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A New Job for the Navy

"I say, Suh! We've whupped that Napoleon chappie... 'ow will we keep the lads busy now?"

By 1818, Britain had conquered Napoleon, the War of 1812 with the United States was over, and there were ships and men aplenty - with nothing to do.

Sir John Barrow, a Secretary of the Admiralty, thought it was high time the navy vanquished the polar regions.

This would give work to unemployed officers and experience to others. It would also provide scientific information to the royal societies, and demonstrate the dominance of England's navy, science and technology.

National prestige demanded it... and besides, Barrow thought that those Russians, who now claimed land on both sides of the Bering Strait, were getting altogether too pushy!

The British parliament offered prizes from 5,000 to 20,000 (vast sums in the early 19th century) to the first English teams to score the goals of the North Pole and the Northwest Passage.

Men who distinguished themselves would be known as "Arctic Worthies", and the exploration games began!

PICTURES TOP: British ships at the end of the Napoleonic wars.
RIGHT: British naval insignia.

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