Virtual Exhibitions 2013, no. 2

The Wegener Diaries: Scientific Expeditions into the Eternal Ice

by Christian Kehrt

This virtual exhibition sheds light on Alfred Wegener's expeditions to Greenland between 1906 and 1931. Its main focus is on the diaries Wegener wrote during his explorations, which offer unique insights into the manifold challenges man and material faced in Greenland's extreme environments. You may choose to read the diaries in their original state, or browse the expeditions individually and read transcribed and translated excerpts by clicking on the tabs below.


Alfred Wegener (1880–1930) became internationally known for his heavily disputed theory of continental drift, which he formulated as early as 1912. Yet his exploration of Greenland, and his related work in glaciology and aerology, also make up a considerable part of his multifarious scientific career as a meteorologist and geophysicist. Wegener’s work focused on gaining detailed knowledge about the origins of the Greenland’s weather and climate conditions and the dynamics of its ice sheet. His expedition diaries, which are at the core of this online exhibition, are a crucial document for anyone interested in the history of polar expeditions. His dense and well-preserved diaries provide a detailed look at polar exploration in the first half of the twentieth century, illustrating the challenges of everyday life as well as the continuities and changes in exploration methods over the course of three decades.

Wegener’s original handwritten diaries from 1906–1930 can be found at the Archives of the Deutsches Museum. This virtual exhibition presents the complete digitized diaries, as well as representative excerpts that have been transcribed and translated into English. Wegener’s diaries are remarkably precise, and are written in easily legible handwriting. They encompass the Danish Danmark Expedition (1906–1908), the Danish North Greenland Expedition (1912–1913), and the Wegener-led German Greenland Expedition (1930–1931). The reader can choose individual expeditions and follow the course of events by reading from day to day. Each expedition is introduced by a commentary. Furthermore, the reader will find information on Wegener, a film document with commentary of the 1930–1931 expedition, and links for further reading and research.

The virtual exhibition “Scientific Expeditions Into the Eternal Ice” is a collaboration of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society and the Deutsches Museum. Researched, transcribed and authored by historian Christian Kehrt, the exhibition is based on original archival material from the Deutsches Museum and images from the Deutsches Archiv für Polarforschung of the Alfred-Wegener-Institute Bremerhaven. Christian Kehrt wrote the main commentaries; Dorit Müller contributed the commentary to the film. The transcripts were proofread by Frieder Groninger, translated by Claudia Whiteus and Kerry Jago, and edited by Brenda Black. The digitization of the original archival material was carried out in consultation with Wilhelm Füßl, Matthias Röschner, and Ludwig Schletzbaum. The exhibition was coordinated by Felix Mauch with assistance from Andreas Grieger and the Environment & Society Portal team and its partners.

To cite from the diaries: Alfred Wegener, Tagebücher, June 1906 – September 1930. Deutsches Museum Archiv, NL 001, in Christian Kehrt, “The Wegener Diaries: Scientific Expeditions Into the Eternal Ice.” Digital exhibition, Environment & Society Portal (Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, 2013). http://www.environmentandsociety.org/exhibitions/wegener-diaries.

To cite from the exhibition: Kehrt, Christian. “The Wegener Diaries: Scientific Expeditions Into the Eternal Ice.” Digital exhibition, Environment & Society Portal (Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, 2013). http://www.environmentandsociety.org/exhibitions/wegener-diaries

ISSN 2198-7696
Environment & Society Portal, Virtual Exhibitions

Essay: Creative Commons License 2013 Christian Kehrt
This refers only to the text and does not include any image rights. Please click on an image to view its individual rights status.

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