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Antarctica, the southernmost continent and site of the South Pole, is a virtually uninhabited, ice-covered landmass. Surrounded by the Southern Ocean, it is bigger than Europe and almost double the size of Australia. The name ‘Antarctica’ comes from a Greek word meaning ‘opposite to the north’. Due to it’s remoteness and the extreme temperatures, Antarctica became one of the last great wildernesses to be explored.
As explained by Stephen Scott-Fawcett, the phrase ‘Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration’ was first coined by Rev J. Gordon Hayes in his book, The Conquest of the South Pole (1932). It referred to a period of exploration from 1906 to 1931. Today, most polar historians adopting the phrase would extend the ‘Heroic Age’ back to 1895 when the 6th International Geographical Congress declared the exploration of the Antarctic Regions, ‘the greatest piece of geographical exploration still to be undertaken’ and end it in 1922 at the conclusion of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Quest Expedition.
The Heroic Age of Polar Exploration is a period in history that Baz is extremely passionate about and the explorers from that era are hugely respected by him. To travel to the ends of the earth to discover new things in the most inhospitable part of the planet took true grit, determination and courage. The learning and mistakes made helped provide the springboard for modern explorers such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Tim Jarvis, Hannah McKeand and Felicity Aston to reach new goals on the Continent.
Born: 2 August 1866 – Died: 4 December 1934 (aged 68) – Country of Origin: Belgium
Born in Hasselt, Belgium, de Gerlache was educated in Brussels. From a young age he was deeply attracted by the sea and made three voyages in 1883 and 1884 to the United States as a cabin boy on an ocean liner. He studied Engineering at the Free University of Brussels. After finishing his third year in 1885, he quit the university and joined the Belgian Navy on 19 January 1886.
After graduating from the nautical college of Ostend he worked for some time on fishery protection vessels as second and third lieutenant. In October 1887 he signed on as seaman on the Craigie Burn, an English ship, for a voyage to San Francisco, but the ship failed to round Cape Horn and was sold for scrap in Montevideo. He returned to Europe after spending some time in Uruguay and Argentina. After a trip to Constantinople and the Black Sea he worked for the Holland-America Line as fourth officer, before obtaining an appointment as lieutenant in the Belgian Navy. Until July 1894 he was an officer on Ostend-Dover ferries, all the while taking further courses, and finally becoming captain on 22 August 1894.
Frustrated by the monotonous work aboard the Ostend-Dover ferries he offered his services to King Leopold II and Stanley for an expedition to the Congo but was turned down. A letter to Otto Nordenskiöld similarly went unanswered. Finally, he started planning and promoting an Antarctic expedition of his own, proposing his plan in 1894 to the Royal Geographical Society.
In 1896, de Gerlache purchased the Norwegian-built whaling ship Patria, which, following an extensive refit, he renamed as the Belgica. With a multinational crew, which included Roald Amundsen, Frederick Cook, Antoni Bolesław Dobrowolski, Henryk Arctowski and Emil Racoviţă, he set sail from Antwerp on 16 August 1897. During January 1898, the Belgica reached the coast of Graham Land. Sailing in between the Graham Land coast and a long string of islands to the west, de Gerlache named the passage Belgica Strait. Later, it was renamed Gerlache Strait in his honor. After charting and naming several islands during some 20 separate landings, they crossed the Antarctic Circle on 15 February 1898.
On 28 February 1898, de Gerlache’s expedition became trapped in the ice of the Bellinghausen Sea, near Peter Island. Despite efforts of the crew to free the ship, they quickly realised that they would be forced to spend the winter on Antarctica. Several weeks later, on 17 May, total darkness set in, which lasted until 23 July. What followed were another 7 months of hardship trying to free the ship and its crew from the clutches of the ice. Several men lost their sanity, including one Belgian sailor who left the ship “announcing he was going back to Belgium”. The party also suffered badly from scurvy.
Finally, on 15 February 1899, they managed to slowly start down a channel they had cleared during the weeks before. It took them nearly a month to cover 7 miles, and on 14 March they cleared the ice. The expedition returned to Antwerp on 5 November 1899. In 1902, his book Quinze Mois dans l’Antarctique (published in 1901) was awarded a prize by the Académie Française.
He had two children with his first wife, Suzanne Poulet, whom he married in 1904: Philippe (born 1906) and Marie-Louise (born 1908). After this marriage ended in 1913, de Gerlache married Elisabeth Höjer from Sweden. With her, he had another son, Gaston de Gerlache in 1919. In the 1950s, Gaston followed in his father’s footsteps, participating in a Belgian research station in Antarctica.
Adrien de Gerlache died in Brussels in 1934, aged 68, from paratyphoid.
Born: 1 December 1864 – Died: 21 April 1934 (aged 69) – Country of Origin: Norway
Carsten Borchgrevink was born in Oslo, the son of a Norwegian lawyer, Henrik Christian Borchgrevink, and an English mother Annie, née Ridley. The family lived in the Uranienborg neighbourhood, where Roald Amundsen, an occasional childhood playmate, also grew up. Borchgrevink was educated at Gjertsen College, Oslo, and later (1885–88) at the Royal Saxon Academy of Forestry at Tharandt, Saxony, in Germany. According to the historian Roland Huntford, Borchgrevink was of a restless nature, with a passion for adventure which took him, after his forestry training, to Australia.
For four years he worked with government surveying teams in Queensland and New South Wales before settling in the small town of Bowenfels, where he became a teacher in languages and natural sciences at Cooerwull Academy. His initial interest in polar exploration developed from reading press reports about the work of local scientists on the first Australian Antarctic Exploration Committee. This organisation, founded in 1886, was investigating the possibility of establishing permanent scientific research stations in the Antarctic regions. These plans were not realised; it was a revival of interest in commercial whaling in the early 1890s that gave Borchgrevink the opportunity, in 1894, to sign up for a Norwegian expedition to Antarctica.
The expedition that Borchgrevink joined was organised by Henryk Bull, a Norwegian businessman and entrepreneur who, like Borchgrevink, had settled in Australia in the late 1880s. Bull planned to make a sealing and whaling voyage into Antarctic waters; after failing to interest Melbourne’s learned societies in a cost-sharing venture of a commercial–scientific nature, he returned to Norway to organise his expedition there. He met Svend Foyn, the 84-year-old “father of modern whaling” and inventor of the harpoon gun. With Foyn’s help he acquired the whaler Kap Nor (“North Cape”), which he renamed Antarctic. Bull hired an experienced whaling captain, Leonard Kristensen, and with a crew and a small scientific team left Norway in September 1893. When Borchgrevink learned that Antarctic was due to visit Melbourne in September 1894, he hurried there hoping to find a vacancy. He was fortunate; William Speirs Bruce, later an Antarctic expedition leader in his own right, had intended to join Bull’s expedition as a natural scientist but could not reach the ship before it left Norway. This created an opening for Borchgrevink, who met Bull in Melbourne and persuaded him to take him on as a deck-hand and part-time scientist.
During the following months, Antarctic’s sealing activities around the subantarctic islands were successful, but whales proved difficult to find. Bull and Kristensen decided to take the ship further south, to areas where the presence of whales had been reported by earlier expeditions. The ship penetrated a belt of pack ice and sailed into the Ross Sea, but whales were still elusive. On 17 January 1895 a landing was made at Possession Island, where Sir James Clark Ross had planted the British flag in 1841. Bull and Borchgrevink left a message in a canister there, to prove their presence there. On the island Borchgrevink found a lichen, the first plant life discovered south of the Antarctic Circle. On 24 January the ship reached the vicinity of Cape Adare, at the northern extremity of the Victoria Land coastline of the Antarctic mainland. Ross’s 1841 expedition been unable to land here, but as Antarctic neared the cape, conditions were calm enough for a boat to be lowered. A party including Bull, Kristensen, Borchgrevink and others then headed for a shingled foreshore below the cape. Exactly who went ashore first became a matter of dispute, with both Kristensen and Borchgrevink contending for the honour along with a 17-year-old New Zealand seaman, Alexander von Tunzelmann, who said that he had “leapt out to hold the boat steady”. The party claimed this as the first landing on the Antarctic mainland, although they may have been preceded by the Anglo-American sealing captain John Davis, on the Antarctic Peninsula on 7 February 1821, or by other whaling expeditions. While ashore at Cape Adare, Borchgrevink collected further specimens of rocks and lichens, the latter of which would prove of great interest to the scientific community, which had doubted the ability of vegetation to survive so far south. He also made a careful study of the foreshore, assessing its potential as a site where a future expedition might land and establish winter quarters. When Antarctic reached Melbourne, Bull and Borchgrevink left the ship. Each hoped to raise funds for a further Antarctic expedition, but their efforts were unsuccessful. An animosity developed between them, possibly because of their differing accounts of the voyage on the Antarctic; each emphasised his own role without fully acknowledging that of the other.
To promote his developing ideas for an expedition that would overwinter on the Antarctic continent at Cape Adare, Borchgrevink hurried to London, where the Royal Geographical Society was hosting the Sixth International Geographical Congress. On 1 August 1895 he addressed the conference, giving an account of the Cape Adare foreshore as a location where a scientific expedition might establish itself for the Antarctic winter. He described the site as “a safe situation for houses, tents and provisions”, and said there were indications that in this place “the unbound forces of the Antarctic Circle do not display the full severity of their powers”. He also suggested that the interior of the continent might be accessible from the foreshore by an easy route—a “gentle slope”. He ended his speech by declaring his willingness to lead an expedition there himself. Hugh Robert Mill, the Royal Geographical Society’s librarian, who was present at the Congress, reported reactions to the speech: “His blunt manner and abrupt speech stirred the academic discussions with a fresh breeze of realism. Nobody liked Borchgrevink very much at that time, but he had a dynamic quality and a set purpose to get out again to the unknown South that struck some of us as boding well for exploration”. The Congress did not, however, endorse Borchgrevink’s ideas. Instead, it passed a general resolution in support of Antarctic exploration, to the effect that “the various scientific societies throughout the world should urge, in whatever way seems to them most effective, that this work be undertaken before the close of the century”
For the next two years Borchgrevink travelled in Europe and in Australia, seeking support and backing for his expedition ideas without success. One of those with whom he sought to join forces was William Speirs Bruce, who was planning his own Antarctic expedition. Their joint plans foundered when Borchgrevink, who had severed relations with Henryk Bull, learned that Bruce was in discussions with him; “I regret therefore that we cannot collaborate”, wrote Borchgrevink to Bruce. He also discovered that the Royal Geographical Society had been harbouring its own plans for an Antarctic expedition since 1893. Under the influence of its president, Sir Clements Markham, this RGS project was envisaged not only as a scientific endeavour, but as an attempt to relive the former glories of Royal Naval polar exploration. This vision would eventually develop into the National Antarctic Expedition with the Discovery, under Captain Scott, and it was this that attracted the interest of the learned societies rather than Borchgrevink’s more modest proposals. Markham was fiercely opposed to private ventures that might divert financial support from his project, and Borchgrevink found himself starved of practical help: “It was up a steep hill”, he wrote, “that I had to roll my Antarctic boulder.”
During his search for backers, Borchgrevink met Sir George Newnes, a leading British magazine publisher and cinema pioneer whose portfolio included the Westminster Gazette, Tit-Bits, Country Life and the Strand Magazine. It was not unusual for publishers to support exploration—Newnes’s great rival Alfred Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe) had recently financed Frederick Jackson’s expedition to Franz Josef Land, and had pledged financial backing to the National Antarctic Expedition. Newnes was sufficiently impressed by Borchgrevink to offer the full costs of his proposed expedition—around £40,000, (at least £3 million in 2008 values). This generosity infuriated Sir Clements Markham and the geographical establishment, who saw Borchgrevink as a penniless Norwegian nobody who had secured British money which they believed ought to have been theirs. Markham maintained an attitude of hostility and contempt towards Borchgrevink, and chastised Mill for attending the launch of his expedition. Newnes stipulated that the expedition should sail under a British flag, and should be styled the “British Antarctic Expedition”. In the event, of the total party of 29, only two were British, with one Australian and the rest Norwegian. Despite this, Borchgrevink took steps to emphasise the expedition’s British character, flying the personal flag of the Duke of York and taking 500 bamboo poles with miniature Union Jacks for, as he put it, “purpose of survey and extension of the British Empire”.
With funding assured, Borchgrevink purchased the whaling ship Pollux, renamed her Southern Cross, and had her fitted out for Antarctic service. Southern Cross sailed from London on 22 August 1898, and after a three-week pause in Hobart, Tasmania, reached Cape Adare on 17 February 1899. Here, on the site which Borchgrevink had described to the Congress, the expedition set up the first ever shore base on the Antarctic continent—in the midst of a penguin colony. It was named “Camp Ridley” in honour of Borchgrevink’s mother. On 2 March the ship departed for New Zealand to winter there, leaving a shore party of 10 with their provisions, equipment and 70 dogs. These were the first dogs brought to the Antarctic; likewise, the expedition pioneered the use there of the Primus stove, invented in Sweden six years earlier. Louis Bernacchi, the party’s Australian physicist, was later to write: “In many respects, Borchgrevink was not a good leader”. Borchgrevink was evidently no autocrat but, Bernacchi said, without the framework of an accepted hierarchy a state of “democratic anarchy” prevailed, with “dirt, disorder and inactivity the order of the day”. Furthermore, as winter developed, Borchgrevink’s hopes that Cape Adare would escape the worst Antarctic weather proved false; in fact he had chosen a site which was particularly exposed to the freezing winds blown northwards from the inland ice. As time progressed, tempers wore thin; the party became irritable and boredom set in. There were accidents: a candle left burning caused extensive fire damage, and on another occasion several members of the party were almost asphyxiated by fumes from the stove. Borchgrevink did attempt to establish a routine, and scientific work was carried on throughout, but as he wrote himself, referring to the general lack of fellowship: “The silence roars in one’s ears”. Further lowering the group’s spirits, their zoologist, Nicolai Hanson, fell ill, failed to respond to treatment and died on 14 October 1899.
Borchgrevink was the first to visit the Barrier after Ross’s 1839–43 expedition. When the southern winter ended and sledging activity became possible, Borchgrevink’s assumptions about an easy route to the interior were shattered; the glaciated mountain ranges adjoining Cape Adare precluded any travel inland, restricting exploration to the immediate area around the cape. However, Borchgrevink’s basic expedition plan—to overwinter on the Antarctic continent and carry out scientific observations there—had been achieved. When Southern Cross returned at the end of January 1900, Borchgrevink decided to abandon the camp, although there were sufficient fuel and provisions left to last another year. Instead of returning home directly, Southern Cross sailed south until it reached the Great Ice Barrier, discovered by Sir James Clark Ross during his 1839–43 voyage and later renamed the Ross Ice Shelf in his honour. No one had visited the Barrier since then, and Ross had been unable to effect a landing. Borchgrevink discovered an inlet in the Barrier edge; in later years this would be named the “Bay of Whales” by Shackleton. Here, on 16 February 1900, Borchgrevink, William Colbeck and the Sami dog-handler Per Savio made the first landing on the Barrier and, with dogs and sledges, travelled 10 miles (16 km) south to set a new Farthest South record at 78°50’S. Southern Cross visited other Ross Sea islands before turning for home, reaching New Zealand on 1 April 1900. Borchgrevink then took a steamer to England, arriving early in June.
The reception afforded to the expedition on its return to England was lukewarm. Public interest and attention was fixed on the forthcoming national expedition of which Robert Falcon Scott had just been appointed commander, rather than on a venture which was considered British only in name. In spite of the Southern Cross Expedition’s achievements there was still resentment in geographical circles—harboured especially by Sir Clements Markham—about Borchgrevink’s acceptance of Newnes’s gift. Also, Bruce complained that Borchgrevink had appropriated plans that he had developed but been forced to abandon. Borchgrevink’s credibility was not helped by the boastful tone sounded in various articles which were published in Newnes’s magazines, nor by the journalistic style of his rapidly written expedition account, First on the Antarctic Continent, the English edition of which appeared in 1901. In hailing his expedition as a great success, Borchgrevink spoke of “another Klondyke”, an abundance of fish, seals and birds, and of “quartz, in which metals are to be seen”. In his book he listed the expedition’s main achievements: proof that an expedition could live on Victoria Land over winter; a year’s continuous magnetic and meteorological observations; an estimate of the current position of the South Magnetic Pole; discoveries of new species of insects and shallow-water fauna; coastal mapping and the discovery of new islands; the first landing on Ross Island and, finally, the scaling of the Great Ice Barrier and the sledging to 78°50’S, “the furthest south ever reached by man”. Other commentators have observed that the choice of the winter site at Cape Adare had ruled out any serious geographical exploration of the Antarctic interior. The scientific results of the expedition were less than had been anticipated, due in part to the loss of some of Nicolai Hanson’s natural history notes; Borchgrevink may have been responsible for this loss; He would later be involved in a dispute with Hanson’s former employers, London’s Natural History Museum, over these missing notes and other specimens collected by Hanson. During the years following his return Borchgrevink was honoured by the American Geographical Society, and was made a Knight of St Olaf by King Oscar II of Norway and Sweden. Later he received honours from Denmark and Austria, but in England his work was for many years largely disregarded, despite Mill’s acknowledgement of “a dashing piece of pioneer work, useful in training men for later service”. The historian David Crane suggests that if Borchgrevink had been a British naval officer, England would have taken his achievements more seriously.
On his return from Washington, Borchgrevink virtually retired into private life. On 7 September 1896, he had married an English bride, Constance Prior Standen, with whom he settled in Slemdal, in Oslo, where two sons and two daughters were born. Borchgrevink devoted himself mainly to sporting and literary activities, producing a book entitled The Game of Norway. On two occasions he apparently considered returning to the Antarctic; in August 1902 he stated his intention to lead a new Antarctic expedition for the NGS, but nothing came of this, and a later venture, announced in Berlin in 1909, was likewise stillborn.
Although he remained out of the limelight, Borchgrevink retained his interest in Antarctic matters, visiting Captain Scott shortly before the Terra Nova sailed on Scott’s last Antarctic expedition in June 1910. When news of Scott’s fate reached the outside world, Borchgrevink paid tribute: “He was the first in the field with a finely organised expedition and the first who did systematic work on the great south polar continent” In a letter of condolence to John Scott Keltie, the Royal Geographical Society’s secretary, Borchgrevink said of Scott: “He was a man!” In Norway differing assessments of Borchgrevink were made by the country’s polar elite: Roald Amundsen was a long-time friend and supporter, whereas Fridtjof Nansen, according to Scott, spoke of him as a “tremendous fraud”. When Amundsen returned from his South Pole conquest in 1912 he paid full tribute to Borchgrevink’s pioneering work: “We must acknowledge that in ascending the Barrier, Borchgrevink opened the way to the south and threw aside the greatest obstacle to the expeditions that followed”. During his later years Borchgrevink lived quietly. In 1929, the Parliament of Norway awarded him a pension of 3,000 Norwegian kroner.] In 1930 came belated recognition from London—the Royal Geographical Society awarded him its Patron’s Medal, proclaiming that the magnitude of the difficulties overcome by Borchgrevink had initially been underestimated: “It was only after the work of Scott’s Northern Party … that we were able to realise the improbability that any explorer could do more in the Cape Adare district than Mr Borchgrevink had accomplished. It appeared, then, that justice had not been done at the time to the pioneer work of the Southern Cross expedition, which had been carried out under the British flag and at the expense of a British benefactor.
Carsten Borchgrevink died in Oslo on 21 April 1934. Despite what one biographer describes as his obsessive desire to be first, and his limited formal scientific training, he has been acknowledged as a pioneer in Antarctic work and as a forerunner of later, more elaborate expeditions. A number of geographical features in Antarctica commemorate his name, including the Borchgrevink Coast of Victoria Land, between Cape Adare and Cape Washington, the Borchgrevink Glacier in Victoria Land, and the Borchgrevinkisen glacier in Queen Maud Land. His name is also carried by the small Antarctic fish Pagothenia borchgrevinki. His expedition’s accommodation hut remains at Cape Adare, under the care of The New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust which acts as guardian to this hut and to those of Scott and Shackleton elsewhere on the continent. The Borchgrevink hut was designated by the Trust as Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) No. 159 in 2002. In June 2005 the Trust adopted a management plan for its future maintenance and accessibility.
Born: 9 February 1865 – Died: 10 January 1949 – Country of Origin: Germany
Erich Dagobert von Drygalski was a German geographer, geophysicist and polar scientist, born in Königsberg, Province of Prussia.
Between 1882 and 1887, Drygalski studied mathematics and natural science at the University of Königsberg, Bonn, Berlin and Leipzig. He graduated with a doctorate thesis about ice shields in Nordic areas. Between 1888 and 1891, he was an assistant at the Geodetic Institute and the Central Office of International Geodetics in Berlin.
Drygalski led the first German South Polar expedition with the ship Gauss to explore the unknown area of Antarctica lying south of the Kerguelen Islands. The expedition started from Kiel in the summer of 1901. A small party of the expedition was also stationed on the Kerguelen Islands, while the main party proceeded further south. Drygalski also paid a brief call to Heard Island and provided the first comprehensive scientific information on the island’s geology, flora and fauna. Despite being trapped by ice for nearly fourteen months until February 1903, the expedition discovered new territory in Antarctica, the Kaiser Wilhelm II Land with the Gaussberg. The expedition arrived back in Kiel in November 1903. Subsequently, Drygalski wrote the narrative of the expedition and edited the voluminous scientific data. Between 1905 and 1931, he published twenty volumes and two atlases documenting the expedition and was awarded the 1933 Royal Geographical Society’s Patron’s, Gold Medal.
From October 1906 until his retirement, Drygalski was a professor in Munich, where he also presided the Geographic Institute, founded by him, until his death. In 1910, he also took part in Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s expedition to Spitsbergen and participated in other expeditions to North America and northeastern Asia.
Drygalski Island, Drygalski Fjord in South Georgia, and an avenue in the southern part of Munich were named after him, as is the crater Drygalski on the Moon. Two glaciers, including Drygalski Glacier (Antarctica) and Drygalski Glacier (Tanzania) on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro are also named for him. An archive in the Ludwig Maximilians University remembers his pioneering efforts. He also has a South African spider named after him, Araneus drygalskii (Strand, 1909), based on material collected on the Gauss expedition.
Born: 6 December 1869 – Died: 2 June 1928 – Country of Origin: Finland/Sweden
Nordenskjöld was born in Hässleby in Småland in eastern Sweden, in a Finland Swedish family that included his maternal uncle, polar explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, and cousin Gustaf Nordenskiöld. His father and mother were cousins, but his father’s family name was “Nordenskjöld”, while his mother’s family name was spelt”Nordenskiöld”. He studied at Uppsala University, obtaining a doctorate in geology in 1894, and later became a lecturer and then associate professor in the university’s geology department. Otto Nordenskjöld led mineralogical expeditions to Patagonia in the 1890s, and to Alaska and the Klondike area in 1898.
He led the 1901-1904 Swedish Antarctic Expedition, aboard the ship Antarctic. The expedition visited the Falkland Islands before the ship, commanded by seasoned Antarctic sailor Carl Anton Larsen, dropped Nordenskjöld’s party off at Snow Hill Island, a small island off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Nordenskiöld overwintered at Snow Hill Island, while Antarctic returned to the Falklands. The following summer Larsen brought her south, intending to retrieve the Nordenskiöld party, but she became trapped in ice which eventually crushed her hull, forcing Larsen and his crew to overwinter in a hastily constructed shelter on Paulet Island. Larsen and Nordenskjöld finally rendezvoused at their fall-back rescue hut at Hope Bay in late 1903, where they were picked up by the Argentine Navy corvette ARA Uruguay (commanded by Julián Irízar), which had been dispatched when Antarctic had failed to make her appointed return to South America the previous year. Despite its end and the great hardships endured, the expedition was considered a scientific success, with the parties having explored much of the eastern coast of Graham Land, including Cape Longing, James Ross Island, the Joinville Island group, and the Palmer Archipelago. The expedition, which also recovered valuable geological samples and samples of marine animals, earned Nordenskjöld lasting fame at home, but its huge cost left him greatly in debt.
In 1905 he was appointed professor of geography (with commercial geography) and ethnography at University of Gothenburg. Nordenskjöld later explored Greenland in 1909 and returned to South America to explore Chile and Peru in the early 1920s (many samples from this expedition are now displayed at the Natural History Museum in Lima). He was killed in a traffic accident at the age of 59, when he was hit by a bus, in Gothenburg where he was also buried.
Nordenskjöld also studied the effects of winter on alpine climate, and developed a formula for identifying the boundaries of the Arctic region based on the temperatures in the warmest and coldest months of the year.
A number of geographical features have been named after Otto Nordenskiöld, including:
– Nordenskjöld Lake, an alpine lake in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park
– Nordenskjöld Coast, a section of the coast of the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula
– Nordenskjöld Basin, an undersea basin
– Nordenskjöld Ice Tongue, a glacial ice tongue extending over the Ross Sea
– Nordenskjöld Glacier, a glacier on South Georgia
– Nordenskjöld Outcrops, rocky outcrops on the Antarctic Peninsula
– Nordenskjöld Peak, a mountain on South Georgia
Born: 6 June 1868 – Died: 29 March 1912 – Country of Origin: England
Captain Robert Falcon Scott, CVO, RN was a British Royal Navy officer and explorer who led two expeditions to the Antarctic regions: the Discovery Expedition, 1901–1904, and the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition, 1910–1913. On the first expedition, he set a new southern record by marching to latitude 82°S and discovered the Polar Plateau, on which the South Pole is located. During the second venture, Scott led a party of five which reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, four weeks after Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian expedition. On their return journey, Scott’s party discovered plant fossils, proving Antarctica was once forested and joined to other continents. A planned meeting with supporting dog teams from the base camp failed, despite Scott’s written instructions, and at a distance of 150 miles from their base camp and 11 miles from the next depot, Scott and his companions perished.
Before his appointment to lead the Discovery Expedition, Scott had followed the career of a naval officer in the Royal Navy. In 1899, he had a chance encounter with Sir Clements Markham, the president of the Royal Geographical Society, thus learning of a planned Antarctic expedition, and soon volunteered to lead this expedition. Having taken this step, his name became inseparably associated with the Antarctic, the field of work to which he remained committed during the final twelve years of his life. Following the news of his death, Scott became a celebrated hero, a status reflected by memorials erected across the nation. In the closing decades of the 20th century, Scott became a figure of controversy, with questions raised about his competence and character. Commentators in the 21st century have regarded Scott more positively after assessing the temperature drop below −40 °C (−40 °F) in March 1912, and after re-discovering Scott’s written orders of October 1911 in which he had instructed the dog teams to meet and assist him on the return trip.
Scott was born on 6 June 1868, the third child out of six and elder son of John Edward and Hannah (née Cuming) Scott of Stoke Damerel, near Devonport. Scott’s father was a brewer and magistrate. There were also naval and military traditions in the family, Scott’s grandfather and four uncles all having served in the army or navy. John Scott’s prosperity came from the ownership of a small Plymouth brewery which he inherited from his father and subsequently sold. Robert Falcon Scott’s early childhood years were spent in comfort, but some years later, when he was establishing his naval career, the family would suffer serious financial misfortune.
In accordance with the family’s tradition, Robert and his younger brother Archie were predestined for careers in the armed services. Robert spent four years at a local day school before being sent to Stubbington House School in Hampshire, a cramming establishment preparing candidates for the entrance examinations to the naval training ship HMS Britannia at Dartmouth. Having passed these exams Scott began his naval career in 1881, as a cadet aged only 13 years old.
In July 1883, Scott passed out of Britannia as a midshipman, seventh overall in a class of 26. By October, he was en route to South Africa to join HMS Boadicea, the flagship of the Cape squadron, the first of several ships on which he served during his midshipman years. While stationed in St Kitts, West Indies, on HMS Rover, he had his first encounter with Clements Markham, then Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society, who would loom large in Scott’s later career. On this occasion, 1 March 1887, Markham observed Midshipman Scott’s cutter winning that morning’s race across the bay. Markham’s habit was to “collect” likely young naval officers with a view to their undertaking polar exploration work in the future. He was impressed by Scott’s intelligence, enthusiasm and charm, and the 18-year-old midshipman was duly noted.
In March 1888 Scott passed his examinations for sub-lieutenant, with four first class certificates out of five. His career progressed smoothly, with service on various ships and promotion to lieutenant in 1889. In 1891, after a long spell in foreign waters, he applied for the two-year torpedo training course on HMS Vernon, an important career step. He graduated with first class certificates in both the theory and practical examinations. A small blot occurred in the summer of 1893 when, while commanding a torpedo boat, Scott ran it aground, a mishap which earned him a mild rebuke. During the research for his dual biography of Scott and Roald Amundsen, polar historian Roland Huntford investigated a possible scandal in Scott’s early naval career, related to the period 1889–90 when Scott was a lieutenant on HMS Amphion. According to Huntford, Scott “disappears from naval records” for eight months, from mid-August 1889 until 26 March 1890. Huntford hints at involvement with a married American woman, a cover-up, and protection by senior officers. Biographer David Crane reduces the missing period to eleven weeks, but is unable to clarify further. He rejects the notion of protection by senior officers on the grounds that Scott was not important or well-connected enough to warrant this. Documents that may have offered explanations are missing from Admiralty records.
In 1894, while serving as torpedo officer on the depot ship HMS Vulcan, Scott learned of the financial calamity that had overtaken his family. John Scott, having sold the brewery and invested the proceeds unwisely, had lost all his capital and was now virtually bankrupt. At the age of 63, and in poor health, he was forced to take a job as a brewery manager and move his family to Shepton Mallet, Somerset. Three years later, while Robert was serving with the Channel squadron flagship HMS Majestic, John Scott died of heart disease, creating a fresh family crisis. Hannah Scott and her two unmarried daughters now relied entirely on the service pay of Scott and the salary of younger brother Archie, who had left the army for a higher-paid post in the colonial service. Archie’s own death in the autumn of 1898, after contracting typhoid fever, meant that the whole financial responsibility for the family rested on Scott. Promotion, and the extra income this would bring, now became a matter of considerable concern to Scott. In the Royal Navy however, opportunities for career advancement were both limited and keenly sought after by ambitious officers. Early in June 1899, while home on leave, he had a chance encounter in a London street with Clements Markham, who was now knighted and President of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), and learned for the first time of an impending Antarctic expedition with the Discovery, under the auspices of the RGS. It was the opportunity for early command and a chance to distinguish himself, rather than any predilection for polar exploration which motivated Scott, according to Crane. What passed between them on this occasion is not recorded, but a few days later, on 11 June, Scott appeared at the Markham residence and volunteered to lead the expedition.
The British National Antarctic Expedition, later known as the Discovery Expedition, was a joint enterprise of the RGS and the Royal Society. A long-cherished dream of Markham’s, it required all of his skills and cunning to bring the expedition to fruition, under naval command and largely staffed by naval personnel. Scott may not have been Markham’s first choice as leader but, having decided on him, the older man’s support remained constant. There were committee battles over the scope of Scott’s responsibilities, with the Royal Society pressing to put a scientist in charge of the expedition’s programme while Scott merely commanded the ship. Eventually, however, Markham’s view prevailed; Scott was given overall command, and was promoted to the rank of commander before Discovery sailed for the Antarctic on 6 August 1901. King Edward VII, who showed a keen interest in the expedition, visited the Discovery the day before the ship left British shores in August 1901, and during the visit appointed Scott a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO), his personal gift. Experience of Antarctic or Arctic waters was almost entirely lacking within the 50-strong party and there was very little special training in equipment or techniques before the ship set sail. Dogs were taken, as were skis, but the dogs succumbed to disease in the first season. Nevertheless, the dogs’ performance impressed Scott, and, despite moral qualms, he implemented the principle of slaughtering dogs for dog-food to increase their range. During an early attempt at ice travel, a blizzard trapped expedition members in their tent and their decision to leave it resulted in the death of George Vince, who slipped over a precipice on 11 March 1902.
The expedition had both scientific and exploration objectives; the latter included a long journey south, in the direction of the South Pole. This march, undertaken by Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Edward Wilson, took them to a latitude of 82° 17′ S, about 530 miles (850 km) from the pole. A harrowing return journey brought about Shackleton’s physical collapse and his early departure from the expedition. The second year showed improvements in technique and achievement, culminating in Scott’s western journey which led to the discovery of the Polar Plateau. This has been described by one writer as “one of the great polar journeys”. The scientific results of the expedition included important biological, zoological and geological findings. Some of the meteorological and magnetic readings, however, were later criticised as amateurish and inaccurate.
At the end of the expedition it took the combined efforts of two relief ships and the use of explosives to free Discovery from the ice. His insistence during the expedition on Royal Navy formalities had made for uneasy relations with the merchant navy contingent, many of whom departed for home with the first relief ship in March 1903. Second-in-command Albert Armitage, a merchant officer, was offered the chance to go home on compassionate grounds, but chose to interpret the offer as a personal slight, and refused. Armitage also promoted the idea that the decision to send Shackleton home on the relief ship arose from Scott’s animosity rather than Shackleton’s physical breakdown. Although there were later tensions between Scott and Shackleton, when their polar ambitions directly clashed, in public mutual civilities were preserved; Scott joined in the official reception that greeted Shackleton on his return in 1909 after the Nimrod Expedition, and the two were exchanging polite letters about their respective ambitions in 1909–10.
Shackleton returned from the Antarctic having narrowly failed to reach the Pole, and this gave Scott the impetus to proceed with plans for his second Antarctic expedition. On 24 March 1909, he had taken the Admiralty-based appointment of naval assistant to the Second Sea Lord which placed him conveniently in London. In December he was released on half-pay, to take up the full-time command of the British Antarctic Expedition 1910, to be known as the Terra Nova Expedition from its ship, Terra Nova. It was the expressed hope of the RGS that this expedition would be “scientific primarily, with exploration and the Pole as secondary objects” but, unlike the Discovery Expedition, neither they nor the Royal Society were in charge this time. In his expedition prospectus, Scott stated that its main objective was “to reach the South Pole, and to secure for the British Empire the honour of this achievement”. Scott had, as Markham observed, been “bitten by the Pole mania”.
In a memorandum of 1908, Scott presented his view that man-hauling to the South Pole was impossible and that motor traction was needed. Snow vehicles did not yet exist however, and so his engineer Reginald Skelton developed the idea of a caterpillar track for snow surfaces. In the middle of 1909 Scott realised that motors were unlikely to get him all the way to the Pole, and decided additionally to take horses (based on Shackleton’s near success in attaining the Pole, using ponies), and dogs and skis after consultation with Nansen during trials of the motors in Norway in March 1910. Man-hauling would still be needed on the Polar Plateau, on the assumption that motors and animals could not ascend the crevassed Beardmore Glacier. Dog expert Cecil Meares was going to Siberia to select the dogs, and Scott ordered that, while he was there, he should deal with the purchase of Manchurian ponies. Meares was not an experienced horse-dealer, and the ponies he chose proved mostly of poor quality, and ill-suited to prolonged Antarctic work. Meanwhile, Scott also recruited Bernard Day, from Shackleton’s expedition, as his motor expert.
On 15 June 1910, Scott’s ship Terra Nova, an old converted whaler, set sail from Cardiff, south Wales. Scott meanwhile was fundraising in Britain and joined the ship later in South Africa. Arriving in Melbourne, Australia in October 1910, Scott received a telegram from Amundsen stating: “Beg leave to inform you Fram proceeding Antarctic Amundsen”, possibly indicating that Scott faced a race to the pole. The expedition suffered a series of early misfortunes which hampered the first season’s work and impaired preparations for the main polar march. On its journey from New Zealand to the Antarctic, Terra Nova nearly sank in a storm and was then trapped in pack ice for 20 days, far longer than other ships had experienced, which meant a late-season arrival and less time for preparatory work before the Antarctic winter. At Cape Evans, Antarctica, one of the motor sledges was lost during its unloading from the ship, breaking through the sea ice and sinking. Deteriorating weather conditions and weak, unacclimatised ponies affected the initial depot-laying journey, so that the expedition’s main supply point, One Ton Depot, was laid 35 miles (56 km) north of its planned location at 80° S. Lawrence Oates, in charge of the ponies, advised Scott to kill ponies for food and advance the depot to 80° S, which Scott refused to do. Oates is reported as saying to Scott, “Sir, I’m afraid you’ll come to regret not taking my advice.” Four ponies died during this journey either from the cold or because they slowed the team down and were shot.
On its return to base, the expedition learned of the presence of Amundsen, camped with his crew and a large contingent of dogs in the Bay of Whales, 200 miles (320 km) to their east. Scott conceded that his ponies would not be able to start early enough in the season to compete with Amundsen’s cold-tolerant dog teams for the pole, and also acknowledged that the Norwegian’s base was closer to the pole by 60 miles. Wilson was more hopeful, whereas Gran shared Scott’s concern. Shortly afterwards, the death toll among the ponies increased to six, three drowning when sea-ice unexpectedly disintegrated, casting in doubt the possibility of reaching the pole at all. However, during the 1911 winter Scott’s confidence increased; on 2 August, after the return of a three-man party from their winter journey to Cape Crozier, Scott wrote, “I feel sure we are as near perfection as experience can direct”.
Journey to the Pole
Scott outlined his plans for the southern journey to the entire shore party, leaving open who would form the final polar team, according to their performance during the polar travel. Eleven days before Scott’s teams set off towards the pole, Scott gave the dog driver Meares the following written orders at Cape Evans dated 20 October 1911 to secure Scott’s speedy return from the pole using dogs:
About the first week of February I should like you to start your third journey to the South, the object being to hasten the return of the third Southern unit [the polar party] and give it a chance to catch the ship. The date of your departure must depend on news received from returning units, the extent of the depot of dog food you have been able to leave at One Ton Camp, the state of the dogs, etc … It looks at present as though you should aim at meeting the returning party about March 1 in Latitude 82 or 82.30 
The march south began on 1 November 1911, a caravan of mixed transport groups (motors, dogs, horses), with loaded sledges, travelling at different rates, all designed to support a final group of four men who would make a dash for the Pole. The southbound party steadily reduced in size as successive support teams turned back. Scott reminded the returning Atkinson of the order “to take the two dog-teams south in the event of Meares having to return home, as seemed likely”. By 4 January 1912, the last two four-man groups had reached 87° 34′ S. Scott announced his decision: five men (Scott, Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, Lawrence Oates and Edgar Evans) would go forward, the other three (Teddy Evans, William Lashly and Tom Crean) would return. The chosen group marched on, reaching the Pole on 17 January 1912, only to find that Amundsen had preceded them by five weeks. Scott’s anguish is indicated in his diary: “The worst has happened”; “All the day dreams must go”; “Great God! This is an awful place”.
The deflated party began the 800-mile (1,300 km) return journey on 19 January. “I’m afraid the return journey is going to be dreadfully tiring and monotonous”, wrote Scott on that day. The party made good progress despite poor weather, and had completed the Polar Plateau stage of their journey, approximately 300 miles (500 km), by 7 February. In the following days, as the party made the 100-mile (160 km) descent of the Beardmore Glacier, the physical condition of Edgar Evans, which Scott had noted with concern as early as 23 January, declined sharply. A fall on 4 February had left Evans “dull and incapable”, and on 17 February, after another fall, he died near the glacier foot. Meanwhile, back at Cape Evans, the Terra Nova arrived at the beginning of February, and Atkinson decided to unload the supplies from the ship with his own men rather than set out south with the dogs to meet Scott as ordered. When Atkinson belatedly left for the planned rendezvous with Scott, he encountered the scurvy-ridden Edward (“Teddy”) Evans who needed urgent medical attention. Atkinson therefore tried to send the experienced navigator Wright south to meet Scott, but chief meteorologist Simpson declared he needed Wright for scientific work. Atkinson then decided to send the short-sighted Cherry-Garrard on 25 February, who was not able to navigate, only as far as One Ton depot (which is within sight of Mount Erebus), effectively cancelling Scott’s orders for meeting him at latitude 82 or 82.30 on 1 March.
On the return journey from the Pole, Scott reached the 82.30°S meeting point for the dog teams, three days ahead of schedule, noting in his diary for 27 February 1912 “We are naturally always discussing possibility of meeting dogs, where and when, etc. It is a critical position. We may find ourselves in safety at the next depot, but there is a horrid element of doubt.” By 10 March the temperature had dropped unexpectedly to below −40 °C (−40 °F), and it became evident the dog teams were not coming: “The dogs which would have been our salvation have evidently failed. Meares [the dog-driver] had a bad trip home I suppose. It’s a miserable jumble.” With 400 miles (670 km) still to travel across the Ross Ice Shelf, Scott’s party’s prospects steadily worsened as, with deteriorating weather, a puzzling lack of fuel in the depots, hunger and exhaustion, they struggled northward. In a farewell letter to Sir Edgar Speyer, dated 16 March, Scott wondered whether he had overshot the meeting point and fought the growing suspicion that he had in fact been abandoned by the dog teams: “We very nearly came through, and it’s a pity to have missed it, but lately I have felt that we have overshot our mark. No-one is to blame and I hope no attempt will be made to suggest that we had lacked support.” On the same day, Oates, whose toes had become frostbitten, voluntarily left the tent and walked to his death. Scott wrote that Oates’ last words were “I am just going outside and may be some time” After walking 20 miles farther despite Scott’s toes now becoming frostbitten, the three remaining men made their final camp on 19 March, 11 miles (18 km) short of One Ton Depot. The next day a fierce blizzard prevented their making any progress. During the next nine days, as their supplies ran out, and with storms still raging outside the tent, Scott and his companions wrote their farewell letters. Scott gave up his diary after 23 March, save for a final entry on 29 March, with its concluding words: “Last entry. For God’s sake look after our people”. He left letters to Wilson’s mother, Bowers’ mother, a string of notables including his former commander Sir George Egerton, his own mother and his wife. He also wrote his “Message To The Public”, primarily a vindication of the expedition’s organisation and conduct in which the party’s failure is attributed to weather and other misfortunes, but ending on an inspirational note, with these words:
We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last … Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for. Scott is presumed to have died on 29 March 1912, or possibly one day later. The positions of the bodies in the tent when it was discovered eight months later suggested that Scott was the last of the three to die.
The bodies of Scott and his companions were discovered by a search party on 12 November 1912 and their records retrieved. Their final camp became their tomb; a high cairn of snow was erected over it, topped by a roughly fashioned cross. In January 1913, before Terra Nova left for home, a large wooden cross was made by the ship’s carpenters, inscribed with the names of the lost party and Tennyson’s line from his poem Ulysses: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”, and was erected as a permanent memorial on Observation Hill, overlooking Hut Point. A century of storms and snow have covered the cairn and tent, which are now encased in the Ross Ice Shelf as it inches towards the Ross Sea. In 2001 glaciologist Charles R. Bentley estimated that the tent with the bodies was under about 75 feet (23 m) of ice and about 30 miles (48 km) from the point where they died; he speculated that in about 275 years the bodies would reach the Ross Sea, and perhaps float away inside an iceberg.
Born: 1 August 1867 – Died: 28 October 1921 – Country of Origin: England
William Speirs Bruce FRSE was a Scottish naturalist, polar scientist and oceanographer who organised and led the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition (SNAE, 1902–04) to the South Orkney Islands and the Weddell Sea. Among other achievements, the expedition established the first permanent weather station in Antarctica. Bruce later founded the Scottish Oceanographical Laboratory in Edinburgh, but his plans for a transcontinental Antarctic March via the South Pole were abandoned because of lack of public and financial support.
In 1892 Bruce gave up his medical studies at the University of Edinburgh and joined the Dundee Whaling Expedition to Antarctica as a scientific assistant. This was followed by Arctic voyages to Novaya Zemlya, Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land. In 1899 Bruce, by then Britain’s most experienced polar scientist, applied for a post on Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition, but delays over this appointment and clashes with Royal Geographical Society (RGS) president Sir Clements Markham led him instead to organise his own expedition, and earned him the permanent enmity of the British geographical establishment. Although Bruce received various awards for his polar work, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Aberdeen, neither he nor any of his SNAE colleagues were recommended by the RGS for the prestigious Polar Medal.
On 15 March 1899 Bruce wrote to Sir Clements Markham at the RGS, offering himself for the scientific staff of the National Antarctic Expedition, then in its early planning stages. Markham’s reply was a non-committal one-line acknowledgement, after which Bruce heard nothing for a year. He was then told, indirectly, to apply for a scientific assistant’s post. On 21 March 1900 Bruce reminded Markham that he had applied a year earlier, and went on to reveal that he “was not without hopes of being able to raise sufficient capital whereby I could take out a second British ship”. He followed this up a few days later, and reported that the funding for a second ship was now assured, making his first explicit references to a “Scottish Expedition”. This alarmed Markham, who replied with some anger: “Such a course will be most prejudicial to the Expedition […] A second ship is not in the least required […] I do not know why this mischievous rivalry should have been started”. Bruce replied by return, denying rivalry, and asserting: “If my friends are prepared to give me money to carry out my plans I do not see why I should not accept it […] there are several who maintain that a second ship is highly desirable”. Unappeased, Markham wrote back: “As I was doing my best to get you appointed (to the National Antarctic Expedition) I had a right to think you would not take such a step […] without at least consulting me”. He continued: “You will cripple the National Expedition […] in order to get up a scheme for yourself”.
Bruce replied formally, saying that the funds he had raised in Scotland would not have been forthcoming for any other project. There was no further correspondence between the two, beyond a short conciliatory note from Markham, in February 1901, which read “I can now see things from your point of view, and wish you success” a sentiment apparently not reflected in Markham’s subsequent attitude towards the Scottish expedition.
With financial support from the Coats family, Bruce had acquired a Norwegian whaler, Hekla, which he transformed into a fully equipped Antarctic research ship, renamed Scotia. He then appointed an all-Scottish crew and scientific team. Scotia left Troon on 2 November 1902, and headed south towards Antarctica, where Bruce intended to set up winter quarters in the Weddell Sea quadrant, “as near to the South Pole as is practicable”. On 22 February the ship reached 70°25′S, but could proceed no further because of heavy ice. She retreated to Laurie Island in the South Orkneys chain, and wintered there in a bay he named Scotia Bay. A meteorological station, Omond House (named after Robert Traill Omond), was established as part of a full programme of scientific work.
In November 1903 Scotia retreated to Buenos Aires for repair and reprovisioning. While in Argentina, Bruce negotiated an agreement with the government whereby Omond House became a permanent weather station, under Argentinian control. Renamed Orcadas Base, the site has been continuously in operation since then, and provides the longest historical meteorological series of Antarctica. In January 1904 Scotia sailed south again, to explore the Weddell Sea. On 6 March, new land was sighted, part of the sea’s eastern boundary; Bruce named this Coats Land after the expedition’s chief backers. On 14 March, at 74°01′S and in danger of becoming icebound, Scotia turned north. The long voyage back to Scotland, via Cape Town, was completed on 21 July 1904.
This expedition assembled a large collection of animal, marine and plant specimens, and carried out extensive hydrographic, magnetic and meteorological observations. One hundred years later it was recognised that the expedition’s work had “laid the foundation of modern climate change studies”, and that its experimental work had showed this part of the globe to be crucially important to the world’s climate. According to the oceanographer Tony Rice, it fulfilled a more comprehensive programme than any other Antarctic expedition of its day. At the time, however, its reception in Britain was relatively muted; although its work was highly praised within sections of the scientific community, Bruce struggled to raise the funding to publish his scientific results, and blamed Markham for the lack of national recognition.
During his lifetime Bruce received many awards: the Gold Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 1904; the Patron’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1910; the Neill prize and Medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1913, and the Livingstone Medal of the American Geographical Society in 1920. He also received an honorary LLD degree from the University of Aberdeen. The honour that eluded him, however, was the Polar Medal, awarded by the Sovereign on the recommendation of the Royal Geographical Society. Although the Medal was awarded to the members of every other British or Commonwealth Antarctic expedition during the early 20th century, the SNAE was the exception; the medal was withheld.
Bruce, and those close to him, blamed Markham for this omission. The matter was raised, repeatedly, with anyone thought to have influence. Robert Rudmose Brown, chronicler of the Scotia voyage and later Bruce’s first biographer, wrote in a 1913 letter to the President of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society that this neglect was “a slight to Scotland and to Scottish endeavour”. Bruce wrote in March 1915 to the President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, who agreed in his reply that “Markham had much to answer for”. After Markham’s death in 1916 Bruce sent a long letter to his Member of Parliament, Charles Price, detailing Sir Clements’s malice towards him and the Scottish expedition, ending with a heartfelt cry on behalf of his old comrades: “Robertson[H] is dying without his well won white ribbon! The Mate is dead!! The Chief Engineer is dead!!! Everyone as good men as have ever served on any Polar Expedition, yet they did not receive the white ribbon.” No action followed this plea. No award had been made nearly a century later, when the matter was raised in the Scottish Parliament. On 4 November 2002 MSP Michael Russell tabled a motion relating to the SNAE centenary, which concluded: “The Polar Medal Advisory Committee should recommend the posthumous award of the Polar Medal to Dr William Speirs Bruce, in recognition of his status as one of the key figures in early 20th century polar scientific exploration”.
After the outbreak of war in 1914, Bruce’s prospecting ventures were on hold. He offered his services to the Admiralty, but failed to obtain an appointment. In 1915 he accepted a post as director and manager of a whaling company based in the Seychelles, and spent four months there, but the venture failed. On his return to Britain he finally secured a minor post at the Admiralty. Bruce continued to lobby for recognition, highlighting the distinctions between the treatment of SNAE and that of English expeditions. When the war finished he attempted to revive his various interests, but his health was failing, forcing him to close his laboratory. On the 1920 voyage to Spitsbergen he travelled in an advisory role, unable to participate in the detailed work. On return, he was confined in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and later in the Liberton Hospital, Edinburgh, where he died on 28 October 1921. In accordance with his wishes he was cremated, and the ashes taken to South Georgia to be scattered on the southern sea. Despite his irregular income and general lack of funds, his estate realised £7,000 (2017 value about £280,000).
After Bruce’s death, his long-time friend and colleague Robert Rudmose Brown wrote, in a letter to Bruce’s father: “His name is imperishably enrolled among the world’s great explorers, and the martyrs to unselfish scientific devotion”. Rudmose Brown’s biography was published in 1923, and in the same year, a joint committee of Edinburgh’s learned societies instituted the Bruce Memorial Prize, an award for young polar scientists. Thereafter, although his name continued to be respected in scientific circles, Bruce and his achievements were forgotten by the general public. Occasional mentions of him, in polar histories and biographies of major figures such as Scott and Shackleton, tended to be dismissive and inaccurate.
The early years of the 21st century, however, have seen a reassessment of Bruce’s work. Contributory factors have been the SNAE centenary and Scotland’s renewed sense of national identity. A 2003 expedition, in a modern research ship “Scotia”, used information collected by Bruce as a basis for examining climate change in South Georgia. This expedition predicted “dramatic conclusions” relating to global warming from its research, and saw this contribution as a “fitting tribute to Britain’s forgotten polar hero, William Speirs Bruce”. An hour-long BBC television documentary on Bruce presented by Neil Oliver in 2011 contrasted his meticulous science with his rivals’ aim of enhancing imperial prestige. A new biographer, Peter Speak (2003), claims that the SNAE was “by far the most cost-effective and carefully planned scientific expedition of the Heroic Age”.
The same author considers reasons why Bruce’s efforts to capitalise on this success met with failure and suggests a combination of his shy, solitary, uncharismatic nature and his “fervent” Scottish nationalism. Bruce seemingly lacked public relations skills and the ability to promote his work, after the fashion of Scott and Shackleton; a lifelong friend described him as being “as prickly as the Scottish thistle itself”.On occasion, he behaved tactlessly, as with Jackson over the question of the specimens brought back from Franz Josef Land, and on another occasion with the Royal Geographical Society, over the question of a minor expense claim.
As to his nationalism, he wished to see Scotland on an equal footing with other nations. His national pride was intense; in a Preparatory Note to The Voyage of the Scotia he wrote: “While ‘Science’ was the talisman of the Expedition, ‘Scotland’ was emblazoned on its flag”.This insistence on emphasising the Scottish character of his enterprises could be irksome to those who did not share his passion. However, he retained the respect and devotion of those whom he led, and of those who had known him longest. John Arthur Thomson, who had known Bruce since Granton, wrote of him when reviewing Rudmose Brown’s 1923 biography: “We never heard him once grumble about himself, though he was neither to hold or bend when he thought some injustice was being done to, or slight cast on, his men, on his colleagues, on his laboratory, on his Scotland. Then one got glimpses of the volcano which his gentle spirit usually kept sleeping”.
Born: 15 February 1874 – Died: 5 January 1922 – Country of Origin: Ireland
Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton CVO OBE FRGS was a polar explorer who led three British expeditions to the Antarctic, and one of the principal figures of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. Born in Kilkea, Athy, County Kildare, Ireland, Shackleton and his Anglo-Irish family moved to Sydenham in suburban south London when he was ten. His first experience of the polar regions was as third officer on Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition 1901–1904, from which he was sent home early on health grounds, after he and his companions Scott and Edward Adrian Wilson set a new southern record by marching to latitude 82°S.
During the second expedition 1907–1909 he and three companions established a new record Farthest South latitude at 88°S, only 97 geographical miles (112 statute miles, 180 km) from the South Pole, the largest advance to the pole in exploration history. Also, members of his team climbed Mount Erebus, the most active Antarctic volcano. For these achievements, Shackleton was knighted by King Edward VII on his return home.
Born: 16 July 1872 – Disappeared: 18 June 1928 – Country of Origin: Norway
Amundsen was born to a family of Norwegian shipowners and captains in Borge, between the towns Fredrikstad and Sarpsborg. His parents were Jens Amundsen and Hanna Sahlqvist. Roald was the fourth son in the family. His mother wanted him to avoid the family maritime trade and encouraged him to become a doctor, a promise that Amundsen kept until his mother died when he was aged 21. He promptly quit university for a life at sea. Amundsen had hidden a lifelong desire inspired by Fridtjof Nansen’s crossing of Greenland in 1888 and Franklin’s lost expedition. He decided on a life of intense exploration of wilderness places.
Amundsen joined the Belgian Antarctic Expedition (1897–99) as first mate. This expedition, led by Adrien de Gerlache using the ship the RV Belgica, became the first expedition to winter in Antarctica. The Belgica, whether by mistake or design, became locked in the sea ice at 70°30′S off Alexander Island, west of the Antarctic Peninsula. The crew endured a winter for which they were poorly prepared. By Amundsen’s own estimation, the doctor for the expedition, the American Frederick Cook, probably saved the crew from scurvy by hunting for animals and feeding the crew fresh meat. In cases where citrus fruits are lacking, fresh meat from animals that make their own vitamin C (which most do) contains enough of the vitamin to prevent scurvy and even partly treat it. This was an important lesson for Amundsen’s future expeditions.
In 1903, Amundsen led the first expedition to successfully traverse Canada’s Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He planned a small expedition of six men in a 45-ton fishing vessel, Gjøa, in order to have flexibility. His ship had relatively shallow draft. His technique was to use a small ship and hug the coast. Amundsen had the ship outfitted with a small gasoline engine. They traveled via Baffin Bay, the Parry Channel and then south through Peel Sound, James Ross Strait, Simpson Strait and Rae Strait. They spent two winters (1903–04 and 1904–05) at King William Island in the harbor of what is today Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, Canada. During this time, Amundsen and the crew learned from the local Netsilik Inuit people about Arctic survival skills, which he found invaluable in his later expedition to the South Pole. For example, he learned to use sled dogs for transportation of goods and to wear animal skins in lieu of heavy, woolen parkas, which could not deter cold when wet.
Leaving Gjoa Haven, he sailed west and passed Cambridge Bay, which had been reached from the west by Richard Collinson in 1852. Continuing to the south of Victoria Island, the ship cleared the Canadian Arctic Archipelago on 17 August 1905. It had to stop for the winter before going on to Nome on the Alaska District’s Pacific coast. Five hundred miles (800 km) away, Eagle City, Alaska, had a telegraph station; Amundsen traveled there (and back) overland to wire a success message (collect) on 5 December 1905. His team reached Nome in 1906. Because the water along the route was sometimes as shallow as 3 ft (0.91 m), a larger ship could not have made the voyage. At this time, Amundsen learned that Norway had formally become independent of Sweden and had a new king. The explorer sent the new King Haakon VII news that his traversing the Northwest Passage “was a great achievement for Norway”. He said he hoped to do more and signed it “Your loyal subject, Roald Amundsen.” The crew returned to Oslo in November 1906, after almost 3.5 years abroad. It took until 1972 to have the Gjøa returned to Norway. After a 45-day trip from San Francisco on a bulk carrier, the Gjøa was placed in her current location on land, outside the Fram Museum in Oslo.
Amundsen next planned to take an expedition to the North Pole and explore the Arctic Basin. Finding it difficult to raise funds, when he heard in 1909 that the Americans Frederick Cook and Robert Peary had claimed to reach the North Pole as a result of two different expeditions, he decided to reroute to Antarctica. He was not clear about his intentions, and the Englishman Robert F. Scott and the Norwegian supporters felt misled. Scott was planning his own expedition to the South Pole that year. Using the ship Fram (“Forward”), earlier used by Fridtjof Nansen, Amundsen left Oslo for the south on 3 June 1910. At Madeira, Amundsen alerted his men that they would be heading to Antarctica, and sent a telegram to Scott, notifying him simply: “BEG TO INFORM YOU FRAM PROCEEDING ANTARCTIC–AMUNDSEN.” Nearly six months later, the expedition arrived at the eastern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf (then known as “the Great Ice Barrier”), at a large inlet called the Bay of Whales, on 14 January 1911. Amundsen established his base camp there, calling it Framheim. Amundsen eschewed the heavy wool clothing worn on earlier Antarctic attempts in favour of adopting Inuit-style furred skins.
Using skis and dog sleds for transportation, Amundsen and his men created supply depots at 80°, 81° and 82° South on the Barrier, along a line directly south to the Pole. Amundsen also planned to kill some of his dogs on the way and use them as a source for fresh meat. A small group, including Hjalmar Johansen, Kristian Prestrud and Jørgen Stubberud, set out on 8 September 1911, but had to abandon their trek due to extreme temperatures. The painful retreat caused a quarrel within the group, and Amundsen sent Johansen and the other two men to explore King Edward VII Land.
A second attempt, with a team made up of Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, Oscar Wisting, and Amundsen, departed base camp on 19 October 1911. They took four sledges and 52 dogs. Using a route along the previously unknown Axel Heiberg Glacier, they arrived at the edge of the Polar Plateau on 21 November after a four-day climb. On 14 December 1911, the team of five, with 16 dogs, arrived at the Pole (90° 0′ S).[n 1] They arrived 33–34 days before Scott’s group. Amundsen named their South Pole camp Polheim, meaning “Home on the Pole.” Amundsen renamed the Antarctic Plateau as King Haakon VII’s Plateau. They left a small tent and letter stating their accomplishment, in case they did not return safely to Framheim. The team returned to Framheim on 25 January 1912, with 11 surviving dogs. They made their way off the continent and to Hobart, Australia, where Amundsen publicly announced his success on 7 March 1912. He telegraphed news to backers.
Amundsen’s expedition benefited from his careful preparation, good equipment, appropriate clothing, a simple primary task, an understanding of dogs and their handling, and the effective use of skis. In contrast to the misfortunes of Scott’s team, Amundsen’s trek proved relatively smooth and uneventful.
In Amundsen’s own words:
I may say that this is the greatest factor—the way in which the expedition is equipped—the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order—luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.
In 1918, an expedition Amundsen began with a new ship, Maud, lasted until 1925. Maud sailed west to east through the Northeast Passage, now called the Northern Route (1918–20).
With him on this expedition were Oscar Wisting and Helmer Hanssen, both of whom had been part of the team to reach the South Pole. In addition, Henrik Lindstrøm was included as a cook. He suffered a stroke and was so physically reduced that he could not participate. The goal of the expedition was to explore the unknown areas of the Arctic Ocean, strongly inspired by Fridtjof Nansen’s earlier expedition with Fram. The plan was to sail along the coast of Siberia and go into the ice farther to the north and east than Nansen had. In contrast to Amundsen’s earlier expeditions, this was expected to yield more material for academic research, and he carried the geophysicist Harald Sverdrup on board.
The voyage was to the northeasterly direction over the Kara Sea. Amundsen planned to freeze the Maud into the polar ice cap and drift towards the North Pole (as Nansen had done with the Fram), and he did so off Cape Chelyuskin. But, the ice became so thick that the ship was unable to break free, although it was designed for such a journey in heavy ice. In September 1919, the crew got the ship loose from the ice, but it froze again after eleven days somewhere between the New Siberian Islands and Wrangel Island.
During this time, Amundsen participated little in the work outdoors, such as sleigh rides and hunting, because he had suffered numerous injuries. He had a broken arm and had been attacked by polar bears. Hanssen and Wisting, along with two other men, embarked on an expedition by dog sled to Nome, Alaska, more than 1,000 kilometres away. But they found that the ice was not frozen solid in the Bering Strait, and it could not be crossed. They sent a telegram from Anadyr to signal their location. After two winters frozen in the ice, without having achieved the goal of drifting over the North Pole, Amundsen decided to go to Nome to repair the ship and buy provisions. Several of the crew ashore there, including Hanssen, did not return on time to the ship. Amundsen considered Hanssen to be in breach of contract, and dismissed him from the crew.
During the third winter, Maud was frozen in the western Bering Strait. She finally became free and the expedition sailed south, reaching Seattle, Washington, in the US Pacific Northwest in 1921 for repairs. Amundsen returned to Norway, needing to put his finances in order. He took with him two young indigenous girls, the adopted four-year-old Kakonita and her companion Camilla. When Amundsen went bankrupt two years later, however, he sent the girls to be cared for by Camilla’s father, who lived in eastern Russia.
In June 1922, Amundsen returned to Maud, which had been sailed to Nome. He decided to shift from the planned naval expedition to aerial ones, and arranged to charter a plane. He divided the expedition team in two: one part was to survive the winter and prepare for an attempt to fly over the pole. This part was led by Amundsen. The second team on Maud, under the command of Wisting, was to resume the original plan to drift over the North Pole in the ice. The ship drifted in the ice for three years east of the New Siberian Islands, never reaching the North Pole. It was finally seized by Amundsen’s creditors as collateral for his mounting debt. The attempt to fly over the Pole failed, too. Amundsen and Oskar Omdal, of the Royal Norwegian Navy, tried to fly from Wainwright, Alaska, to Spitsbergen across the North Pole. When their aircraft was damaged, they abandoned the journey. To raise additional funds, Amundsen traveled around the United States in 1924 on a lecture tour.
Although he was unable to reach the North Pole, the scientific results of the expedition, mainly the work of Sverdrup, have proven to be of considerable value. Many of these carefully collected scientific data were lost during the ill-fated journey of Peter Tessem and Paul Knutsen, two crew members sent on a mission by Amundsen. The scientific materials were later retrieved by Russian scientist Nikolay Urvantsev from where they had been abandoned on the shores of the Kara Sea.
In 1925, accompanied by Lincoln Ellsworth, pilot Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen, and three other team members, Amundsen took two Dornier Do J flying boats, the N-24 and N-25, to 87° 44′ north. It was the northernmost latitude reached by plane up to that time. The aircraft landed a few miles apart without radio contact, yet the crews managed to reunite. The N-24 was damaged. Amundsen and his crew worked for more than three weeks to clean up an airstrip to take off from ice. They shovelled 600 tons of ice while consuming only one pound (400 g) of daily food rations. In the end, six crew members were packed into the N-25. In a remarkable feat, Riiser-Larsen took off, and they barely became airborne over the cracking ice. They returned triumphant when everyone thought they had been lost forever.
In 1926, Amundsen and 15 other men (including Ellsworth, Riiser-Larsen, Oscar Wisting, and the Italian air crew led by aeronautical engineer Umberto Nobile) made the first crossing of the Arctic in the airship Norge, designed by Nobile. They left Spitzbergen on 11 May 1926, and they landed in Alaska two days later. The three previous claims to have arrived at the North Pole: Frederick Cook in 1908; Robert Peary in 1909; and Richard E. Byrd in 1926 (just a few days before the Norge) are all disputed, as being either of dubious accuracy or outright fraud. If their claims are false, the crew of the Norge would be the first explorers verified to have reached the North Pole. If the Norge expedition was the first to the North Pole, Amundsen and Oscar Wisting were the first men to reach each geographical pole, by ground or by air.
Amundsen disappeared with five crew on 18 June 1928 while flying on a rescue mission in the Arctic. His team included Norwegian pilot Leif Dietrichson, French pilot René Guilbaud, and three more Frenchmen. They were seeking missing members of Nobile’s crew, whose new airship Italia had crashed while returning from the North Pole. Afterward, a wing-float and bottom gasoline tank from Amundsen’s French Latham 47 flying boat, which had been adapted as a replacement wing-float, were found near the Tromsø coast. It is believed that the plane crashed in fog in the Barents Sea, and that Amundsen and his crew were killed in the crash, or died shortly afterward. The search for Amundsen and team was called off in September 1928 by the Norwegian Government and the bodies were never found. In 2004 and in late August 2009, the Royal Norwegian Navy used the unmanned submarine Hugin 1000 to search for the wreckage of Amundsen’s plane. The searches focused on a 40-square-mile (100 km2) area of the sea floor, and were documented by the German production company ContextTV. They found nothing from the Amundsen flight.
Born: 5 May 1882 – Died: 14 October 1958 – Country of Origin: Australia
Mawson was born on 5 May 1882 to Robert Ellis Mawson and Margaret Ann Moore. He was born in Shipley, West Yorkshire, but was only two years old when his family immigrated to Australia and settled at Rooty Hill, now in the western suburbs of Sydney. He attended Fort Street Model School and the University of Sydney, where he graduated in 1902 with a Bachelor of Engineering degree.
He was appointed geologist to an expedition to the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) in 1903; his report, The Geology of the New Hebrides, was one of the first major geological works of Melanesia. Also that year he published a geological paper on Mittagong, New South Wales. His major influences in his geological career were Professor Edgeworth David and Professor Archibald Liversidge. He then became a lecturer in petrology and mineralogy at the University of Adelaide in 1905. He identified and first described the mineral davidite.
Mawson joined Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition (1907–09) to the Antarctic, originally intending to stay for the duration of the ship’s presence in the first summer. Instead both he and his mentor, Edgeworth David, stayed an extra year. In doing so they became, in the company of Alistair Mackay, the first to climb the summit of Mount Erebus and to trek to the South Magnetic Pole, which at that time was over land.
Mawson turned down an invitation to join Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition in 1910; Australian geologist Griffith Taylor went with Scott instead. Mawson chose to lead his own expedition, the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, to King George V Land and Adelie Land, the sector of the Antarctic continent immediately south of Australia, which at the time was almost entirely unexplored. The objectives were to carry out geographical exploration and scientific studies, including a visit to the South Magnetic Pole. Mawson raised the necessary funds in a year, from British and Australian governments, and from commercial backers interested in mining and whaling.
The expedition, using the ship SY Aurora commanded by Captain John King Davis, departed from Hobart on 2 December 1911, landed at Cape Denison (named after Hugh Denison, a major backer of the expedition) on Commonwealth Bay on 8 January 1912, and established the Main Base. A second camp was located to the west on the ice shelf in Queen Mary Land. Cape Denison proved to be unrelentingly windy; the average wind speed for the entire year was about 50 mph (80 km/h), with some winds approaching 200 mph (320 km/h). They built a hut on the rocky cape and wintered through nearly constant blizzards. Mawson wanted to do aerial exploration and brought the first aeroplane to Antarctica. The aircraft, a Vickers R.E.P. Type Monoplane, was to be flown by Francis Howard Bickerton. When it was damaged in Australia shortly before the expedition departed, plans were changed so it was to be used only as a tractor on skis. However, the engine did not operate well in the cold, and it was removed and returned to Vickers in England. The aircraft fuselage itself was abandoned. On 1 January 2009, fragments of it were rediscovered by the Mawson’s Huts Foundation, which is restoring the original huts.
Mawson’s exploration program was carried out by five parties from the Main Base and two from the Western Base. Mawson himself was part of a three-man sledging team, the Far Eastern Party, with Xavier Mertz and Lieutenant Belgrave Ninnis, who headed east on 10 November 1912, to survey King George V Land. After five weeks of excellent progress mapping the coastline and collecting geological samples, the party was crossing the Ninnis Glacier 480 km east of the main base. Mertz was skiing and Mawson was on his sled with his weight dispersed, but Ninnis was jogging beside the second sled. Ninnis fell through a crevasse, and his body weight is likely to have breached the snow bridge covering it. The six best dogs, most of the party’s rations, their tent, and other essential supplies disappeared into the massive crevasse. Mertz and Mawson spotted one dead and one injured dog on a ledge 165 ft below them, but Ninnis was never seen again.
After a brief service, Mawson and Mertz turned back immediately. They had one week’s provisions for two men and no dog food but plenty of fuel and a primus. They sledged for 27 hours continuously to obtain a spare tent cover they had left behind, for which they improvised a frame from skis and a theodolite. Their lack of provisions forced them to use their remaining sled dogs to feed the other dogs and themselves. Their meat was stringy, tough and without a vestige of fat. For a change we sometimes chopped it up finely, mixed it with a little pemmican, and brought all to the boil in a large pot of water. We were exceedingly hungry, but there was nothing to satisfy our appetites. Only a few ounces were used of the stock of ordinary food, to which was added a portion of dog’s meat, never large, for each animal yielded so very little, and the major part was fed to the surviving dogs. They crunched the bones and ate the skin, until nothing remained.
There was a quick deterioration in the men’s physical condition during this journey. Both men suffered dizziness; nausea; abdominal pain; irrationality; mucosal fissuring; skin, hair, and nail loss; and the yellowing of eyes and skin. Later Mawson noticed a dramatic change in his travelling companion. Mertz seemed to lose the will to move and wished only to remain in his sleeping bag. He began to deteriorate rapidly with diarrhoea and madness. On one occasion Mertz refused to believe he was suffering from frostbite and bit off the tip of his own little finger. This was soon followed by violent raging—Mawson had to sit on his companion’s chest and hold down his arms to prevent him from damaging their tent. Mertz suffered further seizures before falling into a coma and dying on 8 January 1913.
It was unknown at the time that Husky liver contains extremely high levels of vitamin A. It was also not known that such levels of vitamin A could cause liver damage to humans. With six dogs between them (with a liver on average weighing 1 kg), it is thought that the pair ingested enough liver to bring on a condition known as Hypervitaminosis A. However, Mertz may have suffered more because he found the tough muscle tissue difficult to eat and therefore ate more of the liver than Mawson.While both men suffered, Mertz suffered more severely.
Mawson continued the final 100 miles alone. During his return trip to the Main Base he fell through the lid of a crevasse, and was saved only by his sledge wedging itself into the ice above him. He managed to climb out using the harness attaching him to the sled.
When Mawson finally made it back to Cape Denison, the ship Aurora had left only a few hours before. It was recalled by wireless communication, only to have bad weather thwart the rescue effort. Mawson and six men who had remained behind to look for him wintered a second year until December 1913. In Mawson’s book Home of the Blizzard, he describes his experiences. His party, and those at the Western Base, had explored large areas of the Antarctic coast, describing its geology, biology and meteorology, and more closely defining the location of the South Magnetic Pole. In 1915, the Royal Geographical Society awarded him their Founder’s Gold Medal and in 1916 the American Geographical Society awarded him the David Livingstone Centenary Medal. The expedition was the subject of David Roberts’s book Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story
In his book The Home of the Blizzard, Mawson talked of “Herculean gusts” on 24 May 1912 which he learned afterwards “approached two hundred miles per hour”. Mawson reported that the average wind speed for March was 49 miles per hour; for April, 51.5 miles per hour; and for May, 67.719 miles per hour. These katabatic winds can reach around 300 km/h (190 mph) and led Mawson to dub Cape Denison “the windiest place on Earth”.
Mawson married Francisca Adriana (Paquita) Delprat (daughter of G. D. Delprat) on 31 March 1914 at Holy Trinity Church of England, Balaclava, Victoria. They had two daughters, Patricia and Jessica. Also in 1914, he was knighted, and was preoccupied with news of the Scott disaster until the outbreak of World War I. Mawson served in the war as a major in the British Ministry of Munitions. Returning to the University of Adelaide in 1919, he was promoted to the professorship of geology and mineralogy in 1921, and made a major contribution to Australian geology. He organised and led the joint British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition in 1929–31, which resulted in the formation of the Australian Antarctic Territory in 1936. He also spent much of his time researching the geology of the northern Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Upon his retirement from teaching in 1952 he was made an emeritus professor of the University of Adelaide. He died at his Brighton home on 14 October 1958 from a cerebral haemorrhage. He was 76 years old. At the time of his death he had still not completed editorial work on all the papers resulting from his expedition, and this was completed by his eldest daughter, Patricia, only in 1975.
His image appeared from 1984 to 1996 on the Australian paper one hundred dollar note and in 2012 on a $1 coin issued within the Inspirational Australians series. Mawson Peak (Heard Island), Mount Mawson (Tasmania), Mawson Station (Antarctica), Dorsa Mawson (Mare Fecunditatis), the geology building on the main University of Adelaide campus, suburbs in Canberra and Adelaide, a University of South Australian campus and the main street of Meadows, South Australia are named after him. At Oxley College in Burradoo, New South Wales, a sports house is called Mawson, as is at Clarence High School in Hobart, Tasmania, Forest Lodge Public School and Fort Street High School, both in Sydney, where he was educated. The Mawson Collection of Antarctic exploration artefacts is on permanent display at the South Australian Museum, including a screening of a recreated version of his journey that was shown on ABC Television on 12 May 2008.
Mawson (postcode 2607) is a suburb of Canberra, district of Woden Valley, Australian Capital Territory. The suburb was gazetted in 1966 and is named after him. The theme for street names in this area is Antarctic exploration. In 2011, Ranulph Fiennes included Mawson in his book My Heroes: Extraordinary Courage, Exceptional People. In 2013 an “Australian Mawson Centenary Expedition” was led by Australian Polar scientists Chris Turney and Chris Fogwill, of the University of New South Wales, together with Antarctic veteran geologist and mountaineer Greg Mortimer and a group of scientists and adventurers. The expedition was centred on Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic oceanography, climate and biology. The ship, the “MV Akademik Shokalskiy”, became trapped in the Antarctic sea ice. In December 2013, some of the expedition members revisited Mawson’s huts at Cape Denison on Commonwealth Bay.
After the release of Mawson’s journals and other expedition records, some historians have questioned Mawson’s navigation, risk-taking and leadership.
In December 2013, the first opera to be based on Mawson’s 1911–14 expedition to Antarctica, “The Call of Aurora” (by Tasmanian composer Joe Bugden) was performed at The Peacock Theatre in Hobart. “The Call of Aurora” investigates the relationship between Douglas Mawson and his wireless operator, Sidney Jeffryes, who developed symptoms of paranoia and had to be relieved of his duties.
Mawson’s book, Alone on the Ice, and the deadly effect of dog liver are referenced in the plot of an episode of British television series New Tricks, where it is used to commit the almost-perfect murder.
Sir Douglas was buried at the historic cemetery of Saint Jude’s Anglican Church, 444 Brighton Road, Brighton, South Australia, in 1958.