Free History Studies: Elisha Kane & the Arctic

Elisha Kane was an Arctic explorer best known for discovering the Humboldt Glacier.

Read the current chapters online:

  • Map the following (you’ll find mapping resources below):
    • Pennsylvania
    • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (where Elisha Kane was born)
    • Arctic Ocean
    • Baffin Bay
    • Greenland
  • View a portrait of the Advance.
  • Look at a map of the Arctic region encircled in red.  Why do you think it is nearly night all winter?  (You’ll find further helps below.)
  • Learn more about sled dogs.
  • Explain (narrate) or write and illustrate how Dr. Kane moved the sunlight to his men.
  • Before the men could escape the ship and walk miles and miles across ice to Greenland, they had to make serious provisions that would get them there.  Read pages 167-174 of Kane’s journal of the expedition and make a list of the preparations they made to leave the ship.
  • Learn more about the seal of the Arctic.
  • Explain why the hunting of the seal was so critical to the crew.
  • Tell the story of the rescue of Dr. Kane and his men.
  • View the Humboldt Glacier that Dr. Kane discovered.
  • What is one character trait you would ascribe to Dr. Elisha Kane?  Create a notebooking page with the word as the title, and copy the passage that shows this trait.
  • More about Elisha Kane from the Book of Knowledge:

    The fate of the Franklin expedition aroused the interest of Americans, who suddenly showed great curiosity in Arctic exploration.  Their efforts had much to do with the great advances made in the far north after 1850.  The first American polar expedition, organized in 1850 to search for Franklin, consisted of two ships commanded by Lieutenants De Haven and Griffith, who took with them Dr. Elisha Kane.  The expedition found no trace of Franklin, but it made an Arctic enthusiast out of Dr. Kane.In 1853, Kane sailed up Baffin Bay to investigate Smith Sound, the bay’s most northerly outlet.  In the course of this two-year voyage, Kane discovered the great Humboldt Glacier, which has a sea face forty-five miles long, and collected much valuable scientific information.”The North Pole Men,” The Book of Knowledge

Further Investigation

Elisha Kent Kane
Biography at the Elisha Kent Kane Historical Society.

Assistant Surgeon Elisha Kent Kane
Brief biography with photos from the Naval Heritage and History Command.

Arctic Timeline
Detailed timeline of the exploration of the Arctic including the Advance exploration at

Arctic Explorers
Learn about other Arctic explorers in these brief descriptions at

Why is the Arctic Cold?
A simple look at the way the sun’s rays hit the earth.


Pennsylvania Map/Quiz Printout

Label the Earth’s Oceans

Interactive Map Maker {Free}
Make your own maps.

Arctic: The Frozen Ocean
Wonderful interactive at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution covering the where, when, and how of the Arctic.

Virtual World: Arctic
Explore the animals of the Arctic with this National Geographic interactive.


Arctic Explorations by Dr. Elisha Kane
Volume 1 of his published journal.  Wonderfully illustrated, interesting, and accessible.

Arctic Explorations by Dr. Elisha Kane
Volume 2 of his published journal (see above).

Wrecked, Not Lost by Louisa Maria Dundas
An impulsive decision leads two young men on a perilous journey to the Arctic.  A page-turner!  Also available as a collector’s hardback reprint from Lamplighter Publishing.

The English at the North Pole and The Field of Ice by Jules Verne
Volumes I and II subtitled, “The Adventures of Captain Hatteras,” regards a crew on their way to an Arctic adventure.  Includes a great deal of history regarding the Northwest Passage and those who sought it.  Free public domain downloads for older students.
Volume 1: (Various formats) (PDF)
Volume 2: (Various formats) (PDF)

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans
Free Nature Studies: Water and Ice

Free Nature Studies: Water and Ice
Part of our free nature studies that includes information, activities, printables, and notebooking pages regarding glaciers.

The Equinox: A Unit Study

The Equinox: A Unit Study
Helps for understanding why it is nearly night all winter in the Arctic region.

Printables & Notebooking Pages

United States Map map for locating Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Map
Map for locating Philadelphia.

Arctic Map
PAT map for locating the Arctic Ocean, Baffin Bay, and Greenland.

Arctic Map
Great map for notebook at

Elisha Kane & the Arctic Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, or wrapping up.

Enjoy the complete series:
Free History Studies: Stories of Great Americans
Free History Studies: Stories of Great Americans

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