Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Arctic Christmas...

On Christmas Day, 1903, Anthony Fiala lifted a holiday toast to his crew at Camp Abruzzi on Crown Prince Rudolf Island. The expedition, funded by William Ziegler, had departed in June from Norway on an expedition to discover the North Pole. The crew was in good spirits this first Christmas in the Arctic, and they dined well on Creamed Alaska Salmon, Yankee Chicken Croquettes, and Danish Grouse. The meal ended with ice cream, served at "30 below."

Anton Vedoe record the evening's festivities in his diary:
The banquet itself was a great success and seldom has in the Arctic been seen a happier assemblage than at our prettily decorated table full of the most delicious eatables and all kinds of wine. Several essays by different members on different subjects relating to arctic research amongst Mr. Tafel and Mr. Porter attracted much amusement and interest. Poems and songs were delivered by Mr. Shorkley and Rilliet and some verses composed and sung by John caused much laugh. Toasts for Mr. Ziegler, Champ, Mr. Fiala, the Geographical Society etc were drank. Our commander gave a speech thanking us for the help and for the work we so far accomplished and although we lost the ship here and now had to deal with many difficulties, he still had hopes for the outcome and success of the expedition. It was 2 o'clock when we finally departed, everyone in the best of humor and I can safely say that a more successful Christmas banquet never was seen in the Arctic. The temperature was -20.
The dinner came at a time of uncertainty for the ill-fated expedition. Their ship, the America, had broken up in a storm the previous month and taken with it their coal and many of their provisions. A successful push to the pole was unlikely, though several attempts were made. To keep busy while they awaited rescue, they conducted extensive survey work. It was not until June of 1905 that the Terra Nova arrived to bring them out of the Arctic.

To learn more about the expedition ask for Anton Vedoe's papers, Stef MS 233.

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