SCOTT & The South-Pole

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1 - "Earlier Exploration"

Full Map of Antarctica

This work is primarily on Scott and his explorations of the Antarctic during his second expedition, The Terra Nova Expedition (19101912). But first, let us touch upon the earlier exploration of the frozen continent.

In our introduction we wrote that the presence of the Antarctic continent was not known to exist, "totally out of human mind." It came to the mind of James Cook when he crossed the Antarctic Circle on January 17th, 1773. While he did not land on the continent, he likely knew, if he had continued to proceed south through the ice fields that such would be found. Cook, however, had other fish to fry.

It is supposed that the early whalers and sealers were there, both before 1773, and after. Likely it was the stories told by these old southern salts that mariners came to understand that there was a frozen land to the very south of the world. The reality of the continent's presence came more to people's minds in the early part of the 1800s. There is a record that the first landing was probably in 1821 when an American captain, John Davis, a sealer, set foot on the ice.3 However, much more time was to pass before there was any real understanding of the basic geography of the Antarctic coastline. It was another American, a naval captain, Charles Wilkes, who, in his explorations made in 183940, claimed (correctly) that Antarctica was a continent. The first serious exploration of the continent did not take place, however, until Sir James Clark Ross (1800-1862), a British naval officer, came along.

Ross explored Antarctica through the years 1839-43. He had two vessels: HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.4 During this time period much of the coastline of the continent was charted. Ross and his British naval men spent three seasons from 1840-1843, during which, the Erebus and the Terror made three voyages through the Antarctic waters, crossing the Ross Sea twice, and sailing through the Weddell Sea southeast of the Falkland Islands.

Polar exploration for the balance of the 19th century was pretty much restricted to the Arctic, consisting mostly of sending out search parties to see what happened to Franklin.



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Peter Landry