VOICES Voices Icon Ideas and Insight From Explorers


Polar Fiction

One of the joys of being an archivist here at the Geographic is that I never know what surprises the day may hold.  While searching through old polar material for an unexpected visitor from Canada, I came across a slim volume I’d not noticed before.  Vol. 395 of scrapbooks compiled by one of our founders,  A.W. Greely, is simply labeled “Polar Fiction.” You might well wonder why and how one person could compile so many scrapbooks–it appears that if it was cold and at the ends of the Earth,  Greely was interested in it.  Hopefully he had some secretarial assistance.  All joking aside, in 1881 Greely had volunteered to establish a meteorological station in the Far North, which he did, but he and his party of 25 were stranded –only six men beside himself survived the ordeal.

This little book seems to indicate that polar exploration fired the public’s imagination at the turn of the last century.  The first item is a colorful cover from the October 1913 Field and Stream magazine, the Big Game and Game Law Number.  Which doesn’t sound at all polar, but there is a story included called “Gus-ti-cka: The ringed Grizzly of the Eskoot,” by Benjamin Burbridge.  Next, is a lovely little booklet, “Pinocchio Al Polo Nord.”  Who knew the little puppet who wanted to be a boy made it to the North Pole?  I think my favorite illustration may be the one captioned, “Have discovered the North Pole.  What the dickens shall I do with it?”

I hope you enjoy these illustrations from a bygone era. Click on each image to enlarge it.


  1. Kevin Spanky
    May 20, 2011, 3:16 pm

    Awesome Post!