(Click on this to access an enlargement that is easier to read.)
This month is the 100th anniversary of the first crossing of the Bering Strait by dogsled by a Caucasian. Max Gottschalk lost one of Ira Rank’s vessels to the ice pack off the coast of Inchon in the Chukchi Sea after pulling the Norwegian naturalist Johann Koern out of the ice after Koern had lost his ship’s rudder. Both men were to lose their vessels, crushed by the sea ice.
Both men crossed the Bering Strait by dog sled, eventually making it to Nome: Koern chasing Max across the strait under the mistaken assumption that he had made off with his furs. Johann Koern, traveling with another man, ended up losing both of his hands after they were badly frozen during his chase. A three-year court battle ensued over the ownersip of the furs, Max prevailing. Max and Koern later crossed paths for the last time in Vladivostok in 1919. Koern was dying at the Red Cross hospital, and my grandfather sailing for Nome with the governor’s vessel, with a load of Red Cross supplies he bought on the Red market from a Chinese gentleman.