Antarctic Exploration in the Name of Science, Non Profit | Polar Unbound

Antarctic Exploration in the Name of Science, Non Profit

The call to explore the Antarctic in the name of science, rather than profit, grew louder in 1895 with the Sixth International Geographical Congress, where France, Germany, Britain, Belgium, Scotland, Sweden, Australia, Norway and Japan declared their intensions toward Antarctic exploration. 

The various excursions delved further into Antarctica’s vast frozen hinterland than ever before. With harsh conditions and entrapping pack ice, crews expected to spend their winters down south. A German crew led by Erich von Drygalski planned ahead and lay a trail garbage across the ice, hoping that the debris would soften the ice by increasing solar absorption. It worked, and the crew was able to escape a second Antarctic winter. Meanwhile, the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition spent their winter crafting the first scientific research station called Omond House. The foray for the pole cumulated with Roald Amundsen 1911 excursion, during which he finally reached the geographic south pole using sled dogs on December 14th. 

Perhaps the most famous expedition during this era is Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 expedition. Shackleton embarked from England on the Endurance and headed toward Antarctica. After his ship became entrapped by pack ice in the Weddell Sea, the crew drifted through the winter until the ship was ultimately sunk by pack ice in 1915. 

Shackleton and his men made it to Elephant Island in their lifeboats. Once there, Shackleton and a small party set off for South Georgia Island—a trek that took 15 days and crossed 800 miles over tossing seas. Once there, they slogged across the island without food or water until they reached the Stromness Bay whaling station. In the meantime, the remainder of Shackleton’s crew awaited rescue by using their boats as shelters and eating seaweed and stewed seal bones. The crew stayed on Elephant Island for 105 days until Shackleton was able to return for them.