PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A famous Arctic explorer from these parts is remembered at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, with a historical marker on a steep slope off Kelly Drive on the perimeter of the cemetery.
Born in Philadelphia in 1820, Elisha Kent Kane graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, then served as a surgeon in the Navy. By 1850, he was tasked with joining the search for the lost British explorer Sir John Franklin, who had been missing since 1845.
Their ship became icebound, and the crew abandoned ship and marched across northwestern Greenland. While they found none of Franklin’s crew, they conducted geographic and other scientific research while on that epic journey.
Now there’s a marker at the Kane family mausoleum, after intensive research by Penn State Abington Professor of Anthropology P.J. Capelotti and his students. He says no American explorer before or since has been such a complete package:
“Kane was a brilliant writer, great explorer and respected scientist.”
Capelotti describes Kane’s exploits as “the moonshot of that era:”
“If you look at maps of the mid-19th century of the Arctic, there’s nothing there. The North Pole was every bit as blank on maps as the back side of the moon was before 1968.”
According to Rhode Island College Professor Russell Potter, the graveside marker is not the only tribute to the famed explorer. Also named for Kane, a US Navy destroyer, and another distant object:
“Most fittingly of all, there is a Kane crater on the moon. It is, as it happens, quite close, but not at the moon’s North Pole.”