Wegener Alfred Lothar

(01.11.1880 - 02.11.1930)

German geologist and meteorologist, creator of the theory of continental drift.

Born in Berlin in the family of a famous scientist. Already in childhood, he showed the makings of a researcher - along with his brother he measured the depth of the lakes and drew maps of the area.

He studied at the gymnasium in Berlin. His favorite subjects were physics and chemistry. In addition, he was actively involved in sports.

In 1899, Wegener graduated from school with the best grade certificate and entered the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin.

In the second semester, he moved to the University of Heidelberg, but did not attend a single lecture, preferring fencing and beer. After that, he returned to Berlin and devoted himself to study. In 1904, Wegener defended his thesis.

After graduation, Alfred Wegener and his brother Kurt worked at the aeronautical observatory in Berlin, where they conducted meteorological research, flying in a balloon. The flights became a great passion of the brothers: in 1906 they managed to set a world record: they spent 52 hours in the air in a balloon, 17 hours longer than the previous record holders. When flying, the main qualities of Wegener showed up: passion and iron will.

 

Wegener's family

From left to right: his aunt Jotten, father Richard Wegener, Alfred himself, his brother Kurt and sister Tony, mother Anna.

1892

 

In 1906, as a meteorologist, Wegener participated in a Greenland expedition led by polar explorer and writer Ludwig Mühlius-Eriksen, whose goal was to study the northeast region of Greenland. Wegener was struck by the harsh beauty of the icy nature of Greenland and connected his life with this country. The expedition lasted almost two years, during which Wegener conducted his research on the physics and weather of the upper atmosphere.

In March 1907, the expedition members in two groups went on a trip to the north of Greenland. Order Y.P.Koch, who was a member of Wegener, in accordance with the plan outlined by Mühlius-Eriksen, returned to the base in May. The fate of the second group was tragic: Mühlius-Eriksen, Heck-Hagen and Bronlund did not return to base.

After the expedition was over, Wegener taught for a short time at the University of Marburg, but soon accepted the offer of Y.P. Koch to participate in the second trip to Greenland.

In July 1912, Wegener, Koch and two of their assistants landed with 16 Icelandic ponies in Greenland, in September reached the camp site, where they spent the winter in the eternal ice of Greenland at temperatures below −45 degrees. After that, they crossed Greenland for the first time at its widest point. The hike took place in extremely difficult conditions: because of hunger, travelers had to kill the last horses and dogs, and their limbs blackened by frost.

In November 1913, Wegener married Elsa Köppen, the daughter of the famous scientist Vladimir Köppen.

Since the beginning of World War I, Wegener was called to the front. The first wound was in the arm, after recovery, he again went to the front, in 1915 he received the second wound, this time in the neck. Returning home, he worked on his famous book, The Origin of Continents and Oceans.

After the war, Wegener headed the theoretical meteorology department of the Marine Observatory in Hamburg. In 1924, he moved to the University of Graz, where there were many admirers of his theory. But the desk work did not suit the scientist, he was still drawn to the eternal ice of Greenland.

In 1929, Wegener set out on his third trip to Greenland, which laid the foundation for the later main one.

In 1930, Wegener arrived in Greenland for the fourth time.

At first everything went well. The expedition was based on the west coast of the island. In the summer of 1930, the Eismitte research station was established almost in the center of Greenland (400 km from the coast), where two staff members stayed for winter weather to conduct meteorological observations.

But then things did not go according to plan. Snowmobiles tested in winter Finland did not justify themselves under the conditions of the ice sheet. The transfer of food to the station was practically disrupted; there is no transport and communication from Eismitte staff. Wegener and his colleague F. Leve and Greenlander Rasmus Willumsen drove the dog teams on Eismitt through half of Greenland at the end of September. The transition was completed on October 30. The position at the station was critical. Station population increased to five people. Brought products at all until spring is not enough. The permanent inhabitants of the station, the meteorologists Sorge and Gheorghe, are tied to their equipment and must be observed, otherwise the whole undertaking simply lost its meaning. Leve froze his legs and was not transportable. Wegener, using improvised means, amputated his fingers and, in order to reduce the number of eaters, on November 1, on the day of his fiftieth anniversary, he and Villumsen went back to the coast, having 17 dogs, two carts, 135 kg of provisions and a can of kerosene.

 

Station "Eismitte"

 

In the spring on Eismitte arrived the luge party from the base camp. Wegener was not at the station, but the base believed that he was wintering on Eismitt. The search began, and Wegener's posthumous “luck” was that his body was found - about halfway between Eismitte and the western camp . However, it's not just luck: Rasmus, having buried his boss, did everything to prevent the grave from getting lost in the icy desert: he marked it with a pair of skis stuck in the snow. After Wegener's funeral, taking his diary, the price to which he knew, Willumsen went on, but no one else saw him.

The team that found Wegener reburied the body in the same place and marked the grave with a 6-meter cross from drill pipes. Imperishable in its ice crypt, it, along with Greenland, is slowly moving away from Europe.

 

Alfred Wegener's Tomb

 

The body of Willumsen with Wegener's diary could not be found.

Wegener was 50 years old, he had frontal injuries and contusions. Most likely, death was caused by heart failure caused by overstrain.

Upon learning of the death of his brother, Kurt Wegener left his observatory, immediately went to Greenland and took over the leadership of the expedition. The program outlined by Alfred was largely completed.

Shortly after Wegener's death, his theory was finally rejected in Europe and North America, but found supporters among scientists in the Southern Hemisphere. It was recalled at the turn of the 1950s – 1960s, when new research methods (ocean floor drilling, paleomagnetic measurements, etc.) brought a huge number of new facts that are unexplained without attracting the idea of continental movement. The modern edition of Wegener's theory - plate tectonics - underlies today's geology.

Elsa Köppen-Wegener lived to this triumph, dying in 1992 at the age of 100 years.

Peninsula (Alfred Wegener) in the Baffin Sea on the west coast of Greenland.

Cape in the north-west of Greenland, the northern tip of the land of Freychen.

 

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