Adrien Victor Joseph de Gerlache de Gomery

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Adrien Victor Joseph de Gerlache de Gomery

Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Auguste de Gerlache de Gomery and Emma Biscops
Husband of Elisabeth Höjer
Ex-husband of Suzanne Poulet
Father of Philippe de Gerlache; Marie Louise de Gerlache; Gaston de Gerlache de Gomery and <private> de Gerlache de Gomery
Brother of Adrien de Gerlache; Gaston de Gerlache and Louise de Gerlache

Managed by: Hans Erik Foss Amundsen
Last Updated:

About Adrien Victor Joseph de Gerlache de Gomery

Baron Adrien Victor Joseph de Gerlache de Gomery (2 August 1866 – 4 December 1934) was an officer in the Belgian Royal Navy who led the Belgian Antarctic Expedition of 1897–99.

Born in Hasselt, Belgium, de Gerlache was educated in Brussels. He studied Engineering at the Free University of Brussels (now split into the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel), and spent his holidays as a cabin boy on board transatlantic ocean liners. After graduating in 1885, he joined the Belgian Navy on 19 January 1886.

After graduating from the nautical college of Ostend as first lieutenant, he was assigned to the Belgica, a hydrography ship. It was while serving there that he came up with his plan to explore Antarctica.

Belgian Antarctic Expedition:

In 1896, de Gerlache purchased the Norwegian-built whaling ship Patria, which, following an extensive refit, he renamed as the Belgica. With a multinational crew, which included Roald Amundsen, Frederick Cook, Antoni Bolesław Dobrowolski, Henryk Arctowski and Emil Racoviţă, he set sail from Antwerp on 16 August 1897.

During January 1898, the Belgica reached the coast of Graham Land. Sailing in between the Graham Land coast and a long string of islands to the west, de Gerlache named the passage Belgica Strait. Later, it was renamed Gerlache Strait in his honor. After charting and naming several islands during some 20 separate landings, they crossed the Antarctic Circle on 15 February 1898. The Belgica anchored at Mount William

On 28 February 1898, de Gerlache's expedition became trapped in the ice of the Bellinghausen Sea, near Peter Island. Despite efforts of the crew to free the ship, they quickly realised that they would be forced to spend the winter on Antarctica. Several weeks later, on 17 May, total darkness set in, which lasted until 23 July. What followed were another 7 months of hardship trying to free the ship and its crew from the clutches of the ice. Several men lost their sanity, including one Belgian sailor who left the ship "announcing he was going back to Belgium". The party also suffered badly from scurvy.

Finally, on 15 February 1899, they managed to slowly start down a channel they had cleared during the weeks before. It took them nearly a month to cover 7 miles, and on 14 March they cleared the ice. The expedition returned to Antwerp on 5 November 1899. In 1902, his book Quinze Mois dans l'Antarctique (published in 1901) was awarded a prize by the Académie Française. Later years

Adrien de Gerlache participated in several other expeditions, including:

A commercial and scientific expedition to the Persian Gulf in 1901

The Antarctica expedition of Jean-Baptiste Charcot, which he abandoned before they reached Antarctica due to the bad atmosphere on board (1903)

Expedition to the Greenland Sea on board the Belgica (1905)

Expedition to the Barents Sea and Kara Sea (1907)

Expedition to Greenland, Spitsbergen and the Frans-Jozef archipelago on board the Belgica (1909)

He had two children with his first wife, Suzanne Poulet, whom he married in 1904: Philippe (born 1906) and Marie-Louise (born 1908). After this marriage ended in 1913, de Gerlache married Elisabeth Höjer from Sweden. With her, he had another son, Gaston de Gerlache in 1919. In the 1950s, Gaston followed in his father's footsteps, participating in a Belgian research station in Antarctica.

Adrien de Gerlache died in Brussels in 1934, aged 68, from paratyphoid.

Would Belgium ever been interested in Antarctica without Adrien de Gerlache? Worldwide he is considered as a pioneer. De Gerlache was the person who organized the first scientific expedition to Antarctica. The organization was difficult. In a time when Belgium plundered Congo, it wasn't evident to find money for an expedition to a continent that had only snow and ice to offer. But the perseverance of de Gerlache triumphed and he became Belgium's the most famous explorer.

Short overview of Adrien de Gerlache's life:

1866 Adrien de Gerlache de Gomery is born on 2 August in Hasselt (Belgium).

1872 He studies in the Oger-Laurent Institute in Brussels.

1882 His father forbids him to go to the Navy and sends him to the Polytechnic School of the ULB in Brussels (Faculty Applied Science).

1883 During holiday he works as a cabin boy on the Waesland, a transatlantic steamer that navigates from Antwerp to New York and back.

1884 He works as a cabin boy on the Rhynland (destination New York) and afterwards on the Switzerland (destination Philadelphia).

1885 Adrien graduates from university.

1886 On 19 January he joins the Navy and spends the next years more time on sea that on land.

1889 He becomes officer on the Leerdam, a Dutch transatlantic steamer.

1890 On 1 October he is appointed lieutenant in the Navy; he is offered a job in the postal service Ostend-Dover.

1892 Adrien gets his certificate of first lieutenant on the ocean-going trade at the nautical college of Ostend.

1893 He works on the Belgique, a government ship of the Hydrographical Service; aboard he comes up with the idea to organize an expedition to Antarctica.

1896 On 2 July Adrien buys the Patria and on 5 July he renames the ship to Belgica.

1897 On 16 August the Belgica leaves the port of Antwerp.

1899 The Belgica is back in Antwerp.

1901 Adrien leads a commercial and scientific expedition in the Persian Gulf with the Sélika.

1902 His book, Fifteen months in Antarctica, is awarded by the Académie Française.

1903 He participates in the Antarctica expedition of Jean-Baptiste Charcot; he assists with the preparation of the expedition and sails with the Français to Antarctica; due to the bad atmosphere aboard he abandons the expedition in Pernambuco (Brazil).

1904 Marriage with Suzanne Poulet of France.

1905 On demand of the duke of Orléans he leads with the Belgica an expedition in the Greenland Sea.

1906 He is father for the first time: Philippe is born.

1907 He sails with the Belgica to the Barentz Sea and the Kara Sea; the duke of Orléans wanted to make the north-eastern passage, but this failed.

1908 A daughter is born: Marie-Louise.

1909 Last polar journey of the Belgica under the command of Adrien de Gerlache: journey to Greenland, Spitsbergen and the Frans-Jozef archipelago.

1913 End of his marriage with Suzanne Poulet.

1914 During the First World War he leads the evacuation of the port of Ostend; he is transferred to Scandinavia.

1915 He publishes A land that don't want to die, an illustrated book that reveals the pitiful situation in Belgium during the First World War; the book is a great success in Scandinavia; Gaston, his brother, is killed.

1917 He organizes an art gallery with Belgian art in Norway.

1918 On 28 December he marries for the second time; his new wife is Elisabeth Höjer and she is Swedish.

1919 In Copenhagen he assists with the repatriation of Belgian prisoners of war; on 17 November another son is born: Gaston.

1926 He is appointed inspector-general of the Navy.

1934 On 4 December he dies after a long illness (paratyphoid)

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Adrien Victor Joseph de Gerlache de Gomery's Timeline

August 1866
November 17, 1919
Age 53
City of Brussels, Bruxelles, Belgium
December 4, 1934
Age 68