A Sorb in the Arctic

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Johann August Miertsching was born on August 21, 1817 in Groeditz, then called Hrodzischczo (later Hrodźišćo), just 195 years ago today.

Old house in Groeditz
Old house in Groeditz – photo: Wolfgang Opel

The people of the small country village in Upper Lusatia, Germany, then containing of around 50 houses, were mostly rooted to the soil. They were mainly gardeners and farmers, and some worked as craftsmen. At least there was a school in the village. But, at that time, no one could know that the little Sorbian boy, who lost his father at the early age of two, would later become well-known after his journey into the High Arctic, in which he took part as an Inuktitut translator on behalf of the British Admiralty.

Church of Groeditz
Church of Groeditz – photo: Wolfgang Opel

33 years later, on August 21, 1850, Miertsching was beyond the Arctic circle and wrote in his diary: „Strong north wind, we sailed quickly… passed Flaxmans Island, saw people and tents there, came close to Pelly Island which is located near the mouth of the Mackenzie River at the evening; anchored at an ice floe… I was able to celebrate my birthday today very quietly. In the evening, two very pleasant hours in my cabin with Mr. Piers and Farquarson.“

Mackenzie Delta
Mackenzie Delta – photo: Wolfgang Opel

In search for Franklin’s lost expedition and the Northwest passage, HMS investigator had sailed from the West into the polar seas and had reached the Mackenzie Delta. However, Miertsching did not suspect at this time that he would have to spend four more birthdays in the Arctic …

More about Miertsching’s Arctic trip will follow in the course of the next few weeks

Update: See also „Johann August Miertsching zum Gedenken“

posted by Mechtild Opel

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