Herbert Walter William

(24.10.1934 - 12.06.2007)


English polar explorer and artist. As part of the British Transarctic Expedition, on April 6, 1969, reached the North Pole after crossing the pack ice on the 60th anniversary of the pole reaching by Robert Peary. It is considered the first person who unquestionably reached the North Pole on the surface of the ice without the use of motor vehicles. Sir Ranulf Fiennes called him "the greatest polar explorer of our day".

Born into a military family, he moved to Egypt with his family at the age of 3, and to South Africa at the age of 9. After the family returned to England, at the age of 12, Herbert crossed the Severn River over the ice. He graduated from the military engineering school, for 18 months spent topographical surveys in Egypt and Cyprus. He made a trip to Greece and Turkey, earning a living by drawing portraits.

Since 1955, he conducted topographic surveys in Antarctica, where he gained skills of musher. In total, he completed 5,000 km of dog sledding on the territory of the Antarctic Peninsula. Then he took part in the New Zealand Antarctic Program, under which he was sent to Greenland, to master Eskimo skills in handling dogs. By the age of 26 spent five winters in the polar countries.

In 1958–1964 Herbert worked in Antarctica, having surveyed more than 26 thousand square meters. miles of Queen Maud Land, as well as explored the Shackleton and R. Scott trail on the Beardmore Glacier . Since the US authorities forbade him to go to the South Pole, he returned to the base along the Amundsen highway, becoming the first explorer to repeat the route of the famous polar expeditions. In 1964 he repeated the routes of the expedition of O. Sverdrup and F. Cook in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

In 1968-1969 Herbert led the British expedition, which was to go on the pack ice 5,600 km from Cape Barrow to Svalbard across the North Pole. The expedition consisted of 4 people on four dog sleds, ice reconnaissance and the delivery of necessary supplies was carried out from airplanes.

Speaking on February 21, 1968 from Cape Barrow, on the first day the expeditioners traveled 8 km. The advancement of the group was hampered by nasty currents and strong cold (the whole March did not rise above -35° C). We had to walk not along the pack, but along the solid fields of young ice, which could not withstand the weight of a person, often had to change course by 20-30°. By the beginning of the melting of the ice group reached 82° 27'N at 163° 30'W, breaking 1900 km. Until September 4, the team lived in the “Thawing Camp”. After the restart, one of the members of the expedition, Allan Gill, injured his spine as a result of an unsuccessful fall. It was decided not to evacuate: from September 15, 1968, wintering began in a tent on drifting ice. At the beginning of November, the group drifted at 85° 48'N, but by the end of the month they were blown 160 km to the southeast, the drift passed around the pole. Gill was able to fully recover thanks to the care of his comrades.

At the end of February 1969, we were able to perform a further march in the atmosphere of the polar night: the orientation took place along Venus. The frost reached −48° C, with the daily transition lasting up to 12-13 hours. The Pole of Inaccessibility was passed. On April 6, 1969, the group reached the North Pole. Ice drifts were strongly constrained to advance: one team was almost lost, it was necessary to change course frequently. On May 29, 1969, the group of Herbert, breaking 5600 km along the major axis of the Arctic Ocean, reached the group of the Seven Islands. They evacuated on June 10, having spent 476 days in the drifting ice of the Arctic. All this time, systematic studies of the thickness of ice and snow cover, the topography of drifting ice, and meteorological data were collected. These measurements were carried out by meteorologist Fritz Kerner.

For participation in the expedition, W. Herbert was awarded the Polar Medal, the Medal of the Royal Geographical Society, the Medal of the American Club of Researchers and a number of foreign awards. Nevertheless, the incident with Gill caused a lot of complaints, so this expedition is not very popular in the UK.

In 1979, Herbert and Allan Gill attempted to make a trip around Greenland in sleighs and Eskimo traditional boats, but adverse weather conditions forced them to interrupt the expedition.

In the 1980s Herbert took up the history of polar research. The US National Geographic Society ordered him a biography of Robert Peary. The book was published in 1989 (The Noose of Laurels, "Laurel Arkan") and caused a somewhat scandal, because Herbert, based on his own polar experience, and Piri's materials, came to the conclusion that he could not reach the North Pole and falsified measurement materials (as far back as 1909, Piri was puzzled that on the way back from the pole his group traveled up to 100 km in day). The conclusions of Herbert are now becoming more and more supporters. In 2000, Walter Herbert was raised to a knighthood. In 2005—2006 participated as a consultant in the BBC Blizzard project: Race to the Pole : modeling in Greenland the South Polar expeditions of R. Scott and R. Amundsen.

Died of the effects of diabetes in Ivernes, Scotland. Place of burial unknown.

Mountain height of 275 m on the island of Vesle Tabl in the Seven Islands archipelago  north of the island of North-Eastern Earth, Svalbard. The coordinates are 80° 49.2'N   20° 21.5'E.


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