The Polar Explorer
“The trophies of the expedition, impressive and interesting, were instantly snatched by the scientific world…Before we came Antarctica was barely touched. For over 50 years science forgot about Antarctica, and we were first. We were the first to bring the foundations for the science bout the climate of Antarctica, the yearly series of everyday observations of temperature, pressure, humidity, nebulosity, precipitation, insolation, winds, optical phenomena, the news about upper air currents gained by way of constant and methodical research on the clouds.”
So wrote Antoni Boleslaw Dobrowolski about the results of the expedition to the Antarctic by the ship “Belgica” (August 1897-November 1899). Alongside Henryk Arctowski, he was the second Pole to participate in this courageous expedition, which was the first to spend winter on Antarctica. The short description clearly indicates to the immense scientific importance of the expedition, which radically influenced a change in the concept about this unknown and mysterious part of the wold. The “South Land” aroused considerably vast interest in the first half of the 19th century, but all the expeditions into the south regions were of a political character. It was important to place state flags in order to make a symbolic capture of new lands. Only the expedition of Adrien de Gerlache aboard the “Belgica” ship made it its target to conduct broad scientific research. It opened up a new page in research on Antarctica.
Antoni Boleslaw Dobrowolski made a considerable scientific contribution into the expedition and knowledge about Antarctica. Who was Dobrowolski? How did he find his way on board the “Belgica” so as to sail in the company of R. Amundsen and others towards the inaccessible and cold continent?
He was born in Sworszowice Koscielne, Lodz region, on June 6, 1872. In his school years, he was first a sympathizer with progressive revolutionary trends, and then a member of the Second Proletariat. He was imprisoned and sent to the Caucasus for this reason. He escaped after three years of exile. He stayed for a short time in Switzerland and then moved to Belgium, where he took up studies at the Brussels University. Henryk Arctowski, member of the expedition, made it possible for Dobrowolski to participate in the expedition.
After returning from the expedition, Dobrowolski became a member of the “Belgica” Publishing Commission at the Belgian Academy of Sciences. As early as 1903, Dobrowolski published two outstanding scientific papers based on material gathered during that expedition. One was about snow and frost, the second about clouds.
In 1907, Dobrowolski returned home. He worked as a teacher. But he did not give up his polar interests. In effect, he wrote a book titled, “Polar Expeditions,” which was published in 1914. He was particularly interested in the physics of ice. His work, “Natural History of Ice,” published in 1923, was translated into many languages.
Dobrowolski, an acclaimed scientist, was not given a place at any higher school in the first years after Poland gained independence. He was an inspector of the Ministry of Denominations, Religion and Public Enlightenment, and then worked as a clerk in the National Savings Bank.
It was only in 1927 that he became a professor of pedagogy at the Free University in Warsaw. He was a supporter of the concept of a 10-year secondary school. In 1928 he established the Society of Geophysicists, and was one of the initiators of the Siesmologic Observatory of the Polar Circle. The Sea Observatory in Gdynia was established on his initiative. Dobrowolski contributed into extending the scope of research and raising the level of the State Meteorological Institute, of which he was director. Dobrowolski was an ardent exponent of the participation of Poland in the Second Polar Year 1932-1933. His efforts, assistance, and knowledge contributed to the sending of th Polish expedition and setting up of a research station on the Bear Island.
In recognition of his contribution, Dobrowolski was appointed vice-chairman of the International Ice and Snow Commission in 1936. He was a professor of pedagogy at the Warsaw University since 1946.
He died in April 1954.
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Earthquakes are not a rare phenomenon in the world. According to scientists, about 3,850 earthquakes occur every year, i.e., roughly speaking, one every three hours.
Did earth tremors ever occur in Poland besides the ones in Silesia? Earth tremors are rare in Poland. Only the strongest tremors in Hungary were felt in Malopolska (Small Poland). In old times, local seismic movements in Poland were taken for earthquakes. Many interesting details on this subject are mentioned in Jan Dlugosz’s chronicles.
According to Dlugosz, a strong earthquake occurred in Poland and the neighboring countries on May 5, 1200. It recurred during the following days and damaged many towers and buildings. And since it was a rare phenomenon in Poland, Dlugosz wrote, “…it was taken for a wonder.”
Another earthquake was felt on January 31, 1257 in Cracow and other adjoining cities. Earthquakes in 1328 were felt all over Poland, as well as in Bohemia, Ruthenia and Hungary.