Antarctic Explorers

Wed 17th May 2017 at 12.50 - 14.00

A fascinating presentation on Antartica and its explorers was given by Brian Gofton

Antartica is the fifth biggest continent and a tenth of the earth's land area. It is also the highest with an average of 6000 feet. In addition to being the coldest continent (as low as -70 degrees C)it is the driest and windiest with gusts reported at over 200 mph. It doubles in size in winter with the increased amount of sea ice. The ice which at its thickest reaches three miles in depth comprises almost 70% of the earths freshwater. If it all melted sea levels would rise about 150 feet.

Over 30 countries have research stations in Antarctica and the Antarctic treaty stipulates that Antarctica should be used exclusively for peaceful purposes including no military activities. It prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste. 46 countries have signed up to the treaty.

It was not until the 1700’s did European explorers go looking for the lost continent. The Russian explorer Bellinghausen was the first to chart the continent in 1821 The first attempt to find the South Pole was in 1821 by Frenchman d'Urville but ice prevented progress. In 1840 James Clark Ross managed to get to 75° south and there were no further attempts for 50 years. Carsten Borchgrevink was the first Explorer to overwinter at Cape Adare in 1899.

In 1901 Captain Robert Scott made the first attempt with Ernest Shackleton to reach the South Pole. Shackleton's further attempt in 1908 made it to 88° south before turning back. The final assault took place in 1911 by Scott and Amundsen, Amundsen won the race by three weeks arriving in January 1912. In 1914 Shackleton went on an expedition across Antarctica providing one of the greatest stories in Antarctic history. His ship Endurance was crushed by ice but Shackleton and four others sailed to South Georgia from Elephant Island and then crossed a mountain range to get help.

Today the hut of Carsten Borchgrevink at Cape Adare, Ernest Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds and Robert Scott's hut at Cape Evans still exist including some of the items that were used at the time.

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