Romantic Cartographies

Principal investigator
Asko Nivala
Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher
Adjunct Professor of Cultural History
University of Turku


Captain Robert Walton's expedition to the North Pole

Frankenstein begins with a frame narrative where Captain Robert Walton reports his expedition to the Arctic in letters to his sister Margaret Walton Saville. Walton's expedition aims to navigate the Northwest Passage and to locate the Magnetic North. While Captain Walton's ship is stuck into ice, he encounters the Creature and then Victor Frankenstein's dog sled.

1. Walton's travels in the North Sea and Greenland

As a preparation for his main expedition, Captain Walton participated into several trips to the North Sea with whaling ships.

"Six years have passed since I resolved on my present undertaking. I can, even now, remember the hour from which I dedicated myself to this great enterprise. I commenced by inuring my body to hardship. I accompanied the whale-fishers on several expeditions to the North Sea; I voluntarily endured cold, famine, thirst, and want of sleep; I often worked harder than the common sailors during the day, and devoted my nights to the study of mathematics, the theory of medicine, and those branches of physical science from which a naval adventurer might derive the greatest practical advantage. Twice I actually hired myself as an under-mate in a Greenland whaler, and acquitted myself to admiration."

2. Walton came from London

Captain Walton's narrative starts from St. Petersburg, but it is implied that he started his trip from London.

"I am already far north of London; and as I walk in the streets of Petersburgh, I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, which braces my nerves, and fills me with delight."

3. Walton travels from St. Petersburg to Archangel

"This is the most favourable period for travelling in Russia. They fly quickly over the snow in their sledges; the motion is pleasant, and, in my opinion, far more agreeable than that of an English stage-coach. The cold is not excessive, if you are wrapt in furs, a dress which I have already adopted; for there is a great difference between walking the deck and remaining seated motionless for hours, when no exercise prevents the blood from actually freezing in your veins. I have no ambition to lose my life on the post-road between St. Petersburgh and Archangel."

4. Captain Walton sails towards the North Pole

"Last Monday (July 31st), we were nearly surrounded by ice, which closed in the ship on all sides, scarcely leaving her the sea room in which she floated. Our situation was somewhat dangerous, especially as we were compassed round by a very thick fog. We accordingly lay to, hoping that some change would take place in the atmosphere and weather."

(C) 2022 Asko Nivala