German Polar Expedition
German Polar Expeditions are some of the lesser known, but very exciting pages in German history. Today you have a unique chance to experience the German Polar Expedition for yourself. At the Berlin Icebar you can learn more about the history of this journey while enjoying a drink at freezing -10° Celsius! This thrilling tourist attraction will make your visit in Berlin unforgettable.
The first German expedition to the Arctic took place in the summer of 1868. This first expedition provided important experience in navigation and sailing in the ice, and it became the foundation for a second, more extensive expedition.
One year later, on 15 June 1869, then King Wilhelm I and Chancellor Bismarck were present when exploration ships the Germania and the Hansa left Bremerhaven. It took the ships one month to run into pack ice.
On 20 July, the two ships were separated after a signal misunderstanding in thick polar fog. While the Germania successfully completed the aim of the expedition, to explore the nature of the North Pole region along the north-eastern coast of Greenland, the Hansa went on an unexpected adventure.
When the Hansa came completely stuck in an ice floe on 14 September, it was slowly but steadily crushed by the ice. Realising the ship might sink, the captain ordered his crew to bring the provisions and dinghies onto the ice. They used coal dust briquettes to build a shelter and survived the entire winter on the ice with limited supplies and while under threat from polar bears. After the ship sank on 22 October, the ice floe drifted south along the east coast of Greenland.
The further south they floated, the warmer the weather, which caused the ice floe to melt. When it became too small, the crew got into the dinghies they had saved from the Hansa. After 36 days on the dinghies, on 13 June 1870, the crew arrived at the Herrnhut mission of Friedrichsthal, current Narsarmijit, the southernmost settlement on Greenland. It took another two months for the crew of the Hansa to return home to Germany, where they received a hero’s welcome.