McClintock Island - Franz-Josef-Land


General, scenery: McClintock Island with an almost rectangular shape is one of the medium-sized islands (area: 612 km², maximal extension: 33 km, highest elevation: 521 m)  in the south of the archipelago and is almost completely glaciated, except of a few coastal stretches and some mountains and rock spires peeking through the ice. Ice-free capes are especially Cape Dillon in the southwest, minor areas between Cape Greely and Cape Bergen in the northeast, at Cape Brünn in Negri Channel in the east and in the northwest corner. From nearby neighbouring Hall Island, it is separated by the narrow Negri Channel.


History: The last sledge excursion of the TEGETTHOFF expedition in spring 1874 headed westwards and explored the southeast of McClintock and  climbed the mountain at Cape Brünn as their westernmost point, from where they had an excellent view across Markham Strait to its northern shores (today: Champ and Luigi Island) and to parts of the coastline of George Land in the misty distance (for Cape Brünn: see further down). However, Payer did not realize that what he saw were just islands in all directions, which he mistook in the distant west to north as the shores of one huge "Zichy Land".
In 1905, the Fiala-Ziegler Expedition (1903-05) had an outpost on Cape Dillon (see further down this page), which looked out for a rescue vessel.
Since then, the island played no special role in the history of the archipelago.

North coast: Cape Greely (left).
Along north coast view westwards.
Middle of north coast.
East coast: Simony glacier with rock rock spire.
Cape Oppholzer in the southeast.
Cape Dillon in the southwest.

Name: The island was named by the TEGETTHOFF expedition after the US-american polar pioneer Francis Leopold McClintock. Differing from the original map of Payer, the name of the island is partly spelled also McClintok, McKlintock or in case of double transscriptions from latin to kyrillic writing and back also MacKlintok. 

Right: 
Coastal panoramas of McClintock.
Clicking on a picture leads to a larger pop-up version.

 

Cape Brünn from South.
Cape Brünn from Northeast.
Landing at Cape Brünn.
Coal bits from local minor coal seams adrift at the beach of Cape Brünn.

 

Cape Brünn

In the sense of a promontory reaching out into the sea, Cape Brünn, situated on the east side of McClintock Island at the southern exit of the Negri Channel, is no real cape. Rather, it is a conspicuous conic mountain with a flat top of erosion-resistant magmatic rock. In front of the mountain is a low, small coastal plain, which thanks its existence to the mountain, because it splits the glacier flow, allowing an ice-free area on its "lee" side. Towards west, into the island, the mountain continues as a range of further peaks, not as eye-catching from sea as Cape Brünn, but partly higher, including the highest peak of the island (520 m) about 4 km from the shore.  
On may 2nd 1874, Payer and Haller of the TEGETTHOFF expedition did an exhausting climb in unpleasant weather onto Cape Brünn mountain through its steep slope and the rock formations around its top, which turned out very rewarding: As they reached the top, the clouds opened and much of the archipelago laid to their feet in all its white beauty. This view allowed them to extend their maps of this unexplored archipelago considerably, as they could look northwards across Markham Sound all the way to the southern shores of what later became Luigi and Champ Islands, and to the west, they could even vaguely discern parts of the coastline of what is now George Land. However, this observation from just one point did not reveal all secrets - not surprising at the end of winter, where all minor sounds were frozen over and just as white as the lower land areas: wrongly, they assumed the land masses they saw to be the coast line of one huge territory of unknown extension towards north and west. It was left to later expeditions to find out that this in fact was just a limited archipelago and even the areas seen from Cape Brünn are in reality a lot of minor islands, laying partly very closely together. In addition, Payer and Haller discovered from the top of Cape Brünn that the low and narrow zone beneath them to the east was in fact not land, as they thought while even crossing it, but a narrow sound, which they named Negri Channel, separating McClintock and Hall Islands. It can be assumed that this passage was even narrower at that time, close to the end of the little ice age, than today, due to glaciers retreating on both sides.
Inspite of still being wrong about the nature of Franz-Josef-Land as a whole, this short last exploration sledge tour of the TEGETTHOFF expedition, heading west along the southern limit of the archipelago, revealed a lot of new information about the southern part of the archipelago, extending the range of the expedition map here considerably within just a few days, thanks to the climbing of the Cape Brünn mountain and the clear view from its top.

 

Cape Dillon

Cape Dillon in the very southwest of McClintock Island is basically a gently westward falling slope with a steep cliff to the south, and at the same time the largest ice-free coastal area of the island, mostly covered by frost debries or stones polished round in former tidal breaker zones - a sign of the land rise since the last ice age. Vegetation is minimal. To the west, there is a rocky beach. Up to 3 km from the coastline, a gently rising ice cap covers the interior to the North and Northeast.
Cape Dillon is the only place on McClintock with clear traces from the pioneer age. Here, the Fiala Ziegler Expedition (1903-05) had an outpost, mainly for looking out for a hoped-for rescue ship and eventually attracting its attention, as there is 180 degrees open view to southern directions from the cape. The expedition vessel "America" had been crushed by the ice off Öffnet einen internen Link im aktuellen FensterRudolf Island by the ice.
In 2008, we visited Cape Dillon on the second voyage led by me in that year, to look out for remains of that outpost - in the literature, nothing had been found by me about further visits there since the Fiala-Ziegler expedition had left it in summer 1905. The intention was to check whether - and if: which - remains of it still can be seen. 
Fitting the descriptions by Fiala, we found remains of a primitive shelter, consisting of a U-shaped stone wall piled up to 1.5 m height of locally found stones, with its opening to the south, with two upright solid wooden poles fixed between the stones, one on in each side of the "U". Opposing the southern entrance, something looking like a primitive fire place seemed to have been in the northern end of the shelter in the stone wall. In the immediate surroundings, numerous rotten remains of strings and small textile bits, partly with metal rings in it, still can be seen - most likely the relics of a strong tent canvass placed as a roof over the stone wall and supported by the two upright wooden poles. Close by, some remains of wooden boards and an oven grate were laying on the ground, as well as some whalrus and polar bear bones, and a bit higher up in the slope a bigger heavy metal cylinder with a fitting heavy lid next to it, of unknown function and origin. See detail pictures to the right.
Cape Dillon with its dark scree desert and the white ice cap rising from it in the distance, while in most other directions, there is mainly open sea with some drifting ice, is certainly one of the bleakest places of the archipelago - and the visitor can only guess hoe much the expedition members based here in the primitive shelter longed for sails or smoke from a ship appearing in the distance for their relief.
Since the rescue of the Fiala-Ziegler expedition in summer 1905, certainly only few others have been to this place and possibly, we were even the first tourists arriving there.


Last Modification: 14.11.2011