ABARREN continent, far from human habitation, utterly desolate, snow-clad, enfenced in forbidding barriers of ice. Yet around it circle and twine in sinuous paths the tracks of many gallant explorers, who for the last one hundred and forty years have strained every nerve to conquer those inhospitable shores. What priceless treasure, what thing so coveted of men does this lonely waste harbor, that they should brave the perils of famin- and an icy death in their quest? No ordinary material reward is that they seek: theirs is an ideal goal; the thirst for knowledge, the spirit of scientific exploration, and no doubt the love of a manly fight against desperat- odds, these are some of the motives that fir- them. And it is for us, who stay at home in safety and comfort, reading the history of their doings, to catch some faint spark of inspiration from the exploits of those gallant men and bold, as we also reap the material ben-fts which flow from their scientific labors. The first antarctic expedition falls into that period which is so peculiarly replete with important events, both in the world of politics and in the realm of science. We read in a leaflet issued by the American Museum of Natural History, that in 1772, Capt. Cook, of the British Navy, was commissioned by the Admiralty to command two vessels to examine into the question of the existence of a great southern continent. He sailed from Plymouth in July, reached Cape Town in October, and entered the area shown in our front page illustration near the 20th meridian of east longitude. The first part of his course will be seen putting forth a nose toward Enderby Land, which appears near the “horizon line” and to the right from the center. Cook next proceeded along an easterly course, then turned abruptly south, and on January 17th, 1773, was the first person to cross the antarctic circle. Cook continued his travels, the line of which will be seen again and again in different portions of the accompanying map, though part of his course lies outside the area covered therein. In January, 1774,- he reached his farthest southerly point, 71 degrees 10 minutes, near 110 degrees west, a record which was not broken for half a century. It is noteworthy that Cook, the first successful antarctic explorer, not only completed the circumnavigation of the antarctic, but proved the non-existence of any antarctic land mass extending north of the antarctic circle. The next South Pole expedition of any importance was carried out under the patronage of Alexander II. of Russia, who appointed Bellingshausen to the command. This explorer sailed in January, 1820, with two vessels. His courie also will be found sketched on the accompanying map. He crossed the antarctic circle some six times, and discovered Peter Island, the most southerly land then known. He did not, however, go quite as far south as Cook, but only reached 69 degrees 52 minutes. In 1823, an Englishman named James Weddell, forced two small sealing vessels southward through the sea which bears his name, to 74 degrees 15 minutes south, a point 214 nautical miles nearer the pole than Cook's farthest travel, thus breaking the record that had stood for nearly fifty years. Weddell's course will be seen on the map near the horizon a little to the left of the center. Enderby Land, to which W< referred in indicating the position of Cook's course on the map, was discovered in 1831 by Biscoe, a British sealer, exploring under commission from the merchant firm of Messrs. Enderby. The course of Biscoe will be found on the map, forming a loop thrown over the antarctic continent. An expedition sent out by France in 1837, under Commander d'Urville, deserves mention as being the last French south pole expedition until recent times. In 1839, Lieut. Charles Wilkes, at the head of the United States exploring expedition, with a squadron of six vessels poorly equipped and poorly adapted for polar work, entered the south polar regions from Tierra del Fuego. His course will be seen on the accompanying map, approaching the antarctic continent near the center of the map, and following the coast line westward (to the right). In his journey through what is known as Wilkes Land, he took a course more southerly than any previous explorer known to him had traveled in this region. James Clarke Ross, a nephew of Sir John Ross, the arctic explQrer, and one whO had several years of arctic experience, left Tasmania in 1840 in command of the “Erebus” and ·'Terror.” The primary object of the expedition was to make certain magnetic explQrations in the extreme south. In less than five months Ross returned to report the extraordinary r(3suIts of his expedition. His course will be seen indicated by a tortuous white line tangled over the Ross sea. Fully informed concerning the discoveries of Wilkes, he determined to seek high altitudes to the east of the Balleny Islands, and with little difficulty sailed into a new sea and discovered land extending from Cape Adare to the volcanoes of Erebus and Terror, 77 degrees south, a distance north and south of approximately four hundred miles. He thus reached a point considerably farther south than any attained by previous, explorers. He finally reached England in September, 1843, having been absent for more than four years. In 1874 the first steamship, the British vessel “Challenger,” entered the antarctic. It was also the first to be equipped with adequate sounding and dredging apparatus. As a result of the “Challenger's” investigations the existence of an antarctic continent was proved, and the fact that a wealth of animal life covered the floor of the SQuth polar seas was well established. The course of this expedition under the command of G. S. Nares appears on the map near the upper right-hand corner_ During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, with the waning of the whaling industry in the north, and the report of the existence Qf large numbers of whales in the south, the small steam whalers of Scotland and Scandinavia made several expeditions into the antarctic. Among these· was the “JasQn,” commanded by Capt. Larsen, whose course appears near the horizon to the left of the center Qf our map. Larsen discovered the first antarctic fossils, which proved that at least part of this region is not vQlcanic. During the years from 1902 to 1904, Capt. R. F_ Scott, commanding the “Discovery,” a well equipped vessel manned by British navy officers and bearing a scientific staff of well qualified men directed a south polar expedition in which among Qthers Shackleton took part. On November 2nd 1902, Scott, Shackleton, and Wilson began their heroic sledge journey over the polar ice to the south, a distance of 380 miles from their ship. They planted the British flag at 82 degrees 17 minutes south_ The follQwing winter was spent in the antarctic under cQnditions of intense cOld, the thermometer frequently registering fifty degrees below zero and even reaching 68 degrees. It appeared at one time as if the “Discovery” must be abandoned, and the crew return on one of the relief ships that had been sent after them. But on February 16th, 1904, she was released from the ice and sailed for home_ Scott's course will be seen indicated, extending roughly along the median north-south line on our map. A Scotch expedition explored the south polar regions during 1903-1904, and among other things discovered Coats Land. The commander was W. S. Bruce, ane his course appears right in the center of the horizon in our illustration. We come now to the last and most successful of all the south polar expeditiQns. Early in 1908 Lieut. Shackleton on board the “Nimrod,” with a party of about fifteen men, dogs, Siberian ponies, a motor car and other equipment, entered the antarctic regions near the 180th meridian. Passing through Ross Sea and along the edge of the great ice barrier they almost reached King Edward VII. Land but found further progress in that direction blocked by impenetrable pack-ice . . They then proceeded to Cape Royds near the volcano, Mount Erebus_ Here the “Nimrod” left them and went north, to return .the following spring. Relatively elaborate winter quarters were established at Cape Royds in a specially designed hut made of cQrk. In March, 1908, a party of six ascended Mount Erebus to its summit, 13,500 feet above sea level. On October 5th, 1908, a party of five started on its journey to the South Magnetic Pole, which was reached on January 16th, 1909. The. position of the magnetic pole was determined to be 72 degrees 25 minutes south, 155 degrees 16 minutes east. The south point of the CQmpass always turns toward this point. Therefore, between the South Magnetic Pole and the South Geographic Pole the south point of the compass is directed due north. This party, returning to the coast February 3rd, was picked up by the “Nimrod” and taken to Cape Royds. On October 29th, 1908, Shackleton and thre( others-with a supporting party· of five, which turnec back November 7th-set out fQr the South Geographic Pole. They followed, roughly, the 168th meridian east until in late November they November 11, 1 gil SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 425 reached Scott's farthest south-82 degrees 17 minutes south. Christmas day found them at 85 degrees 55 minutes south, and by 9: 00 A. M., January 9th, 1909, they had reached 88 degrees 23 minutes south. Beyond this point they could not go on account of the hard traveling and the exhaustion of their food supply. No mountains were visible beyond, and it is probable that the South Pole is situated on a level plateau 10,000 to 11,000 feet above sea level. After an extremely hard return journey on short rations, Oape Royds was reached March 4th, 1909. The “Nimrod” and the supporting and relief parties were there waiting, and the next day all started for home. In addition to discovering the South Magnetic Pole and reaching a point within 110 miles of the South Geographic Pole, the main results of the journey were the. fnding of coal (showing that in the past this region enjoyed a mild climate), tie procuring of a complete meteorological record and the discovery of eight distinct mountain ranges varying from 3,000 to 12,000 feet in altitude. Into approximately the same period as Shackleton's expedition falls Charcot's voyage on the “Pourquoi Pas” in the Antarctic (1908-1910). In sportsmanlike spirit this French explorer refrained from entering a region which, as he considered, had been “staked out” by the British expeditions. “I resolved,” he writes, “to return to the region which I had begun to explore on the “]'rancais” in 1903-1905, i. e., that mountainous projection, due south of Oape Horn, improperly known under the general name of Graham Land. My exact object was to study in detail and from all points of view as wide a stretch as possible of the Antarctic in this sector of the circle.” Dr. Charcot has presented an account of his travels in popular form in a very interesting book published under the title: “The 'Pour-quoi-Pas' in the Antarctic." No less than five south polar expeditions are at present in progress or contemplated. An English party is out under the command of Capt. R. F. Scott, while a Norwegian campaign is headed by Amundsen. Recently Sir Ernest Shackleton has made an appeal on behalf of an Australasian antarctic expedition under the command of his old comrade, Dr. Douglas Mawson, whose desire it is to chart a stretch of unknown coastHne some 1,200 miles north of Capt. Scott's objective, and to check the readings made by former expeditions at and near the south pole. The Japanese also are now for the first time enter-. ing the field, Lieut. Shirhase being expected to start out from Sidney in September., There seems to be a general impression among connoisseurs that the Japanese expedition is not properly qualified for successful work. A German expedition started out from Hamburg in May of this year under the leadership of Dr. Filchner and Capt. R. Vahsel. The principal object of this expedition is to determine the relation of the eastern and western antarctic continent and to ascertain whether they are continuous or separated by water. A somewhat detailed account ef the plans and equip- < ment of this expedition is given in Die Umschau, from which our illustrations of the “Deutschland,” the vessel which is to carry the explorers, are taken. 'he “Deutschland” was originally built in. 1906 as a whaler, and is constructed wholly of wood, as this is found, by virtue of its elasticity, to resist the crushing effect of ice better than a steel hull. In fact a steel vessel is apt to be simply cut by the ice, while a wooden craft is pressed up out of the floes. Tie “Deutschland” is rigged as a three-master and carries a 300-horse-power auxiliary engine, which in an emergency renders the ship independent of the wind. The length over all is 183.7 feet, the beam measures 34.4 feet, and the depth 22.6 feet. The tonnage is about 580. 'he auxiliary engine is capable of developing a speed of seven knots. The prope1er is two-bladed and can be drawn upon the deck when not in use, so as to protect it from the ice. The rudder is similarly arranged to be raised out of the ice. The greater part of the ship's space is of course taken up by the hold which contains uhe provisions. the drinking water and the supply of coal for the three and one-half years which the expedition is planned to last. The general arrangement of the ship's interior is well brought out in one of our illustrations. The cost of the expeditions is estimated at $375,000, every cent of which has been contributed from private funds. The sledge journey , Is planned to start from the Weddell Sea (as indicated on our map). The final equipment of the ship for its journey will be made at Buenos Aires, where a part of the provisions, the automobile sledges, Manchurian horses and Eskimo dogs will be taken on board. The boat is, lighted by electricity, and a powerful wireless telegraph apparatus, which will maintain communication with South America. The crew numbers thirty-five and the provisions take up 200 tons of the ship's space. The plans are laid with characteristic German thoroughness.
This article was originally published with the title "Antarctic Expeditions, Past and Present" in s , , 424-425 (July 2012)