The Heart of the Antarctic: The Story of the British Antartic Expedition 1907-1909

The Heart of the Antarctic: The Story of the British Antartic Expedition 1907-1909

The Heart of the Antarctic: The Story of the British Antartic Expedition 1907-1909

The Heart of the Antarctic: The Story of the British Antartic Expedition 1907-1909

Excerpt

An outline of the history of recent Antarctic exploration is necessary before the reader can appreciate to the full the many points of originality in the equipment of the expedition of 1907–1909, and follow the unequalled advance made by that expedition into the slowly dwindling blank of the unknown South Polar area.

From the beginning of the sixteenth century it was generally believed that a great continent, equal in area to all the rest of the land of the globe, lay around the South Pole, stretching northward in each of the great oceans far into the tropics. The second voyage of Captain James Cook in 1773–75 showed that if any continent existed it must lie mainly within the Antarctic Circle, which he penetrated at three points in search of the land, and it could be of no possible value for settlement or trade. He reached his farthest south in 71° 10' South, 1180 miles from the South Pole.

In 1819 Alexander I, Emperor of all the Russias, resolved of his good pleasure to explore the North Polar and the South Polar regions simultaneously and sent out two ships to each destination. The southern expedition consisted of the two ships Vostok and Mirni, under the command of Captain Fabian von Bellingshausen, with Lieutenant Lazareffas second in command. They made a circumnavigation of the world in a high southern latitude, supplementing the voyage of Cook by keeping south where he went north, but not attempting to reach any higher latitudes. On leaving Sydney in November 1820, Bellingshausen went south in 163° East, a section of the Antarctic which Cook had avoided, and from the eagerness with which the Russian captain apologised for not pushing into the pack it may be inferred that he found the gate leading to Ross Sea only barred by the ice, not absolutely locked. The ships went on in the direction of Cape Horn in order to visit the South Shetlands, recently discovered by William Smith. On the way Bellingshausen discovered the first land yet known within the Antarctic Circle, the little Peter I Island and the much larger Alexander I

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