Friday, March 1, 2013

Isaac Israel Hayes, born March 5, 1832

Isaac Israel Hayes was born in Chester CountyPennsylvania and raised in a Quaker family.

He was 29 years old when the Civil War began.

Hayes ship in the arctic, with shooting party and polar bears in foreground

After completing his medical studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Hayes signed on as ship's surgeon for an 1853-5 expedition led by Elisha Kent Kane to search for John Franklin. His 1854 exploration of the east coast of Ellesmere Island north of 79° North resulted in new and accurately mapped geographical discoveries. Hayes was apparently the first non-aboriginal explorer of Ellesmere.

Hayes led his own expedition 1860-1 which claimed to have reached the farthest north land ever, on the Ellesmere Island coast at 81°35' North, 70°30' West. It was later found that this position is deep within Ellesmere, not on the coast, and that Hayes's resulting map of was erroneous.  Hayes's 1861 farthest was at Cape Collinson, less than 10 miles north of 80° north, longitude 70°30′ west.

Hayes returned to the United States in 1861 claiming also to have seen the fictional Open Polar Sea reported by Elisha Kent Kane in 1855. 

The Civil War, however, had come to preoccupy Americans and diminished public interest in Hayes' reports of discovery.  Hayes had instead spent 15 of the most important months in American history, from July 1860 to October 1861, and above Greenland and Canada.  Because telegraphs and mail didn’t run that far north, Hayes had no idea that the United States had been torn in two during his absence.   When he finally anchored in Boston Harbor in late October 1861, Hayes realized that “the country which I had known before could be the same no more.” Quoting the Book of Exodus but also presaging the title of Robert A. Heinlein’s sci-fi classic, he wrote, “I felt like a stranger in a strange land, and yet every object which I passed was familiar.”
In the spring of 1862, he accepted a commission as a surgeon in the Union Army.  

Saterlee Hospital
During the war, Hayes commanded Satterlee Hospital, a sprawling Union army 4,500-bed hospital in Philadelphia.

After demobilization, he went into business in a shipping company in New York, giving up the practice of medicine. He did, however, maintain his interest in the Arctic, giving much of his time to writing and lecturing. In 1867 he published The Open Polar Sea, and in 1868 Cast away in the Cold, a book for children.
Hayes Expedition to Greenland
Hayes’s third and last Arctic expedition was to Greenland in 1869 aboard the brig Panther. The trip was financed by William Bradford, a well-known artist of marine and Arctic scenes, who assumed charge of photography and illustration on the expedition. Hayes looked after the geographical and geological observations, especially those of glaciology, and published an account of the expedition’s findings in The land of desolation in 1871. He also presented illustrations and photographs of the expedition, including those of William Bradford, in The Arctic regions.

He settled in New York City and served as a member of the New York State Assembly from 1876 until his death in 1881.

He died December 17, 1881, at the age of 49 in New York City, New York.

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