In 2021, a previously unknown island off the north coast of Greenland was discovered by an expedition. This small island, named Qeqertaq Avannarleq, was believed to be the world’s northernmost known landmass. However, there was a mystery surrounding the region, as several other small islands had been discovered and then disappeared over the years. Previous theories suggested that these islands were rocky banks pushed up by sea ice, but a team of surveyors found that they were actually large icebergs lying on the ocean floor. These icebergs likely came from a nearby glacier.
Almost a century ago, an airborne expedition using the Graf Zeppelin airship was conducted to make geographical and scientific discoveries in the high Arctic, including remapping much of the Barents Sea. The expedition confirmed the existence of Franz Josef Land, an archipelago in the Barents Sea, but also found flaws in the maps produced by earlier explorers. The zeppelin, equipped with wide-angle cameras, provided detailed images of the surface below and was able to conduct leisurely surveys that fixed-wing aircraft couldn’t.
The expedition also made important meteorological discoveries, thanks to the invention of radiosondes by scientist Pavel Molchanov. These devices revolutionized temperature measurements in the atmosphere and provided continuous reports via radio during balloon flights. Molchanov’s observations from the expedition revealed that at altitudes of 10 miles, polar air was actually warmer than at the equator. However, the era of zeppelin travel soon came to an end, with the Hindenburg disaster in 1937 and the dismantling of the Graf Zeppelin in 1940.
Overall, these expeditions and discoveries in the Arctic have contributed to our understanding of the region’s geography and meteorology. They have also highlighted the importance of international scientific cooperation, which was particularly significant during a time of rising authoritarian politics and international conflicts in the 1930s.
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