"An excursion of some length was made into the wilderness of ice, everywhere full of bottomless clefts, which occupies the interior of Greenland, and which, if I except unimportant wanderings along the edge, and an inconsiderable attempt in the same direction in the year 1728, by the Dane Dalager, was now, for the first time, trodden by human foot. I had here an opportunity of clearing up the nature of a formation which, during one of the latest geological ages, covered a great part of the civilized countries of Europe, and which, though it has given occasion to an exceedingly comprehensive literature in all cultivated languages, had never before been examined by any geologist."
Another expedition, of two vessels, was fitted up in 1872, with the design of attempting to reach the pole with reindeers, to which Lieutenant Palander, the companion of his last voyage, was for the first time attached. The ice was unusually unfavorable, and the winter was spent in Mussel Bay, on the north of West Spitzbergen. Here attention was first called to the presence of dust of cosmic origin containing nickel-iron, the agency of which as a possible factor in building up the earth's crust is discussed with considerable fullness in the "Voyage of the Vega"; more complete researches on the aurora and its spectrum were carried on; investigations were made on the development of algae during the winter night of four months; numerous new contributions to a knowledge of polar countries during former geological epochs were discovered; and a complete series of meteorological and magnetic observations was made in the most northerly latitude where such observations had up to this time been carried on. With this expedition Nordenskiöld's efforts to reach the pole ceased. He had become convinced by his repeated voyages that there was no open sea at the pole; and he had his attention drawn to the "more practical problem, which had interested the foremost commercial states and the most daring navigators for three hundred years, and geographers for thousands of years"—that of forcing a northeast passage to China and Japan, and the circumnavigation of the Old World.
In 1875 he succeeded, with the walrus-hunting sloop Proeven, in sailing over the Kara Sea as far as to the mouth of the Yenisei, whence he put himself in communication with the river-steamers to Yeniseisk; and whence he returned by land, while his companions came back by sea to Europe. By this voyage, he says, "I was the first person who succeeded in penetrating from the Atlantic Ocean in a vessel to the mouths of the great Siberian rivers. One of the objects which the old northeast voyagers had aimed at was at last accomplished, and that in a way that promised to be of immense practical importance for the whole of Siberia. The voyage was also regarded in that light by leading men of the great empire of the East, and our return journey from Yeniseisk by Krasnojarsk, Tomsk, Omsk, Yekaterinburg, Nizhnee-Novgorod, Moscow, and St. Petersburg became, therefore, a jour-