Fiala Anthony

Anthony Fiala, an American journalist, photographer, and explorer, took the first moving pictures of the Arctic at the turn of the 20th century. Fiala was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1869 and displayed abilities both as an artist and artisan, which led him to choose illustrated journalism as a career. He later joined the United States Army and served in the Spanish-American War of 1898-1900, rising to the rank of major. He was also correspondent for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

In 1901-1902, William Ziegler of New York, the wealthy founder and owner of the Royal Chemical Company, which specialized in baking powder, financed an expedition to Franz Josef Land, an archipelago north of Spitsbergen, with the aim of reaching the North Pole. Evelyn Briggs Baldwin was chosen as the leader, and Fiala participated as photographer and second-in-command. The expedition, consisting of 42 American, Scandinavian, and Russian members, traveled in the steam yacht America (ex. Esquimaux, a Scottish whaler) via northern Norway to Cape Flora at the end of July 1901. The expedition included 15 Siberian ponies and over 400 dogs for transport purposes. The main base was established on Alger Island and named Camp Ziegler, and another camp was built 10 km further west on the island. The America was moored close to the main camp, it having proved impossible to sail the vessel further north through the ice. All but seven men wintered on the ship, and the winter was spent in preparations for the coming sledge journeys. Fiala kept the photographic record of the expedition, including the first motion pictures of the Arctic regions. From January 1902, sledge journeys were made to establish depots. Once the chain of depots had been laid to the north of the archipelago, Baldwin, Fiala, and the artist Russell Williams Porter made an extra trip to visit the site of Fridtjof Nansen's and Hjalmar Johansen's wintering in 1895-1896. Here the message Nansen had left to describe what had happened to them so far and how they planned to continue their journey was found and later presented to Norway (1930). The expedition left Franz Josef Land in July, without attempting to strike north across the ice.

Ziegler was naturally disappointed at the lack of results, and immediately arranged for a new expedition to return to the archipelago to attempt to reach the North Pole. This time he chose Fiala to lead the expedition, which began in 1903 and continued for two years. Several members of the first expedition applied to return to the America. Altogether, 35 Americans, three Norwegians, and one Englishman participated, along with a large number of dogs and ponies. Vard0 in northern Norway was again the last port of call before Franz Josef Land, which was reached in mid-August. Despite bad ice conditions, the ship managed to reach Teplitz Bay on Rudolf Island in the far north of the archipelago (Camp Ziegler was in the south). Just before Christmas in 1903, the America was crushed by the ice in the bay and had to be abandoned.

The shore base, however, was comfortable and functional, and preparations for the march to the Pole continued through the winter. They made a start on March 7, 1903, but the large convoy of men, sledges, ponies, and dogs had to return on March 11 for various adjustments. A new start was made on the 25th, but lasted for only two days. A short advance onto the sea ice from Cape Fligely had convinced Fiala to revise the equipment and postpone another attempt until the following winter. Most of the men had by now lost heart and desired to retreat to Cape Flora to await the planned relief ship that summer. At the end of April, 14 volunteers were left at the base by Teplitz Bay, while Fiala led the others toward Cape Flora. Here the crew lived and waited in the houses left by Frederick Jackson's expedition from 1894 to 1897. A vein of mineable coal was found in the cliff behind the camp and was used for fuel.

Unfortunately, the relief ship was not able to reach the Ziegler-Fiala crew that summer, and the expedition spent a second winter in three separate camps, at Cape Flora, Teplitz Bay, and a group of three at Camp Ziegler. Fiala's account described a great deal of bitterness and resignation among the group that had hoped to leave.

He returned to Teplitz Bay, where new plans for a far smaller Pole expedition were made. The third attempt began on March 15, 1904. After a week on the sea ice they had reached 82° N, where Fiala was persuaded to return as they met a lead of open water among the jumbled pressure ridges. His reasoning was that he was responsible for the men left behind, who might have to face a third winter. In total, the expedition carried out a considerable amount of sledging around Franz Josef Land, filling in the map of the archipelago and recording various observations. One of the Norwegians died of an illness during the second winter, but otherwise the expedition members were fetched by the Terra Nova at the end of July 1905. William Ziegler had died two months before and therefore did not see the results of his second failed North Pole expedition, which included a brilliant photographic documentation by Fiala.

During the course of these two expeditions, Fiala traveled more than 4000 miles by small boat and sledge, acquiring experience of appropriate clothing and equipment. On his return home, he established a sporting equipment firm and devoted himself thereafter to the design of field equipment, also testing it on expeditions. In 1912-1913, he accompanied Theodore Roosevelt on his journeys in the Amazon Basin. After the Soviet annexation of Franz Josef Land and closing of the area to foreigners around 1930, Fiala offered Camp Ziegler and his other cabins to the Norwegian government, although this could only be a gesture.

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