Smoker and poet
Wegener started smoking during the expedition in 1906-1908. In response to criticism he answered with a poem in praise of tobacco, which begins as follows:
Ich lobe mir die kurze Pfeife!
Damit der Geist nicht ziellos schweife,
Und die Probleme fest ergreife,
So daß die Arbeit richtig reife, ….
Wegener had a special predilection for Christian Morgenstern’s poetry. On certain occasions he himself occasionally tried his hand at humorous, comical poems, such as:
Auf hoher See Hipp! Hipp! Hurra! Wir fahren nach Amerika!
Wir stampfen gegen Wind und See, sieben Meilen Fahrt, Herrjemineh!
Windstärke neun von vorn o Schreck! Wir nehmen Wasser über Deck.
Doch wenn erlahmt des Sturmes Kraft, entfaltet sich die Wissenschaft.
Der Doktor schon zu diesem Zwecke, füllt den Ballon hier in der Ecke.
Erst muss er tüchtig >Auftrieb< kriegen, dann läßt ihn der Professor fliegen.
Das weitere ist gar nicht schwer: Man guckt von unten hinterher.
Und rechnet dann im Kämmerlein, wie wohl der Wind mag oben sein.
At a dizzy height
Alfred Wegener and his brother were avid hot-air balloonists. In 1906 they succeeded in undertaking an exceptionally long balloon flight. Poorly equipped with clothing and supplies, they landed, suffering from hunger and the cold, only after 52.5 hours, thus breaking the existing world record at that time by 17 hours.
Struck by lightning
Wegener’s first meteorological article appeared back in 1905 and described a lightning strike in a group of kites in which six kites were held in the air by over 9,000 metres of wire. The topmost kite carried the self-recording instruments. When Wegener started hauling them in because of an impending storm, he suddenly saw a beam of fire move down the wire to the outermost unwinding reel with a tremendous hiss like an explosion. Wegener was lucky and escaped injury. However, the wire was completely burned up.
On foot and by sled
On the Danish Mylius-Erichsen expedition in 1906-1908 in northeast Greenland Alfred Wegner covered 1,500 km by dog sled within 90 travel days. Using a hand sled, he travelled for 43 days, covering around 500 km.
While crossing Greenland at around 77°N in 1912-1913, he along with his colleagues Koch, Vigfuß and Larsen had to trek over 1,200 km, for the most part on skis at elevations of about 3,000 metres. The actual crossing of the inland ice took 75 days.
To the bitter end
When Alfred Wegener and his expedition comrades approached the end of the Greenland crossing of the west coast at the beginning of July 1913, the last remaining horse, Grauni, was extremely weak. However, the men had set their mind on saving this horse at all cost.
In his entry for 28 June Wegener wrote in his diary: … We covered about two kilometres in an original way, for which – as far as I know – we have priority: we put Grauni on the sled and tied him there and then we pulled the sled ourselves! … After this first attempt, as Wegener called it, Grauni was transported on the sled several more times on the following days. However, the horse did not reach the west coast. The entry for 4 July reads: We haven’t eaten any bread in a long time now, but have given everything to Grauni; we made do with short legs each day though we could have gone further with the help of the sail; we put him on the sled and pulled ourselves – many miles – and now he dies on us a mile before the depot.