In 1906, Alfred Wegener joined the Greenland expedition that was led by the Danish scientist Ludvig Mylius Erichsen. On this expedition they explored the previously unexplored region of the Northeast coast of Greenland. Wegener is credited with building the first meteorological station in Greenland, near Danmarkshavn. This proved to be a dangerous region to study in because two of Wegener's colleagues died while out exploring.
In 1908, Wegener returned to Germany and taught at the University of Marsburg. His lectures were actually used in what became the standard textbook of the day, ( 1910 ) on meteorology, " Thermodynamik der Atmosphare ". It was here that he also lectured for the first time about what he called his " Continental Displacement Theory ". A theory that would take over 50 years to become accepted, and one that he was greatly ridiculed for at the time in the world - wide scientific community.
After a second expedition to Greenland, which almost ended in disaster when they ran out of food and had to eat their pack animals, and their dogs, before being rescued, Alfred returned to Germany to settle down. He met and married Else Koppen, who was the daughter of his mentor, the meteorologist, Wladimir Koppen. There in Marsburg Alfred found happiness with his new bride until the outbreak of the first World War in 1914.
Alfred was drafted into the German infantry, and fought in Belgium. After being twice wounded in battle he was sent to the rear and found to be unfit for active service. He was not dismissed from the service altogether though, but was sent to the Balkans where he recovered from his wounds, and was then assigned to the German Weather Service. Despite his injuries and his military service , in 1915 he was able to finish his controversial book, " The Origin of Continents and Oceans ". Alfred Wegener came up with his, "Continental Displacement Theory", when he noticed that almost all the continents fit together much like the pieces of a puzzle. He also theorized that all the continents were once part of a single land mass called Pangaea, All - Earth ( Greek). When we in our modern age see maps of the world this seems like a simple and logical conclusion, but back in 1912 this was a radical theory that was not well received in the scientific community. Alfred Wegener also speculated on something he called, " sea - floor spreading ", that might be the cause of the continents drifting. Though, unfortunately, he did not know the mechanism that caused it. (Tectonic plates would not be discovered for another 50 years). In his final addittion of his book he added his observations that the shallower seas were geologically younger that the deeper oceans.
Because of the Great War, his 1915 publication of, "The Origins of Continents and Oceans", went relatively unnoticed. In 1922, however, his book was published in English, and the scientific world exploded in anger. The British accused Alfred Wegener of changing the shapes of the continents to fit his theory. Even his own countrymen called his lectures, " delirious ravings". The worst attacks, however, came from two American geologists, Thomas C. Chamberlin, and his son, Rollin T. Chamberlin. They attacked Wegener because he had not yet discovered the mechanism that made the continents drift, and because the theories of the father and son were based on permanently fixed continents. One geologist even remarked, " If we are to believe Wegener's hypothesis we must forget everything that we have learned over the last 70 years and begin again. " Funny but the one thing that we all should learn from science is that it is not a static study, but is constantly in flux as new information and theories are formulated. I guess in 1922 professional jealousy overruled the thought and processes of science. I also think that there was still a lot of hatred and prejudice against the Germans over World War I which clouded the open - minds of foreign scientists.
I have great respect for Alfred Wegener because he never backed down from the theories that he formulated about continental displacement. He never allowed the harsh words of criticism of his fellow scientists to sway his opinions of his own work. When confronted with the, "lack of a mechanism" question, he actually came up with several possible theories, none of which were accepted in his lifetime. He never walked away from his theories, but he did allow them to evolve naturally in his mind and added these new ideas to later addittions of his book. Starting in the 1950's Alfred's, " Delirious ravings", finally began to gain credibility, as scientists finally saw the " mechanism", of Tectonic Plates, and in our modern day Continental Displacement or drifting as fact, not theory.
Alfred Wegener went back to Greenland in 1930 on a fourth expedition. On October 19th Wegener, and a man named Rasmus Villumsen, made for the west camp on dog sleds. Unfortunately they never made it to the camp. Alfred's body was finally found on May 12, 1931. Alfred Wegener had died and was buried by Villumsen. A pair of skis protruding through the snow marked the grave. It is speculated that Alfred had a heart attack because he was then 50 and was a very heavy smoker. Villumen seems to have continued on but his body was never found.
Alfred Wegener, like many great thinker - scientists, had ideas that were well ahead of their time, and beyond the technology of the time to prove them conclusively. Alfred Wegener was a brave man who stood by the theories he put forth , and defended them throughout his life. He refused to change his ideas to fit the established norms of the day. Not all warriors my friends, fight with sword and shield, some fight with ideas, and theories. I honor Alfred Wegener, who is a fine addittion to our Scandinavian / German Cultural History, and a man who was half a century ahead of his time ! All Hail Alfred Lothar Wegener !
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !