Cover Osteuropa 2-3/2011

In Osteuropa 2-3/2011
Teil des Dossiers Technik und Utopie

The Arctic Subjunctive
In Search of an Ice-Free Polar Sea

Philipp Felsch

Deutsche Fassung


In Frankenstein, a classic of fantasy literature, one finds the promise of an ice-free polar sea that holds unimagined riches. In the middle of the 19th century, German geographer August Petermann translated the myth of this open sea into a precise theory. Petermann’s imaginary potential was polarising. In popular literature, he was very well received; experts reacted with scepticism. The more the scepticism turned into open animosity, the more fanatically Petermann pursued his idea. Within the German national movement, that idea fell on fertile ground. Petermann even succeeded in establishing German polar research. Petermann’s theory proved to be wrong. Never in his wildest dreams would he have dared hope that nature could one day meet him half way.

(Osteuropa 2-3/2011, pp. 9–20)