A polar regions. A location, a memory
Like many of his contemporaries, Prince Albert I felt a strong attraction to the polar regions, the last territories to be discovered, and so this was the fulfilment of a childhood dream.
Let’s dwell on his third expedition to Norway – and specifically to Svalbard – following two earlier expeditions in 1898 and 1899.
On 24 June 1906, the Prince undertook his eighth scientific expedition on board the second “Princesse Alice” (stations 2362 to 2562).
The itinerary was as follows: Le Havre, Scotland, Norwegian coast, Spitsbergen, Le Havre. The crew for this expedition comprised: Dr Jules Richard, Professor Hugo Hergesell, Dr Paul Portier, the naval officers Captain Henry Charlwood Carr and Lieutenant Henri Bourée, and painter Louis Tinayre. This eighth scientific expedition was an opportunity to resume the usual activities of taking physical and chemical measurements and samples; studying the upper atmosphere in the Arctic regions; and surveying the coastal topography and hydrography of Cross Bay. Simultaneously, two missions sponsored by Prince Albert, one Norwegian and the other Scottish, explored other parts of Spitsbergen. This expedition illustrates the Prince’s fascination with the Arctic, which was nourished from an early age by reading travel writings and scientific journals.
“The challenges and the joys experienced in these regions improve a cultured man when he discovers all the treasures they hold. You are certain to retain, for the rest of your life, something of the heightened sensations that moved us so deeply.” Letter from Prince Albert I to Dr Ferdinand Louët, 15 October 1906. Paris Coll. part.
Moreover, despite being in such a remote location, the Prince did not forget about his political concerns. During a port of call at Advent Bay (a simple post office, which went on to become the small town of Longyearbyen, capital of Svalbard), he received news from France and was delighted to learn of Captain Dreyfus’ rehabilitation. On his return journey, he also wrote to King Haakon to inform him of the success of the Norwegian mission which he had supported: a way of honouring Norway’s independence.