It was the ancient Greeks who
first came up with the idea of Antarctica.
They knew about the Arctic - named Arktos -
The Bear, from the constellation the great bear and decided
that in order to balance the world, there should be a similar
cold Southern landmass that was the same but the opposite "Ant
- Arktos" - opposite The Bear. They never actually
went there, it was just a lucky guess!
James Cook crosses the Antarctic
circle and circumnavigates Antarctica,
though he doesn't sight land, deposits of rock seen in icebergs
showed that a southern continent exists.
His comment - "I make bold
to declare that the world will derive no benefit from it".
1819 - 21
Thaddeus Bellingshausen a Russian naval officer in the Vostok and
Mirny circumnavigates the Antarctic,
first to cross the Antarctic circle since Cook.
the first sighting of the continent,
reaching 69° 21'S, 2° 14'W - describing an "icefield
covered with small hillocks." on Jan 27th 1820.
considerable time, exactly who and when first set eyes on Antarctica
were in dispute as
British naval officers, William Smith
and Edward Bransfield also saw Antarctica on Jan 30th the same year
- followed by American sealer Nathaniel Palmer on Nov 16th.
This was the
first time a continent had truly been "discovered"
(i.e. there weren't any native peoples
living there who'd known about it for ages already). All sightings
are of the Antarctic Peninsula.
the 7th. 1st known landing on continental
Antarctica by American sealer Captain John Davis, though this is
not acknowledged by all historians.
In the winter of 1821,
for the first time ever a party
of men spent a winter in Antarctica.
An officer and ten men from a British sealing ship the Lord
Melville had to spend the winter on King
George Island - part of the South
Shetlands group, north of the Antarctic Peninsula. The ship had
been driven offshore and did not return to pick them up again. They
were rescued the following summer.
whaler James Weddell
discovers the sea named after him and then reaches the most southerly
point at that time 74° 15' S. No one else manages to penetrate
the Weddell sea again for 80 years.
British, French and American expeditions
establish the status of Antarctica as
a continent after sailing along
In 1840, British
naval officer and scientist James Clark Ross takes two ships,
the Erebus and the Terror, to within 80 miles of the
coast until stopped by a massive ice barrier - now called the Ross
Ice Shelf. He also discovers the active volcano that he names after
his ship Erebus, and identifies 145 new species of fish (not personally
you understand - a scientist on the ship did that bit).
Late 1800's to early 20th
century. Many expeditions
largely by sealers and whalers to all parts of Antarctica.
Mainly marine exploration and exploration of the sub Antarctic
de Gerlache and the crew of the
trapped in pack ice off the Antarctic Peninsula
in the first scientific expedition to the continent.
They become the first
to survive an Antarctic winter
as their ship drifts with the ice (they didn't enjoy it).
Borchgrevink leads a British expedition
that landed men at Cape Adare and built huts.
This was the
first time that anyone had wintered on
the Antarctic landmass. Believed
by some historians to be the first confirmed landing on continental
Captain Scott, UK, leads
his first Antarctic expedition
to try to reach the South Pole, with Ernest Shackleton and Edward
Wilson. They are forced to turn
back two months later having reached 82 degrees south, suffering
from snow blindness and scurvy.
Several other publicly and privately
sponsored expeditions around this time.
By now, these are driven by science,
geography and exploration
- less by the exploitation of resources such as seals and
1907 - 1909
leads expedition to within 156km / 97mls of the South Pole,
turns back after supplies are exhausted.
Douglas Mawson reaches the South
14th. Norwegian Roald Amundsen
leads a five man expedition that reaches the South Pole for
the first time.
18th. Britain's Captain
Robert Falcon Scott reaches
the South Pole to discover he has been beaten by Amundsen.
All of the five man team (Scott,
Bowers, Evans, Oates and Wilson), are to perish on the return journey
only 11 miles from supply depot. Bodies are not discovered until
Douglas Mawson begins his trek
across George V Land back to his base at Commonwealth Bay.
His two companions had died,
and against the odds he makes it home. A new section of coast is
discovered and described, and radio is used for the first time in
returns to Antarctica in an attempt to complete the first crossing
of the continent. The goal is not
one of the greatest adventures of all
time follows. Their ship is crushed
in the sea ice and a small party sets out for South Georgia and
the whaling station. The party
is eventually rescued in 1917.
of large-scale factory ship whaling in the Ross Sea.
Sir George Wilkins and American Carl Benjamin Eielson are the
first to fly over Antarctica around
the peninsula region.
Richard E. Byrd and
three others - US - become the first to fly over the South Pole.
- US - flies across the continent.
Norway, is the first woman to set foot on Antarctica
when she accompanies her husband, a whaling captain.
Highjump - US - sends the largest
ever expedition of over 4700 men, 13 ships and 23 airplanes to Antarctica.
Most of the coast is photographed for map making.
lands at South Pole. First people
there since Scott and his team in 1912.
1st July 1957
- 31st Dec 1958
Geophysical Year (IGY)
12 nations establish over 60 stations
in Antarctica. The beginning of international cooperation in Antarctica
and the start of the process by which Antarctica becomes "non-national".
successful land crossing via the South Pole is led by British
geologist Vivian Fuchs
leading the back up party,
over 40 years after Shackleton's expedition set out with the
treaty comes into effect
Ousland (Norway) becomes first person to cross Antarctica unsupported.
Taking 64 days from Berkner Island
to Scott base towing a 180kg (400lb) sled and using skis and a sail.
March 2007 -
Polar Year - Actually Spans two
years in order that researchers get the opportunity to work in both
polar regions or work summer and winter if they wish.
1776 - USA becomes independent from Great Britain
- James Watt perfects the steam engine
1815 - Battle of Waterloo
1830 - World's first railway opens
1840 - Victoria becomes queen of Great Britain
1859 - Darwin publishes "Origin of Species"
1885 - Karl Benz builds the first motor car
1896 - Marconi invents wireless telegraph (radio)
1901 - Australia becomes an independent nation.
Queen Victoria dies. End of the Victorian era.
President McKinley shot, USA. Roosevelt takes over
1903 - Wright brothers make the first powered flight of
Marie Curie becomes first woman to win a Nobel prize
1908 - Ford motor company produce the "Model T"
1910 - Republic of South Africa established
1912 - Titanic sinks on maiden voyage killing 1500 people
1914- 1918 World War I
1919 Professor Ernest Rutherford splits the atom
1927 Al Jolson stars in the "Jazz Singer" the
first talkie film
1930's - Great depression era
1939 - 1945 World War II
1947 - Picard invents the bathyscaphe
and descends to 4000m in the ocean
1953 Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing
climb Mount Everest for the first time
1969 - Men
first walk on the moon
to be Ancient Greeks
a thought experiment like the ancient scientists and philosophers.
If the logic
is sound and argument convincing, it could be taken as the "Truth".
The landmasses on Earth have been pretty much sorted out, so how
about another planet - say Venus.
the surface - too cloudy
No contact ever, no radio waves
- very primitive.
Closer to sun
than us - hot and sweaty.
to Earth ages ago. Humid - probably rainforests every where, very
Observation - we can't see anything.
Conclusion - Dinosaurs live there!
But hey, it's
convincing and that's probably good enough. This idea of dinosaurs
on Venus was "common knowledge" in the 1800's!
- The Seals Revenge!
mouths are full of a very rich and varied fauna of exotic bacteria
(as a friend of mine, an old Antarctic hand, would describe
it they're "goppin"). While trying to kill seals,
sealers would often get bitten (hurrah!) and frequently on the fingers.
The result would be a very nasty and painful infection as the finger
went septic, followed by the loss of the use of that finger. It
would still be there but completely immobile - known as "Sealers
Wrap up warm
scientists and explorers have the benefits of modern fabrics
and materials to help keep warm, windproof and dry. These materials
are comfortable and lightweight and make conditions much better
than in the early days.
explorers had to make do with heavy layers of itchy woollen fabrics
and outer layers that would soak up the moisture produced by sweat.
Getting dressed in the morning would often involve putting on layers
that were frozen solid with ice in the fabric. As the garments gradually
warmed up, they would become more flexible.
would happen to pretty much any clothing that was taken off before
weren't as knowledgeable about nutrition in cold climates either
(they learned much that we know today by finding out the hard way).
Humans get through much more food in a cold climate, burning
it up and converting it to heat rather than energy for physical
therefore often went out relatively under stocked with food. This
had a limiting effect on the achievements of the earliest
expeditions. High energy combined with low weight is the best
sort of food for expeditions in cold climates. This usually
meant a diet high in fat.
also went out with their food largely tinned or dried, this meant
that it was low in vitamins that are destroyed by the canning process.
Scurvy was therefore a very real problem.
- 1922 is known as the
Age" of Antarctic exploration.
The saying among old Antarctic hands
"For scientific discovery
give me Scott, for speed and efficiency of travel give
me Amundsen, but when you back's against the wall
and there's no hope left, get down on your knees
and pray for Shackleton".
Divide your food the Antarctic explorers
about food on sledging expeditions frequently became almost obsessive.
The traditional way of sharing out the often meagre rations was
for the days appointed cook to divide the days food into as many
equal portions as there were people as fairly as he could. One of
the party would then turn his back, the cook would point to a portion
and ask "whose?" The man who's turn it was would give
the name of who would have that portion. This was done to avoid
arguing about who received the largest meal. There were still sometimes
complaints though that the cook and the person naming the meals
had some kind of secret system organized between them.
Crumbs also became important.
When sledging biscuits were broken up,
it was done over something that would catch the falling crumbs
so that nothing went to waste. The crumbs too were divided up fairly.