The Arctic in Stereoview

Ships and Explorers


Without a doubt, this was the most popular of all Arctic subjects. Some of the subjects, however, could be deceptive -- who was to say, after all, just which ship that was among the bergs? In some cases, as with the stereoview on my Inuit Stereoviews page, wax figures were used when the actual parties were dead or otherwise unavailable. My favorite of these is the first view below, a stereoview of a "Panorama of the Greely Expedition," which is a photograph of two actors, a few stuffed dogs, some sleds and false scenery in front of a painted backdrop. This panorama -- actually more of a "cyclorama," could be seen in Chicago at the 1893 World's Fair. The book for the fair provides a detailed description of the scene portrayed, along with a photograph which reveals that the humans in the scene were live actors (their positions are changed) but the dogs were stuffed:

PANORAMA OF THE GREELY EXPEDITION - Southeast of the rotunda in the Government Building, and closely adjoining that beautiful apartment, was the Artic Panorama erected by the signal bureau of the War Department. This white scene was perhaps the most striking of all the displays in the wonderful museum which the United States opened at the World's Fair. The exhibit was built in the manner made familiar to residents of cities through what are called cycloramas, where lay figures and actual properties take stated positions before the painting, and become an inseparable portion of the scene. This panorama represents Lieut. Greely at the right welcoming back to camp the subordinate officers of his expedition who have planted the American flag at the highest point yet reached by explorers. Lieut. Lockwood is shaking hands, and Sergeant Brainard is in the rear. An Esquimaux is stooping behind Lieut. Lockwood, and a half dozen dogs complete the figures. Near by is a large painting showing the awesome cape as it extends into the sea, the northernmost discovered land. On the sled is the same flag, made by Mrs. Greely, that was flung to the northmost polar breeze, and a boot leg was shown from which the survivors made soup during the last days of their sufferings. Relics of the expedition of Sir Jon Franklin formed a part of the display. The icebergs built before the large canvas in the rear were successfully placed, and the effect was realistic.


From the Collection of Russell A. Potter

Panorama of the Greeley Expedition


From the Collection of Dr. T.K. Treadwell

Roald Admunsen, Discoverer of the South Pole, Inspecting Ice


From the Collection of Russell A. Potter

The Twin Ships, Eric and Windward



From the collection of Russell A. Potter

Peary's Ship "Diana" at Cape Sabine