Crevasse in the Upper Zadazan Glacier, Switzerland 1894. Courtesy: H. F. Reid/NSIDC
About NSIDC Archives and Resource Center
Polar and glacial exploration began in the 1850s. In these first ventures, the lines between heroism and madness sometimes blurred. Woefully unprepared or inexperienced groups ventured across thousands of miles of ice sheet or frozen pack ice, usually spending years in the process. Starvation, hypothermia, and disorientation claimed the lives of many explorers. For those who endured and survived the extremes, NSIDC’s archival collection bears witness to their valuable observations and measurements.
NSIDC has gathered records from the early days of polar exploration (1850 to 1970). The archives stocks an impressive collection of old polar books, selected for their first-person descriptions or meticulous records of early ventures to the poles. Our renowned, globe-spanning Glacier Photograph Collection provides witness to a warming planet.
An Essential Resource
Collection and preservation of photos, field notes, rare books, measurement logs, and hundreds of other types of records from the pre-digital past are a boon to researchers who track change. Reading Nansen’s descriptions of Arctic sea ice in the1880s, or the weather records of expeditions to Australia, Antarctica, or central Africa, gives a historical perspective on changes in sea ice and climate. In many cases, early measurements are quite accurate—for example, early maps of the ice fronts of Greenland's glaciers.