Wilhelm Filchner

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Wilhelm Filchner
Wilhelm Filchner.jpg
Born13 September 1877
Bayreuth, Germany
Died7 May 1957(1957-05-07) (aged 79)
Zurich, Switzerland
AwardsGerman National Prize for Art and Science (1937)

Wilhelm Filchner (13 September 1877 – 7 May 1957) was a German explorer. He travelled in the Pamir ranges, Tibet and the Antarctic. The Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf in the Antarctic is named after him.

Early expeditions[edit]

At the age of 21, Filchner participated in his first expedition, which led him to Russia. Two years later, he travelled alone and on horseback through the Pamir Mountains, from Osh to Murgabh to the upper Wakhan to Tashkurgan and back. From 1903 to 1905 he led an expedition through China to Tibet.[1]

Expedition to Antarctica[edit]

Following his return from Tibet, he was tasked with organizing a German expedition to map Antarctica. After a training expedition to Spitzbergen, they set off with their ship Deutschland on 4 May 1911. The expedition entered the Weddell Sea and discovered Luitpold Coast and the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, which Filchner had originally named after the German emperor Wilhelm II. They were the first expedition to enter further into Weddell Sea than James Weddell some 80 years before.[2]

The ship overwintered in the pack ice after attempts to set up a base on the ice shelf had failed because of an iceberg calving. It was not until September 1912 that the Deutschland was free again and could return. During its drift in the Weddell Sea ice Filchner investigated the existence of New South Greenland, an alleged coastline seen by Captain Bejamin Morrell in 1823, during a sealing voyage. He found no trace, and concluded that Morrell had seen a mirage.[3][4]

Later life[edit]

Filchner never returned to Antarctica, but went on many journeys through Nepal and Tibet, including a geographic survey of Nepal in 1939. He contracted malaria on the trip and while returning south, he was interned from 1940 in Patna in the Cottage-Hospital, from 1940 until 13 September 1941 in the Parole Camp in Purandhar and from September 1941 until November 1946 in the Parole Camp in Satara along with his daughter Erika. Later on he lived in Poona in the Maharashtra state of India.

Adolf Hitler awarded him the German National Prize for Art and Science as an acknowledgement of his achievements in exploration.

Filchner died at the age of 79 in Zurich, Switzerland.


  • Wilhelm Filchner: Life of a Researcher
  • Wilhelm Filchner: To the sixth continent (translation by William Barr 1994)
  • Wilhelm Filchner: Through East Tibet
  • Wilhelm Filchner: Hell and Fever in Nepal

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse Der Expedition Filchner Nach China Und Tibet Band.4 (1903-1905). by Filchner, Wilhelm. Published 1913
  2. ^ Howgego, Raymond (2004). Encyclopedia of Exploration (Part 2: 1800 to 1850). Potts Point, NSW, Australia: Hordern House.
  3. ^ "Wilhelm Filchner 1877–1957". South-pole.com. Retrieved December 20, 2008.
  4. ^ Barr, William (2007). "Wilhelm Filchner". In Riffenburgh, Beau (ed.). Encyclopaedia of the Antarctic. Volume 1. Taylor & Francis. p. 394.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]