Re: Public vs. Private Arctic Exploration

From: Michael S. Lorrey (
Date: Fri Jun 09 2000 - 12:31:18 MDT wrote:
> Robin forwards:
> > "From 1818 to 1905," writes Karpoff, "35 government and 57
> > privately-funded expeditions sought to locate and navigate a
> > Northwest Passage, discover the North Pole, and make other
> > significant discoveries in arctic regions. Most arctic discoveries
> > were made by private expeditions. Most tragedies were publicly
> > funded. By other measures as well [ship losses, crew deaths, scurvy],
> > publicly-funded expeditions performed poorly."
> It's surprising that private expeditions were so much better even when
> dealing with what was largely an altruistic and non-commercial activity.
> Finding the North Pole and much other arctic research does not have
> commercial value. Maybe finding a Northwest Passage would, but even
> then the information would probably not have been kept proprietary.
> I would think that a non-commercial, altruistic expedition mounted by the
> private sector would have many of the same problems as one financed by
> the government. Since they don't have a commercial stake in the outcome
> but are just backing the project for PR or perhaps pure science reasons,
> they wouldn't necessarily be any more careful than the government.
> Maybe I am wrong and the private expeditions in question did have
> more of a commercial element?

I don't think so. I beleive that the reason is that the explorers had to raise
funds for their expeditions, and only those whos reputations were considered
most competent got funded, while publicly funded expeditions leaders most likely
were staffed more by individuals who obtained their positions through political
connections. A partisan leader of a government might decide that he needed some
good PR and put together funding for an expedition, but when it came to choosing
leaders, his partisan thinking would automatically eliminate anyone he thought
were not of his political party.

Mike Lorrey

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