Danish explorer Jørgen Brønlund's petroleum burner was found in 1973. Brønlund and two compatriots died in 1907 during an expedition to Greenland.
Enlarge / Danish explorer Jørgen Brønlund’s petroleum burner was present in 1973. Brønlund and two compatriots died in 1907 throughout an expedition to Greenland.

Jørn Ladegaard

Over 100 years in the past, a Danish explorer named Jørgen Brønlund perished throughout an expedition to northeast Greenland, together with two members of his expedition. He left behind a diary detailing his final moments, with a black spot beneath his remaining signature. Scientists have now analyzed that spot utilizing a wide range of strategies to find out its composition, thereby shedding contemporary gentle on Brønlund’s remaining hours, based on a November paper revealed within the journal Archaeometry.

Northeast Greenland continues to be one of the vital hostile areas of the Arctic, with solely the Sirius Patrol of the Danish Military sometimes crossing the frozen expanse on canine sledges throughout the coldest a part of the 12 months. Again in 1906, when the Denmark Expedition launched, many components of the area had not but been mapped; that was a major goal of the expedition, together with varied scientific research. (Alfred Wegener was among the many scientists within the expedition.)

The expedition sailed to Greenland on board the SS Danmark, touchdown in August 1906 and establishing a base camp (depot) referred to as Danmarkshavn. Members had been assigned to sledge groups to move northward. Jørgen Brønlund was a part of Sledge Workforce 1, together with expedition commander Ludvig Mylius-Erichsen and Niels Peter Høeg Hagen. A major a part of their mission was to find whether or not the so-called Peary Land (found by Robert Peary in 1891) was a peninsula—during which case it might stay a part of the Danish Kingdom—or an island, during which case the US would declare it as a US territory.

Sledgeteam 1 from The Denmark Expedition 1906-08. From left expedition commander Mylius-Erichsen, Niels Peter Høeg Hagen and Jørgen Brønlund. All three died on the expedition
Enlarge / Sledgeteam 1 from The Denmark Expedition 1906-08. From left expedition commander Mylius-Erichsen, Niels Peter Høeg Hagen and Jørgen Brønlund. All three died on the expedition

Public Area/Wikipedia

The sledge groups headed north in March 1907, hampered by buckling and cracking ice in addition to broken-down sledges. Mylius-Erichsen, Brønlund, and Høeg Hagen determined to comply with the shoreline, however the commander grew to become more and more involved as that route unexpectedly led them northeast. That meant a larger distance to their final purpose, as time and provisions grew brief. When he and his two sledge mates entered the unmapped Danmark Fjord, it turned out to be a useless finish, forcing them to backtrack northeast to return to the mouth of the fjord—squandering precious time. Melting ice would make passage again to Danmarkshavn not possible, and so they did not need to get caught within the space with out adequate meals and provides.

That is when Mylius-Erichsen made the fateful resolution to not return to the ship, however to move west in hopes of reaching Navy Cliff on the head of Independence Fjord. By this time the summer season thaw had set in, and searching situations had been poor, plus their sneakers had worn by way of from trekking over the stony floor. Briefly, as Brønlund famous in his diary, their state of affairs was dire: “no meals, no foot gear, and several other hundred miles to the ship. Our prospects are very dangerous certainly.”

By September, they had been pressured to attempt to cross the frozen waters of the 79-Fjord. They had been down to 1 sledge and 4 canine. Høeg Hagen died first, from exhaustion, on November 15, 1907, with Mylius-Erichsen passing ten days later. Brønlund truly made it to the opposite aspect of the fjord, to one of many expedition’s current depots. However the darkness and extreme frostbite in his ft prevented him from going any additional. He took shelter in a cave and wrote his remaining diary entry:

I perished in 77° N lat., below the hardships of the return journey over the inland ice in November. I reached this place below a waning moon, and can’t go on, due to my frozen ft and the darkness. The our bodies of the others are in the course of the fjord. Hagen died on November 15, Mylius-Erichsen some ten days later.

The next spring, two different expedition members discovered Brønlund’s physique, with the diary safely saved within the sledge at his ft. They buried him the place he died, and the headland is understood immediately as Brønlund’s Grave. As for the remainder of the Danish Expedition, it was remarkably profitable—some 51 reviews had been revealed—though that success was overshadowed by the tragic deaths of Brønlund, Mylius-Erichsen, and Høeg Hagen.

The 172-page diary is at the moment housed within the Royal Library in Copenhagen. Under Brønlund’s signature was an odd-looking black spot. In 1993, the spot was eliminated with a pocket knife by a reader. “This was performed with out permission which is after all each unorthodox and unlawful,” the authors famous of their paper. Happily, the pattern ended up with the Nationwide Museum of Denmark’s Pure Science Unit, however regardless of being examined by many specialists, no conclusions may very well be drawn about what the fabric may be.

The 3×3mm black spot from Brønlund's diary.
Enlarge / The three×3mm black spot from Brønlund’s diary.

Kaare Lund Rasmussen/SDU

That is the place the present examine is available in. Again in 2018, Kaare Lund Rasmussen and several other colleagues on the College of Southern Denmark collaborated with the Nationwide Museum and Royal Library to make a definitive willpower of the pattern’s composition. The crew took small samples from the black spot and analyzed them with X-ray fluorescence, synchrotron radiation powder x-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy, and fuel chromatography mass spectrometry, amongst different strategies.

They found that the spot was made up of burnt rubber, vegetable oil, fish or animal fat, petroleum, and feces. There was additionally goethite, a mineral frequent to the surroundings. The burnt rubber possible got here from a gasket within the Lux burner Brønlund had amongst his provides, and will have been burnt because the doomed explorer struggled to gentle a fireplace to maintain heat, utilizing any doubtlessly flammable supplies obtainable to him. (The burner was recovered in 1973 by the Sirius Patrol.) The authors surmise that Brønlund was within the cave roughly 5 or 6 days earlier than he died, on condition that the sledge case was barely half-empty.

“This new data offers a singular perception into Brønlund’s final hours,” mentioned Rasmussen. “I see for me, how he, weakened and with soiled, shaking fingers, fumbled in an try to gentle the burner, however failed. He needed to discover one thing else to get the burner going. You should utilize paper or oiled material, however it’s tough. We expect he tried with the oils obtainable, as a result of the black spot comprises traces of vegetable oil and oils which will come from fish, animals or wax candles.”

DOI: Archaeometry, 2020. 10.1111/arcm.12641 (About DOIs).


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