The First Landing

The First Landing on the Antarctic mainland

24th January 1895  -  A Norwegian first!

The first confirmed landing on the Antarctic continent was almost certainly a Norwegian.        But who?

Numerous Norwegian sealing and whaling expeditions ventured into the southern oceans during the 1800’s but it was not until the end of the century that ships began to penetrate the pack ice and come closer to the Antarctic mainland.  The first sightings of the continent had been claimed as early as 1819 but many of these were disputed.  Some claims were also made of landings on the mainland but these have never been confirmed.

First landing in Antarctica (Sketch by Carsten Borchgrevink)
The first undisputed landing on the continent was made on 24th January 1895 during a Norwegian whaling and sealing expedition under the command of Leonard Kristensen.  His ship, the “Antarctic” sailed from Tønsberg on 20th September 1893.  On this voyage his sealing activities around the islands of the southern ocean were a success but he did not find any whales so he decided to sail further south to areas where whales had been reported by earlier expeditions.

In Melbourne he hired a young Norwegian, Carsten Egeberg Borchgrevink as a general hand.  Borchgrevink was clearly ambitious and eager to demonstrate his abilities and as a result the relationship between him and Captain Kristensen became somewhat strained.

In the course of their search for whales the “Antarctic” penetrated the pack ice to enter the Ross Sea and after an almost fruitless search for whales they returned northwards along the South Victoria Land Coast.  On 24th January 1895 conditions were good and they were able to take the ship close to the shore at what is now known as Cape Adare.  A boat was lowered and 6 men along with the expedition manager Henrik Bull made a landing.  It remains a matter of debate as to was actually first to touch land but there is general agreement that it was either Borchgrevink or Kristensen.

<p>Hauling stores on a sledge on 28th February 1899 (credit Scott Polar Research Institute)</p>

Borchgrevink left the ship when it returned to Melbourne and by the time Kristensen got back to Norway claiming that he had been first ashore he found that Borchgrevink had made the same claim much sooner.  Borchgrevink’s claim had by then been widely published so this became the generally accepted one.  Who was in fact first will never be known but it was certainly a Norwegian and they all landed within seconds of each other.





Read about the first building on the Continent

Cape Adare
Antarctic Heritage Trust
New Zealand

New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust
Cape Adare
Antarctic Heritage Trust
Riksantikvaren - Directorate for Cultural Heritage
© 2018 Antarctic Heritage Trust

This website was produced with the support of the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage, Riksantikvaren.