37 Photographs Documenting the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration

Photographs taken during the Australasian Antarctic Expedition in 1911, led by adventurer Douglas Mawson.

The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration began at the end of the 1800’s when Antarctica became the focus of international efforts for scientific and geographic exploration. 17 major explorations were launched by ten different countries.

As a precursor to the Historic age, British explorer James Cook, in the late 1770’s, explored the southern regions of the world in search of a large continent called Terra Australis. He was unable to reach what is now Antarctica because of the amount of ice in the waters, but he hypothesized that there must be a land mass of origin. The exploration of the South Pole was put on hiatus.

Between 1819 and 1843 interest was revived with the goal of reaching Antarctica proper. This resurgence in exploratory activity did not bring man to set foot on the Antarctic continent but significant contributions were made. Dumont D’Urville first sighted a rocky land formation. Charles Wilkes discovered Victoria Land, home to the volcanos Mt. Terror and Mt. Erebus

The third act of Antarctic exploration was spurred by German explorer George Von Neumeyer who believed in the importance of the South Pole in meteorology and weather prediction. In addition, the British Dr. John Murray gave a speech on November 27, 1863 entitled “The Renewal of Antarctic Exploration” to the Royal Geographic Society to resolve the mysteries of the Antarctic.

The Heroic Age began with an expedition embarked by the Belgian Geographic Society in 1897. And culminated in 1921with the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition.

Nineteen men died in the pursuit of knowledge during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. Four died of unrelated illnesses, two died in accidents in New Zealand, and the 13 others died in service on or near the continent.

Belgian Antarctic Expedition, 1887-1889, was the first expedition to overwinter within the Antarctic Circle, after the ship was icebound in the Bellingshausen Sea. It collected the first annual cycle of Antarctic observations. It also reached 71°30’S, and discovered the Gerlache Strait. First Mate Roald Amundsen would later lead the first arrival at the South Pole, in 1911. Pinterest
Lt. Adrien de Gerlache, at the beginning and the end of he Belgian Antarctic Expedition. Digital History Project
Belgica, the ship of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition, ice locked in the Bellinghausen Sea, 1898. Ohio State University Library
Cutting a canal to release the Belgica. Ohio State University Library
The British Antarctic Expedition ,1898-1990, lead by Carstern Borchgrevink was the first expedition to overwinter on the Antarctic mainland (Cape Adare), it was the first to make use of dogs and sledges. It made the first ascent of The Great Ice Barrier,[22] and set a Farthest South record at 78°30’S. It also calculated the location of the South Magnetic Pole. Antarctic Heritage Trust
Borchgrevink’s expedition by the British flag. Antarctic Heritage Trust
The National Antarctic Discovery crew made the first ascent of the Western Mountains in Victoria Land, and discovered the polar plateau. Its southern journey set a new Farthest South record, 82°17’S.[26] Many other geographical features were discovered, mapped and named. This was the first of several expeditions based in McMurdo Sound.
Robert Falcon Scott, leader of the National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904. scottslastexpedition
The Gauss, the ship of the First German Antarctic Expedition which was the first expedition to investigate eastern Antarctica, it discovered the coast of Kaiser Wilhelm II Land, and Mount Gauss. The expedition’s ship became trapped in ice, which prevented more extensive exploration. Pinterest
Albatross on the deck of the Gauss. Cool Antarctica
Erich von Drygalski Leader of the First German Expedition. Pinterest
Otto Nordenskiöld was the leader of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition which worked in the east coastal area of Graham Land, and was marooned on Snow Hill Island and Paulet Island in the Weddell Sea, after the sinking of its expedition ship. It was rescued by the Argentinian naval vessel Uruguay. Wikiwand
During Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, 1902-1904, the crew established the permanent Orcadas weather station in South Orkney Islands . The Weddell Sea was penetrated to 74°01’S, and the coastline of Coats Land was discovered, defining the sea’s eastern limits. newwsfeed1580
William Speirs Bruce, Head of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition. Pinterest
The Third French Antarctic Expedition was a relief expedition for the stranded Nordenskiöld party, the main work of this expedition was the mapping and charting of islands and the western coasts of Graham Land, on the Antarctic peninsula. A section of the coast was explored, and named Loubet Land after the President of France. Captain Charcot (left) enjoys a glass of Mumm Champagne with his cartographer, Raymond Rallier du Baty, Antarctica, Bastille Day 1904. Cool Antarctica
Jean-Baptiste Charcot, in a second expedition continued the work of the earlier French expedition with a general exploration of the Bellingshausen Sea, and the discovery of islands and other features, including Marguerite Bay, Charcot Island, Renaud Island, Mikkelsen Bay, Rothschild Island. youtube