The Polaris expedition (1871) was led by the American Charles Francis Hall, who intended it to be the first expedition to reach the North Pole. Sponsored by the United States government, it was one of the first serious attempts at the Pole, after that of British naval officer William Edward Parry, who in 1827 reached latitude 82°45′ North. The expedition failed at its main objective being hampered by insubordination, incompetence, and poor leadership.
Under Hall’s command, the Polaris departed from New York City in June 1871. By October, the men were wintering on the shore of northern Greenland, making preparations for the trip to the Pole. Hall returned to the ship from an exploratory sledging journey, and promptly fell ill. Before he died, he accused members of the crew of poisoning him. An exhumation of his body in 1968 revealed that he had ingested a large quantity of arsenic in the last two weeks of his life.
The expedition’s notable achievement was reaching 82°29’N latitude by ship, a record at the time. On the way southward, nineteen members of the expedition became separated from the ship and drifted on an ice floe for six months and 1,800 miles (2,900 km) before being rescued. The damaged Polaris was run aground and wrecked near Etah, Greenland, in October 1872. The remaining men were able to survive the winter, and were rescued the following summer. A naval board of inquiry investigated Hall’s death, but no charges were ever laid.