Karl von Waldburg-Zeil

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Neutrauchburg Castle near Isny
Syrgenstein Castle
near Maria Thann

Count Karl Joseph Franz Wilhelm Georg Christian von Waldburg-Zeil , later also Count von Waldburg-Syrgenstein (born December 18, 1841 near Isny im Allgäu ; † January 30, 1890 near Heimenkirch ) was a German officer and naturalist. He became known through his research trips to Spitzbergen and Siberia in 1870, 1876 and 1881.

Origin and youth

Karl Graf von Waldburg-Zeil, born at Neutrauchburg Castle near Isny in the Allgäu , was the third son of Prince Constantin von Waldburg zu Zeil and Trauchburg and his wife, Princess Maximiliane, born Countess von Quadt-Wyckradt-Isny .

He received his first training at the school in Neutrauchburg founded by his father, which welcomed children from both noble and middle-class families. Karl von Waldburg-Zeil continued his school education at the Stella Matutina educational institution of the Jesuit college in Feldkirch in Vorarlberg .

His mother's plans to train him as a priest of the Roman Catholic Church failed. Because of his liberal views, Karl von Waldburg-Zeil turned away from the Catholic Church. In political terms, too, he took increasingly liberal positions. He was particularly influenced by lectures by the Leipzig historian Heinrich Wuttke on the French Revolution . In personal conversations with Wuttke, Karl von Waldburg-Zeil expressed the desire very early on to travel to foreign countries and continents and study their culture.

Studies and military career

After graduating from school , von Waldburg-Zeil began studying forestry . Study locations were the academies in Hohenheim / Württemberg and in Tharandt . The scientific knowledge he acquired here helped him on his later research trips. After further semesters at the University of Leipzig , von Waldburg-Zeil initially embarked on a military career. Until 1870/71 he belonged to the 2nd Wuerttemberg Jäger Battalion as first lieutenant and eventually advanced to captain of the Royal Palace Guard in Stuttgart . In 1888 he retired from military service as a major .

Research trips

By a special decree, von Waldburg-Zeil was released from research trips during his military service.

Spitsbergen 1870

As early as August 1865, the Gotha geoscientist August Petermann had called for a first German north polar expedition . The aim of this tour of national importance was the acquisition of new geographical and scientific knowledge. In 1868 the first research trip began under Captain Karl Koldewey , who, however, had to return almost without result due to unforeseen difficulties. Another trip, which was financed by the Bremen Comité for the second German North Polar trip and was carried out in the years 1869/70, was already much more successful. Several smaller ventures followed, targeting the Arctic . This series also includes the Count von Waldburg-Zeil's boat trip to Spitzbergen, which he undertook in 1870 in the company of Theodor von Heuglin , who is actually known as an Africa explorer . Waldburg-Zeil and von Heuglin mainly visited the eastern part of Spitzbergen. Their research results were significant both for the cartography of this region and for nautical science , which they provided extensive information about the current and ice conditions in this part of the North Sea. A group of islands in Freemansund between the islands of Edgeøya and Barentsøya is now called Zeiløyane.

Yenisei 1876

In the years after the Franco-Prussian War , the Bremen Polar Association distanced itself from its previous goal of further exploring the polar regions. On the one hand, this was due to the limited funds made available to the association by the state. On the other hand, the more commercial members of the association found the North Sea expeditions increasingly uninteresting. The Bremen merchants considered the sub-Arctic regions of Asia to be more important - including the estuary of the Yenisei River . As early as 1875, the Swede Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld had made a great contribution to a successful expedition to this region. The possibility of circumnavigating the Asian continent to the north was discovered, as well as sea and waterways that connected western Europe with Russian Siberia, and even China and other countries in the Far East .

Under the direction of the Bremen scholar Otto Finsch , Count von Waldburg-Zeil traveled to the Yenisei region together with Alfred Brehm , who later wrote the animal life . The connections between Waldburg-Zeil and Queen Olga of Württemberg to the court of the Russian tsars proved to be very helpful on this research trip. Due to the extraordinarily rich yield from a scientific and ethnographic point of view, this second expedition from Waldburg-Zeils was celebrated as a great success. As a direct result of this voyage, the Bremen Association, which from January 1877 called itself Geographische Gesellschaft in Bremen , saw the fact that in the summer of 1877 a first ship trip with the steamer Fraser to the Yenisei was undertaken from the Weser .

Siberia 1881

The last great journey that von Waldburg-Zeil undertook was made possible by a company founded by Ludwig Knoop from Bremen , which undertook trading trips between the Weser and Yenisei for several years. The aim of this further trip to Siberia was to explore the ice-free subpolar sea route discovered by Nordenskjöld more intensively. Although the 1881 trip was successful, the results were sobering. Too often, ice barriers blocked the way. It turned out that the trips from Nordenskjöld had been overrated. It was probably a particularly warm summer that helped them cross the Arctic Ocean. Ludwig Knoop decided in 1884 - not least because of these research results - to stop the trips to Western Siberia. The Russian government had also turned to another plan to open up the Asian region from Russia: the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway .

In 1879 he was elected a member of the Leopoldina .

Family and death

After his return from his first trip to Siberia in 1876, Count von Waldburg-Zeil got to know his cousin Sophie Countess von Waldburg-Zeil-Wurzach better. Only after a long period of solicitation did she give her considerably older cousin her consent to the engagement . After returning from his second expedition to Siberia, Karl and Sophie married in 1882.

After the wedding, the count couple bought a lonely castle in Syrgenstein, the complex of which dates from the 12th century . The King of Bavaria then granted the right to use the title of Count of Waldburg-Syrgenstein instead of the name of Waldburg-Zeil . However, this new name has not caught on.

The marriage remained childless and ended after eight years with the death of Count von Waldburg-Zeil. He died at Syrgenstein Castle near Maria Thann in the Heimenkirch municipality . His grave is in the cemetery of the forest village Maria-Thann, a suburb of Hergatz in Westallgäu .

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