Geographical Notes


    THE International Polar Conference, which was held last year at Berne, and the previous year at Hamburg, met last month at St. Petersburg. The object of this Conference is the organisation of a series of stations around the Polar area for the continuous prosecution of scientific observations. Since its last meeting it has lost Lieut. Weyprecht, who was the originator of the idea of such a scheme. Delegates were present from all the leading European States except England, and from the United States of America. The first subject discussed was the time at which observations should be taken, and their frequency. Observations will begin for all the expeditions in the Polar regions, as also for observations in the temperate zones, as soon as possible after August 1, 1882, and will finish as close as possible to September 1, 1883. All the meteorological and magnetical phenomena will be observed hourly during all this time; and, besides, there will be taken on the 1st and 15th of each month magnetic observations every five minutes for twenty-four hours, and every twenty seconds during an hour of the day fixed on in advance, and that everywhere after the mean time of Göttingen. These latter observations have for their special end to obtain a perfect knowledge of perturbations or magnetic storms, and their connection with the aurora borealis. On the basis of a programme of observations to be made, already elaborated by the Hamburg Conference, the obligatory meteorological observations were discussed—i.e., observations which all the stations must make in order to insure the scientific success of the enterprise. The result of the discussion was the fixing of the principles, and in part also of the methods and instruments of observation, to insure the accuracy and comparability of the meteorological observations to be made. Happily the Conference numbers among its members several distinguished men of science, who have acquired in former expeditions in the Polar regions very great experience of the difficulties to be met with in taking observations, who were able to give advice useful in obviating beforehand those obstacles, by the arrangement of the instruments, and by the method of taking observations. One day was devoted by the Conference to visiting the celebrated me teorological and magnetic observatory of Pavlovsk, and discussing there the choice of the best apparatus. The members visited in detail the provisional installations which have been made at the observatory for inspecting the magnetic instruments intended for the Russian expedition to the month of the Lena. At the third sitting of the Conference, the magnetic observations were discussed: these also meet with difficulties unknown in temperate zones. It is not only the great cold, but also the feeble ness of the horizontal intensity of terrestrial magnetism, as also the frequency and greatness of the perturbations, which render observations very difficult and delicate. At the fourth meeting the Conference was occupied with observations on the aurora borealis, and with the question of facultative observations, those which are recommended to the expeditions, without being con sidered indispensable—as observations on the temperature of the soil, evaporation, terrestrial galvanic currents, atmospheric electricity, &c. The conference, among other things, decided to apply to different institutes to assure their co-operation, and to request magnetic observatories in the temperate zones, especially those in the southern hemisphere, to participate in the simultaneous observations, as also to ask the directors of the telegraphs of different countries to study more accurately terrestrial galvanic currents in the telegraphic wires when aurora borealis or magnetic perturbations appear. Finally the assembly unanimously approved three proposals by Count Wilczek:—I. To found, if possible, a special publication to convey more quickly to the knowledge of the scientific world, as well as to the leaders of the expeditions, the proposals and reports concerning the expeditions, as also their first results. 2. To leave, if possible, on the spot the buildings and other arrangements likely to be useful to future expeditions of the same kind, and to recommend them in each country to the care of navigators or of the inhabitants. 3. To ask railway and steamboat companies to grant a reduction in the fares for the staff and effects of the various international Polar expeditions. The stations proposed, we may state, are two on the north coast of Siberia, one in Novaya Zemlya, one in Spitzbergen, one on Jan Mayen Island, one on the west coast of Greenland, one at Lady Franklin Bay, one in the Behring's Strait region, and the participating countries are Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, and the United States.

    Rights and permissions

    Reprints and Permissions

    About this article

    Cite this article

    Geographical Notes . Nature 24, 478–479 (1881).

    Download citation


    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.