Ross Gilmore Marvin

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Ross Gilmore Marvin (1880–1908) was an Arctic explorer who took part in Robert Peary's 1905–1906 and 1908–1909 expeditions. It was initially believed that Marvin died in an accident on the second expedition, at the age of 29, but later evidence emerged that he may have been murdered. There is still controversy regarding the real causes of Marvin's death.

Personal life[edit]

Marvin was born in Elmira, New York on January 28, 1880 to Mary J. Marvin and Edward Marvin. He was the youngest of six children. When Marvin was six years old his father died. Marvin was educated in Elmira in the public school system at Beecher School. In 1899, Marvin graduated from the Elmira Free Academy, and in fall of that same year he went to Cornell University. Marvin also served on the training-ship St. Mary's of the New York Nautical School, which conducted scientific studies in European waters. He graduated from the Nautical School in 1902 and from Cornell University in 1905 with a degree in civil engineering.

Polar expeditions[edit]

First expedition[edit]

Marvin took part in the first Peary expedition shortly after graduating from Cornell. Marvin was very eager to join the expedition, because he felt that it was his life's work. This expedition failed to reach the North Pole, but he was more committed than ever to go back. After his return, Marvin became a professor of engineering at Cornell University. He took a leave of absence from this post in order to participate in Peary's 1908–1909 expedition.

Second expedition[edit]

Marvin was given the role of chief scientist and keeper of the ship's log. He would record the day to day activities of the men, and of the general conditions that the men had to face while headed toward the arctic, which included the weather. Marvin kept a journal of his days on the ice, however the entries began to dwindle as the expedition went on. His last journal entry was on December 8, 1908. On this journey, they were better equipped. They had 7 explorers, 17 Eskimos, 133 sled dogs, and 19 sledges. There was a main group and there were smaller groups. The smaller groups would break off from the main group and go ahead to establish camps for the main group. While Peary set out to reach the North Pole, Marvin was left behind as part of a staged support team. His partners were Inuit cousins, Kudlookto and Harrigan. After Peary left Marvin with his two Eskimo companions, Peary never saw Marvin alive.

Death and legacy[edit]

There are a few theories as to what people think happened on the ice that day but because of the location, nothing can be proved conclusively. There was an official explanation in place until 1926. Initially, Kudlookto and Harrigan, the two Inuit cousins, reported that Marvin had fallen through the ice, and that there was no foul play. Seventeen years after the incident, Kudlookto confessed the murder to a Danish missionary, due to his newfound Christian beliefs. Because of the remoteness of the area in which Kudlookto lived and the indeterminate jurisdiction of the site of the crime, no attempt was ever made to prosecute Kudlookto. However, there are also stories that Marvin lost his mind and Kudlookto had to shoot him to save his cousin. Marvin was threatening to leave Harrigan behind and Kudlookto shot him to save Harrigan. Even with the stories, those who were close to the Eskimo claimed that he would not harm anyone. They still hold fast to the theory that Marvin drowned in the water after falling through the ice. Another theory is that since Marvin did not know the language well, his way to get through was by using hand gestures. There is a possibility that the two cousins may have misinterpreted what Marvin was trying to convey, and in the panic shot him.

Marvin is remembered at the one of his alma maters, State University of New York Maritime College in New York City with a plaque commemorated May 7, 1968.

External links[edit]

"Ross Gilmore Marvin: Scientist, Teacher, Explorer. By James Vinton Stowell. 1954"