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Scotland and the Antarctic

Section 2: Antarctic Exploration

Antarctic expeditions 1907-1918

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British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09
Ernest Shackleton on Nimrod

The Nimrod expedition wintered on Ross Island. The expedition's successes included the furthest south 8817'S (156km or 97 miles from the South Pole), the first ascent of Mount Erebus and the first expedition to reach the South Magnetic Pole. Shackleton claimed the polar plateau, King Edward VII Land and Victoria Land for Britain (see section 3.2).

French Antarctic Expedition 1908-1910
Dr Jean Charcot on Pourquoi Pas?

This expedition visited the South Shetland Islands, made a further exploration of the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula and discovered Charcot Island.

Norwegian Antarctic Expedition 1910-12
Roald Amundsen on Fram

Roald Amundsen had been heading for the North Pole when he heard of Peary's success in his expedition. Amundsen, already a hero of the Arctic after his expedition in Gja, headed south. After a winter at his base at Framheim on the Bay of Whales (Ross Sea) he made a successful trip to the South Pole with four companions and using dogs and sledges. He claimed the polar plateau for Norway, naming it King Haakon VII land. He also discovered the Queen Maud range of mountains. The Fram did not winter in the Antarctic but left to do oceanographic work (see section 3.3).

Japanese Antarctic Expedition 1910-12
Nobu Shirase on Kainan Maru

Reached Coulman Island in the Ross Sea and visited the Bay of Whales. Made a 250-kilometre (150-mile) sledge journey inland.

British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13
Robert Scott on Terra Nova

The party wintered on Ross Island. A party of five reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, one month after Amundsen. All perished on the return journey. Mules, ponies and motorised sledges had been used but the main push for the South Pole involved manhauling of sledges (see section 3.4).

German Polar Expedition 1911-12
Wilhelm Filchner on Deutschland

The German expedition visited South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands and surveyed the Luitpold Coast in the Weddell Sea. They discovered the Filchner ice sheet. The ship was beset for nine months during which time they disproved the existence of South Greenland which had been shown on maps since 1823.

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Australian Antarctic Expedition 1911-14
Douglas Mawson on Aurora

Mawson is one of the greatest Antarctic explorers and his expeditions have been held up as models for scientific polar exploration. Mawson, like William Speirs Bruce, was a scientist and he made a considerable contribution to knowledge of the Antarctic, particularly in the Australian sector. Mawson had been with Shackleton on the Nimrod expedition.

Mawson explored King George V Land and Queen Mary Land, with shore parties overwintering. Mawson and two companions suffered a dreadful journey over the ice during which the two companions died. Ninnis was following the sledges of Mawson and Mertz when the ice gave way and he fell hundreds of feet into a crevasse along with dogs and most of the food. Mawson and Mertz then started to make their way back to base, some 480km (300 miles) away. When 160km (100 miles) from the base Mertz died. Mawson found some supply dumps of food near this base and arrived in time to see Aurora disappearing over the horizon.

Five men had remained at the base. They made a radio call to Aurora but she could not return due to the ice condition. All six men had to overwinter for a second time.

Imperial Transantarctic Expedition 1914-16:
Ernest Shackleton on Endurance (Weddell Sea party)

Shackleton discovered the Caird Coast before being beset in the ice for 10 months, during which time the Endurance sank. This wrecked the plans for a transantarctic crossing and survival became the aim. Shackleton led his men, towing three small boats, across the ice to the open sea. The party sailed in horrific seas to Elephant Island. Shackleton and five others then sailed on the small boat James Caird to South Georgia. This again was a terrible voyage. They landed safely on the west coast of South Georgia before three of the men trekked across mountains to raise the alarm. Many months later the Elephant Island party were rescued on the fourth attempt (see section 3).

Imperial Transantarctic Expedition 1914-16:
Macintosh and Stenhouse on Aurora (Ross Sea Party)

This party went to the Ross Sea where they were to lay bases up the Beardmore Glacier for the use of the Weddell Sea party as they crossed Antarctica. Ten men were to winter at Cape Evans. The Aurora was beset in the ice and drifted for ten months. Three of the shore party died and the other seven were rescued by Shackleton in 1917 on the Aurora, which had been refitted in Australia. She was under the command of Captain John King Davis.

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