Biography of Erich von Drygalski (1865-1949)

German Explorer and geographer born 1865 in Königsberg (Prussia) and died in 1949. He/She noted for his expeditions to Greenland (1891-93), as well as its exploration of the Antarctic at the beginning of the 20th century aboard the Gauss (1901-1903).

He began his studies in his hometown but then moved to Bona, Leipzig and Berlin. In 1888, he/she managed a square Assistant at the Geodetic Institute of Berlin, and two years later, in 1891, he/she began an expedition by Greenland, organized by the Berlin society of scientific explorations. In 1898 he/she managed to graduate from the University of Berlin and a year later, he/she started working there as a teacher of geography. From the year 1900, four major projects of scientific exploration, all of them driven by the International Congress of geography were developed in Europe: the Swedish Otto Nordenskjöld, the English Robert Falcon Scott, the Scottish William Speir Bruce and, finally, the German, where Drygalski became a part, after abandoning his work as Professor. The own Drygalski was chosen by the German Commission for the South Pole as the Manager of this expedition, thus leading the expedition aboard the Gauss, ship that finally break destination from Kiel to the Antarctic on August 11, 1901, carrying 32 men, five of them scientific.

Half a year later, approximately on 2 January 1902, they arrived at the Kerguelen Islands where they stayed for the entire month until they returned to start their way to the Antarctic. Shortly after they observed what would be the first of other many icebergs by what the navigation was quite complicated. On 21 February they reached latitude 66 ° 5' and discovered what they called land of the Emperor Guillermo II. Because of the inclement weather they were trapped between the ice during much of the Antarctic winter, as it had happened to Borchgrevink. During the month of March, however, stabilized temperatures and Drygalski decided to organize an expedition out of the ship; Thus, the first began on 18 March and lasted eight days, after which obtained the necessary tests to confirm its position in the Antarctic continent: got volcanic rocks from the mountain that named Gaussberg.

Gauss was carrying a balloon which allowed Dryglaski to become the first man to fly over the Antarctic:

"Great time for an ascent in a balloon. The entire crew took part in the maneuver twelve men had secured the balloon, while other two opened the valves of steel cylinders to fill the dirigible, and as this was done in two groups, it was necessary to monitor the necessary correlation. The momentum was very strong, to the point that the first time that the balloon ascended, for test, with no one in the nacelle, was not possible to do so down with the winch, so everyone had to pull the straps to lower it when it was already 100 m. in height. Also occupying I basket climbed quickly with almost absolute smoothness that only gave high before a slight current of air to 300 m thing, to disappear completely. The aforementioned current produced a smooth rotation of the globe. When ascending is made me with the phone many signals, all aimed at preventing me the convenience of opening the valve to be too tense dirigible. We note that on the heights the heat was excessive. 500 metres was so much heat that I took off my gloves and I chose the light CAP without earrings, which I could do without also when, coincidentally, I dropped from 500 m of height. The picture that dominated the 500 m was great. From the 50 m elevation I saw before me the recently discovered Gauss mountain and from one greater height, saw that it was the only free of ice of all those surrounding point."

A second expedition was focused on the study of the mountain, which decided to own Dryglaski to undertake a third since, Furthermore, the temperatures had fallen. The explorers focused on magnetic and geological data collection; They recorded data of the Gaussberg mountain at a latitude of 66 ° 40'. With the weather improving, members of the expedition labored to free his boat from the ice and for long hours drilled ice mass with their own hands to insert explosives. These measures did not work as I wanted to; However, one day Drygalski realized that behind the boat, there was an area covered by soot and that the area was ice-free; This indicated that it was the dark hue of the soot which favoured quick casting of the ice, since the black tends to absorb as much sunlight. In this way, he/she commanded stored garbage to scatter around the Gauss made her a sort of runway towards the ice-free zone. The success was total, but after Christmas, exactly in February 1903, began to feel large rumblings and movements; the ice that kept the ship was melting and that brought with it a new danger: the displacement of ice blocks that follow the drift. As the situation did not improve significantly, Drygalski decided to leave and at the end of March 1903 put towards South Africa.

After arriving in Cape Town on June 9 Drygalski asked for a new expedition to the German Government, but it was denied, so the crew put heading to Germany. Upon arrival to Kiel on 23 November, Drygalski was found with frustration that his expedition not was sufficiently valued, although he/she would still feel really satisfied.

In 1904 he/she published Zum Kontinent Des Eisilen Sudeus. Deutsche Sudpolar-Expedition. Fahrten und firsch ungen des Gauss 1901-1903, and between 1905 and 1931 went on to publish a total of twenty volumes. After his retirement, scientist and adventurer, he/she devoted himself to teaching geography at the University of Munich. He/She died in 1949, at the age of 84.


TREUE, W. The conquest of the Earth. Barcelona, Ed. work, 1948.