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North America, Greenland, Royal Navy East Greenland Expedition

Royal Navy East Greenland Expedition. A 12-man Royal Navy expedition visited the Angmagssalik area of East Greenland between July and September. The main aim was exploratory mountaineering in an unexplored group of peaks of Schweizerland (66° 30' N., 37° W.) about 50 miles inland from Angmagssalik and west of the prominent area of open glacier called Femstjernen. Geological work was also planned. These and various minor aims were achieved. A total of 31 first ascents were made, 15 of these in Schweizerland including the two highest points, P 2520 meters (8268 feet) and P 2500 (8202 feet). Owing to the difficulty of access in summer thaw conditions, it was decided to lay depots of food and fuel in the spring. Mike Banks and I did this using local dog teams and drivers between April 6 and 16. We travelled via the Rasmussen and Haabets glaciers and placed the main depot at 4625 feet at the southeast corner of Conniats Bjoerg. An intermediate depot with a man-hauling Nansen sledge was laid at the confluence of the Rasmussen and September 16th glaciers. We had intended to place the main depot further forward and our inability to do this meant that it was not possible for all the summer party to reach Schweizerland; about half the climbing was done in the Conniats and Devaux Bjoerg regions.

The summer party of Stocken, leader, Wallis, geologist, Dilly, doctor, Keelan, Dearman, Agnew, Garden, Collins, Twigg, Rowe, Corner and Kirkpatrick reached the main depot on July 25. There they found the advance party of the Imperial College expedition, whose leader had broken an ankle. They had been on their way to Femstjernen to receive an airdrop, but since at least two of them were now tied to our base at Conniats Bjoerg, a mutually advantageous exchange of food and fuel was arranged. The expedition now divided and eight, led by Stocken, set out to prospect the route into Schweizerland while four remained to climb near Conniats Bjoerg. On August 4 Dearman of the Conniats Bjoerg party had a minor fall whilst leading and it was decided to return to camp. It was whilst escorting Dearman across the glacier back to camp that Garden fell through a crevasse bridge and was killed instantly. This shocking news greeted the rest when they returned to Base the next day. It was agreed that the expedition should continue, that Agnew, Dearman and Collins would go down to the coast to break the news, that Twigg and Corner would remain in the Conniats Bjoerg area with the Imperial College men and that the remainder would return to Schweizerland. This final phase provided the most rewarding and successful climbing of the expedition. It was doubly tragic when on the descent from the final climb, Stocken, whose physical and mental toughness had been the main factors in their success, was struck by a falling boulder and died a few hours later without regaining consciousness. The return journey was hampered by heavy snowfall and the expedition reached the coast at Kungmiut on September 5.

Michael B. Thomas, Lieutenant Commander, Royal Navy