The Forgotten Expedition


The Forgotten Expedition

The first buildings and first wintering over on the continent

Soutnern Cross Expedition Emblem (Source: Unknown)
On his return to Australia after his voyage on the “Antarctic”, Carsten Borchgrevink presented himself to the Royal Geographical Society and later did the same in London.  At that time British geographical organisations were eager to launch an expedition to Antarctica but Borchgrevink could not gain the support he needed from the Geographic Society so looked for a private sponsor. 

The wealthy British publisher Sir George Newnes then contributed £40,000 for him to lead a private expedition.  He quickly purchased the 521 ton ship “Pollux” that he renamed the “Southern Cross” and he left London in August 1898 as leader of the “British Antarctic Expedition 1898 – 1900” which is perhaps better known as the “Southern Cross expedition”.

The ship went too far west and was delayed in the pack ice on the way south but on the 16th February 1899 they

<p>Southern Cross (Credit : D Vogt Collection Canterbury Museum)</p>
anchored off Cape Adare (71°17’ S, 170°14’E ) and prepared to land.  The cape lies at the western entrance to the Ross Sea and to the west of this prominent headland is a stony flat, triangular beach area about 2kms wide that is the home of the largest breeding colony of Adelie penguins in Antarctica.

It took 10 days to unload their buildings and supplies onto the shingle promontory below the cliffs where they established their base that Borchrevink called “Camp Ridley” - his mother’s maiden name.

The shore party of 10 men and 75 sledge dogs quickly discovered that the site was also one of the windiest and exposed on the continent but with winter rapidly approaching they could not relocate so Cape Adare became the site of first the wintering over in Antarctica.

Two huts, prefabricated in Norway by Strømmen Trævarefabrikk, were erected for accommodation and storage and these became the first structures ever built on the Antarctic mainland.

These huts now make Antarctica the only continent on the globe where the buildings of the first human inhabitants still stand.

<p>View of the Huts and the Southern Cross 1899 (credit Scott Polar Research Institute)</p>
Today they are surrounded by boxes, bags of coal and other stores that were left but like the huts these are also deteriorating in the extreme conditions.  Much of it is now buried in penguin guano.

The expedition members included; 7 Norwegians of which 2 were Samis, 2 Englishmen and an Australian.  Their objectives were largely scientific and they also hoped to locate the South Magnetic Pole.  They planned that from Cape Adare they could climb up to the polar plateau and travel further south but unfortunately their chosen location was isolated by a high mountain range and unsafe sea ice so the extent of their exploration was greatly restricted and this limited some of their planned studies and discoveries.

 

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