Here at Aurora Expeditions and around the world, people are celebrating the centenary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s famous voyage to Antarctica. The story of this trip is harrowing, and shows just how strong the human spirit can be when it wants to survive.
However, Shackleton is far from the only person to have undergone an Antarctic expedition. While we remember the man, let’s also consider his fellow explorers from throughout history. Here are three of the most important:
Captain James Cook
To say James Cook was a true Antarctic explorer might be slightly misleading as he technically did not step foot onto the continent, nor even see its shores. However, he sailed further south than any other person of his time, hampered only by vast fields of ice.
You see, in the 1770s, nobody had chartered the waters around Antarctica before. There was much speculation about whether or not there was even a continent there. James Cook, being promoted to commander, was sent to find out. In 1772, he set sail with two ships – the Adventure and Resolution – and proceeded along the coast of Africa and past the Cape of Good Hope to search for ‘Terra Australis’. Unfortunately, he became blocked by ice and could not penetrate any further than 70 degrees South (right on the edge of Antarctica).
Another first was from Norwegian man Roald Amundsen, who in 1911 became the first man to reach the South Pole.
His trip to Antarctica started with plans to reach the North Pole. He was going to drift over the Arctic in pack ice, but claims that American Robert Peary had already arrived there in 1909 made Amundsen and his group quickly change tune, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. They would head south.
He set off in his ship, the Fram, and sailed directly to the Bay of Whales to set up camp, making his starting point around 100 kilometres closer to the Pole than Robert Falcon Scott’s base (a man who was attempting the same journey at the same time). With four team mates and 52 dogs, Amundsen set off in October 1911 and, thanks to good weather, arrived just two months later. Unfortunately, Scott did not survive his own journey.
Somewhat less well-known outside of the US is Richard E Byrd, an American Naval officer who was the first to fly over the South Pole, and who claimed large portions of the continent for his home country. In what was the most well-equipped Antarctic tour to date, Byrd landed on the shores of the Bay of Whales in 1928. He and his crew quickly set up what would be their home for the next few months, which they called ‘Little America’.
In what was the most well-equipped Antarctic tour to date, Byrd landed on the shores of the Bay of Whales in 1928. The group proceeded to launch numerous flights around the area, discovering previously unknown territory such as the Rockefeller Mountains and Marie Byrd Land.
However, his ambitions were higher than simply the land around the Ross Ice Shelf. In 1929, Byrd navigated a plane with three companions towards the South Pole. In order to gain the altitude necessary to fly higher than the mountains there, and above the horrible turbulence they caused, the crew had to drop over 130 kilograms of food, states National Geographic. This would have meant that should they have had to make an emergency landing, they would have no food to survive. Thankfully, this was not an issue, as Byrd and his men surveyed the area and returned safely to Little America without issue.
Now, in modern times, you too can be an intrepid Antarctic adventurer with Aurora. Sign up to one of our 2016 or 2017 cruises and you’ll witness the glittering spectacle of the Antarctic Peninsula, and the sheer bounty of wildlife that calls it home.