupied him for a number of years... Therefore,Capelotti (Professor of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University,Abington campus) is eminently qualified to write this thorough study ofthe three American expeditions that attempted to reach the North Polefrom the remote islands above Arctic Russia. He does not disappoint."

-Robert M. Bryce, Polar Record

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Book Description University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2016. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 640 pages. Hardcover with dustjacket. New book. ARCTIC. In Gilded Age America, Arctic explorers were fabulous celebritiesÑassured of riches and near-immortality so long as they reached the North Pole first. Of the many attempts to meet that goal, three American expeditions, launched from the Russian archipelago of Franz Josef Land, ended in abject failure, their exploits consigned to near-oblivion. Even so, these venturesÑthe Wellman expedition (1898-99), the Baldwin-Ziegler (1901-2), and the Fiala-Ziegler (1903-5)Ñhave much to tell us about the personalities, politics, and economics of exploration in their day. In The Greatest Show in the Arctic, the first book to chronicle all three expeditions, P. J. Capelotti explores what went right and what, in the end, went tragically wrong. The cast of colorful characters from the Franz Josef Land forays included Walter Wellman, a Chicago journalist and bon vivant running from debts, his mistress, and an illegitimate daughter; Evelyn Briggs Baldwin, a deranged meteorologist with a fetish for balloons and a passion for Swedish conserves; and Anthony Fiala, a pious photographer in search of God in the Arctic. Featuring an international cast of supporting characters worthy of a three-ring circus, The Greatest Show in the Arctic follows each of the three expeditions in turn, from spectacular feats of financing to their bitter ends. Along the way, the explorers accumulated considerable geographic knowledge and left a legacy of place-names. P. J. Capelotti, Professor of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University, is author or editor of numerous books on history and archaeology, including Shipwreck at Cape Flora: The Expeditions of Benjamin Leigh Smith, England's Forgotten Arctic Explorer and Life and Death on the Greenland Patrol, 1942. Through close study of the expeditions' journals, Capelotti reveals that the Franz Josef Land endeavors foundered chiefly because of poor leadership and internal friction, not for lack of funding, as historians have previously suspected. Presenting tales of noble intentions, novel inventions, and epic miscalculations, The Greatest Show in the Arctic brings fresh life to a unique and underappreciated story of American exploration. 33 black-and-white Illustrations, 10 maps. (Key Words: Arctic, Exploration, Franz Josef Land, P. J. Capelotti, United States History). Volume 82 in American Exploration and Travel Serie. book. Bookseller Inventory # 86747X2

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Book Description University of Oklahoma Press, United States, 2016. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In Gilded Age America, Arctic explorers were fabulous celebrities--assured of riches and near-immortality so long as they reached the North Pole first. Of the many attempts to meet that goal, three American expeditions, launched from the Russian archipelago of Franz Josef Land, ended in abject failure, their exploits consigned to near-oblivion. Even so, these ventures--the Wellman expedition (1898-99), the Baldwin-Ziegler (1901-2), and the Fiala-Ziegler (1903-5)--have much to tell us about the personalities, politics, and economics of exploration in their day. In The Greatest Show in the Arctic, the first book to chronicle all three expeditions, P. J. Capelotti explores what went right and what, in the end, went tragically wrong. The cast of colorful characters from the Franz Josef Land forays included Walter Wellman, a Chicago journalist and bon vivant running from debts, his mistress, and an illegitimate daughter; Evelyn Briggs Baldwin, a deranged meteorologist with a fetish for balloons and a passion for Swedish conserves; and Anthony Fiala, a pious photographer in search of God in the Arctic. Featuring an international cast of supporting characters worthy of a three-ring circus, The Greatest Show in the Arctic follows each of the three expeditions in turn, from spectacular feats of financing to their bitter ends. Along the way, the explorers accumulated considerable geographic knowledge and left a legacy of place-names. Through close study of the expeditions journals, Capelotti reveals that the Franz Josef Land endeavors foundered chiefly because of poor leadership and internal friction, not for lack of funding, as historians have previously suspected. Presenting tales of noble intentions, novel inventions, and epic miscalculations, The Greatest Show in the Arctic brings fresh life to a unique and underappreciated story of American exploration. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780806152226

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Book Description University of Oklahoma Press, United States, 2016. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In Gilded Age America, Arctic explorers were fabulous celebrities--assured of riches and near-immortality so long as they reached the North Pole first. Of the many attempts to meet that goal, three American expeditions, launched from the Russian archipelago of Franz Josef Land, ended in abject failure, their exploits consigned to near-oblivion. Even so, these ventures--the Wellman expedition (1898-99), the Baldwin-Ziegler (1901-2), and the Fiala-Ziegler (1903-5)--have much to tell us about the personalities, politics, and economics of exploration in their day. In The Greatest Show in the Arctic, the first book to chronicle all three expeditions, P. J. Capelotti explores what went right and what, in the end, went tragically wrong. The cast of colorful characters from the Franz Josef Land forays included Walter Wellman, a Chicago journalist and bon vivant running from debts, his mistress, and an illegitimate daughter; Evelyn Briggs Baldwin, a deranged meteorologist with a fetish for balloons and a passion for Swedish conserves; and Anthony Fiala, a pious photographer in search of God in the Arctic. Featuring an international cast of supporting characters worthy of a three-ring circus, The Greatest Show in the Arctic follows each of the three expeditions in turn, from spectacular feats of financing to their bitter ends. Along the way, the explorers accumulated considerable geographic knowledge and left a legacy of place-names. Through close study of the expeditions journals, Capelotti reveals that the Franz Josef Land endeavors foundered chiefly because of poor leadership and internal friction, not for lack of funding, as historians have previously suspected. Presenting tales of noble intentions, novel inventions, and epic miscalculations, The Greatest Show in the Arctic brings fresh life to a unique and underappreciated story of American exploration. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780806152226

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