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In Letter One, of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Robert Walton openly states his reasoning behind his expedition to the north.
I may there discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle; I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man.
Essentially, Robert Walton desires a few things to come out of his expedition. First, he wishes to discover the "seat of magnetism." This means that he desires to find the place on Earth which regulates the magnetism. Second, Walton wants to see a place no other man has ever seen. On top of that, not only does he want to see an unexplored area, he wishes to be the first one to set foot upon an unexplored territory. He wants to be the first one to place a footprint upon a never before touched place. Outside of that, Walton knows that his travels could result in a new path which other travelers and shippers could use.
In the end, Walton is simply seeking personal and historical renown. He wants to be known for doing/finding something which no others have ever found before.
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