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Exhibits
Near the Pole with Peary: Harry Whitney in Greenland, 1908-09
April 1, 2010 - August 1, 2010

In 1908 adventurer and big-game hunter Harry Whitney traveled to northwestern Greenland as a paying passenger aboard the Erik, which was steaming north carrying supplies for Robert E. Peary’s North Pole Expedition. Whitney had no interest in the Pole, or exploration. He was after big game and planned to spend the summer hunting, returning south with the Erik in the fall. The few weeks he spent in Greenland were not enough, however, and on the spur of the moment he decided to stay the winter, living among the Inughuit and hunting with them until the following summer. He established his base at Anoritok, using a shelter built there by Frederick Cook as he prepared to go to the North Pole in 1908. Whitney was the first American to meet Cook when he returned to Anoritok in the summer of 1909. Whitney took many photographs, and published a book about his adventures, Hunting with the Eskimos, but remained silent on the subject of Cook’s North Pole claims.

This exhibit is made possible by the generous support of the Friends of Bowdoin College.



Pictured above: Harry Whitney, Entering Ellesmere Land, the Home of the Musk-ox, Flagler Fjord, Ellesmere Island, spring 1909. Inkjet print. Gift of the Alphonse Kenison Estate.
<p><b>Teams Traveling</b> </p>     Here dog teams are sledging up Flagler Fiord on Ellesmere Island. During his 14-month stay in northwestern Greenland Whitney traveled extensively with Inughuit hunters. He did not master the art of dog-driving, however, and recounts a number of mishaps when his Inughuit companions asked him to manage their dogs. <br> <br>  Harry Whitney, <em>Entering Ellesmere Land, the Home of the Musk-ox</em>, Flagler Fjord, Ellesmere Island, spring 1909. Inkjet print. Gift of the Alphonse Kenison Estate.
<p><b>Camp on the Way to Humboldt Glacier</b> </p>     While traveling with the Inughuit, Whitney adopted many of their habits – he wore fur clothing, slept in a fur sleeping bag and sometimes ate the same food as his companions. He usually also carried some of his own equipment and supplies, including the stove beside his head in this picture. <br> <br>  Unidentified photographer, <em>Camp on the Way to Humboldt Glacier</em>, Greenland, fall 1908. Inkjet print. Gift of the Alphonse Kenison Estate.

<p><b>Rough Ice</b> </p>     Travel on the sea ice could be difficult and dangerous. Here a field of icy rubble makes for hard going. This is a spring trip, and on the right side of the sledge in the foreground there is a small sledge with a white screen, used by Inughuit hunters as camouflage when stalking seals basking on the spring ice.  <br> <br>  Harry Whitney, <em>Rough Ice, Smith Sound</em>, spring 1909. Inkjet print. Gift of the Alphonse Kenison Estate.
<p><b>Spanning a Lead with a Dog-sled</b> </p>     On any sledging trip, but especially in the spring, leads of open water in the ice are a hazard. Small leads such as this one can be easily crossed, but as the ice is constantly moving a lead may grow wider at any moment. Whitney describes near-disasters when sledges and men fell into the icy water, saved only by the quick action of experienced Inughuit dog drivers.  <br> <br>  Harry Whitney, <em>Spanning a Lead with a Dog-sled</em>, off Greenland, spring 1909. Inkjet print. Gift of the Alphonse Kenison Estate.

<p><b>Going Snow Blind</b> </p>     The brilliant spring sun reflecting unrelentingly off snow and ice can quickly damage unprotected eyes. Whitney describes the feeling of grains of sand on his eyeball as an early indication of snow blindness. The pain could be so severe that men suffering from snow blindness were incapacitated, sometimes for days. <br> <br>  Harry Whitney, <em>Going Snow Blind</em>, spring 1909. Inkjet print. Gift of the Alphonse Kenison Estate.
<p><b>Bivouacked</b> </p>     Whitney sometimes found it difficult to keep up with his Inughuit companions, who would travel for many hours at a time to take advantage of good conditions. After as much as 24 or 36 hours of sledging and hunting, however, even they needed rest. In early summer, sledges and furs made excellent and quick beds. <br> <br>  Harry Whitney, <em>Bivouacked in Ellesmere Land</em>, Ellesmere Island, spring 1909. Inkjet print. Gift of the Alphonse Kenison Estate.

<p><b>Preparing Breakfast</b> </p>     Whitney liked a hot breakfast and usually prepared tea and biscuits or some other food for himself and the men with him while on the trail. At his base camp he sometimes tried cooking more elaborate meals, experimenting with ginger snaps, doughnuts, and even cake, with mixed success.  <br> <br>  Unidentified photographer,<em>The Author Preparing his Breakfast on the March</em>, Greenland of Ellesmere Island, 1908-1909. Inkjet print. Gift of the Alphonse Kenison Estate.
<p><b>Hare</b> </p>     Although primarily in Greenland as a trophy hunter, Whitney also pursued smaller game both with his gun and his camera. Arctic hare were plentiful near Etah, where he was sometimes based. He found them good to eat, and the furs were much appreciated by the Inughuit, who used them to make warm socks.  <br> <br>  Harry Whitney,<em> Arctic Hare</em>, near Etah, Greenland, 1908-1909. Inkjet print. Gift of the Alphonse Kenison Estate.

<p><b>Shooting Ducks</b> </p>     Littleton Island, just north of Etah, has long been a prime place for gathering eggs and hunting ducks, which nest there in vast numbers. Whitney preferred hunting to egg collecting, but like Peary and Donald MacMillan, he was astonished at the quantities of eggs the Inughuit gathered here year after year.   <br> <br>  Harry Whitney,<em> Shooting Ducks and Gathering Eggs</em>,  Littleton Island, spring 1909. Inkjet print. Gift of the Alphonse Kenison Estate.
<p><b>Eiseeyou and Author with Musk-Ox Calf</b> </p>     On a hunting trip to Ellesmere Island in the spring of 1909, Whitney finally had the opportunity to hunt musk ox, one of his chief goals during this trip. His hunt was successful and he also managed to capture this musk ox calf, which he hoped to deliver to a southern zoo. He fed the calf condensed milk and frequently carried it when it could not keep up with the dog teams, but the calf did not survive the trip. <br> <br>  Unidentified photographer,<em> Eiseeyou and the Author with Baby Musk-ox in his Arms</em>, Ellesmere Island, spring 1909. Inkjet print. Gift of the Alphonse Kenison Estate.