The Polaris Expedition (1871-1873) was one of the many ill-fated early attempts to reach the North Pole.
In November of the first year, the ship’s captain, Charles Francis Hall, died — possibly from being poisoned. In October of the second year, the ship’s company accidentally broke up: 19 people were stranded on an ice floe while 14 remained on board.
Among those on the floe were Inuit hunter/interpreter Hans Hendrik (Greenlandic name: Suersaq), his wife Mergut, and their four children — including a newborn. The baby boy had arrived in August of 1871, while the family was still aboard the ship.
No doubt his parents gave him a Greenlandic name, but all the accounts of the expedition only mention the baby’s English name: Charlie Polaris. “Charlie” was for the late captain, and “Polaris” was for the ship.
Baby Charlie and the others were finally rescued in April of 1973 off the coast of Newfoundland, having drifted some 1,500 miles.
- Biography – Hans Hendrik – Volume XI (1881-1890) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography
- Blake, Euphemia Vale. Arctic Experiences. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1874.
- McCannon, John. A History of the Arctic: Nature, Exploration and Exploitation. London: Reaktion Books, 2002.
P.S. The ship’s original name was Periwinkle, and it was part of the Potomac Flotilla during the final months of the Civil War.