German Exploration of the Polar World (Hardcover)

A History, 1870-1940

By David Thomas Murphy

University of Nebraska Press, 9780803232051, 289pp.

Publication Date: June 1, 2002

List Price: 49.95*
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German Exploration of the Polar World is the exciting story of the generations of German polar explorers who braved the perils of the Arctic and Antarctic for themselves and their country. Such intrepid adventurers as Wilhelm Filchner, Erich von Drygalski, and Alfred Wegener are not as well known today as Robert Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton, Robert E. Peary, or Richard E. Byrd, but their bravery and the hardships they faced were equal to those of the more famous polar explorers.

In the half-century prior to World War II, the poles were the last blank spaces on the global map, and they exerted a tremendous pull on national imaginations. Under successive political regimes, the Germans threw themselves into the race for polar glory with an ardor that matched their better-known counterparts bearing English, American, and Norwegian flags. German polar explorers were driven, like their rivals, by a complex web of interlocking motivations. Personal fame, the romance of the unknown, and the advancement of science were important considerations, but public pressure, political and military concerns, and visions of immense, untapped wealth at the poles also spurred the explorers.

As historian David Thomas Murphy shows, Germany's repeated encounters with the polar world left an indelible impression upon the German public, government, and scientific community. Reports on the polar landscape, flora, and fauna enhanced Germany's appreciation of the global environment. Accounts of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic, accurate or fantastic, permanently shaped German notions of culture and civilization. The final, failed attempt by the Nazis to extend German political power to the earth's ends revealed the limits of any country's ability to reshape the globe politically or militarily.

About the Author

David Thomas Murphy is an associate professor of history and political science at Anderson University. He is the author of "The Heroic Earth: Geopolitical Thought in Weimar Germany, 1918-1933."

Praise For German Exploration of the Polar World: A History, 1870-1940

"This is the first comprehensive, analytical account of seven decades of German polar explorations. . . . Amply documented and very well written, the book fills a big gap in the literature."—Choice

“Throughout his discussions, Murphy displays an enviable ability to vary his scales of scrutiny, ranging seamlessly from the minutiae of hull dimensions, propeller specifications, and expedition provisioning, to the societal contexts of academic and commercial support for exploration. This makes for an exquisite blend. . . . German Exploration of the Polar World: a History, 1870-1940 is an attempt to examine polar exploration from a multi-dimensional perspective. In my opinion, it is only this perspective that can make clear the institutional and cultural and scientific fundamentals that have driven high-risk endeavors to the ends of the earth and it is regrettable that so few texts adopt this viewpoint. This book stands as an exemplar of how it should be done.”—Roger Balm, Terrae Incognitae
-Roger Balm

“Murphy’s writing is lively, and the fascinating stories of adventure and survival on the ice support his contention that the heroes of German polar endeavors deserve to be known alongside their British, American, and Scandinavian counterparts.”—Karen Oslund, Isis
-Karen Oslund

“Murphy writes a readable, suspenseful story of scientific adventure, the quest for fame, the test of leadership, detailed logical planning, and the physical stamina of those men (never women) who dared to cross deserts and steep mountains of ice and snow under life-threatening conditions of blinding blizzards and unbearably low temperatures. The rich bibliography and the notes show the intensive research that has gone into this study.”—The International History Review

“Murphy’s study illustrates that there is much to be gleaned, particularly about the intellectual and social assumptions of the sponsoring nations, from the detailed examination of Arctic and Antarctic exploration.”—Ken Coates, Canadian Journal of History
-Ken Coates