secret of the magnet
A major hazard of navigation in polar regions was a wholesale distortion of magnetic instruments caused by the proximity of the pure magnetic impulse. Walton seems to expect that once the actual pole is reached, one could learn the principles by which to adjust for such distortion. In 1831 Sir John Ross for the first time located the magnetic pole, which is distinct from the actual geographical pole, in the far northern reaches of Canadian territory. His account of his supposed discovery bears an enthusiasm and rhetorical inflation little different from the tone Walton adopts here. From the evidence gathered in the Parry and Ross expeditions of 1827 and 1829-31, respectively, Michael Faraday was, indeed, to do just that, as promulgated in what became known as Faraday's Law. A different desire seems to be drawing the novel's second searcher for the north pole, and the one who will presumably discover its exact site a full century before Commodore Parry, Victor Frankenstein's Creature. In Walton's fourth letter to his sister (I:L4:3) he innocently recounts being passed by this figure on his way to the pole. See also "wondrous power" above.