In this chapter:
Roald Amundsen and his team were the first people to reach the geographic South Pole
Robert Scott and his men also reached the South Pole, a month after Amundsen. Scott and his team died on their return journey.
Ernest Shackleton went to great lengths to save his men after their boats capsized on the Endurance expedition
Douglas Mawson is Australia's most famous Antarctic explorer
Sir Ernest Shackleton
Ernest Shackleton was a famous British Antarctic explorer (see image 1). In 1908, Shackleton led his first expedition to Antarctica on the 'Nimrod' and established a base camp at Cape Royds. By November 1908, Shackleton and his team had discovered and climbed the Beadmore Glacier. Shackleton and his men reached further south than anyone else before them. Although they were only 180 kilometres from the South Pole, they were forced back by starvation and terrible weather. Nonetheless, Shackleton and his team had walked 2736 kilometres across the coldest place on Earth. Shackleton was made famous for his efforts and was knighted by King Edward VII of England.
The Endurance Expedition
On 14 January 1911, the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen set up camp on the Ross Ice Shelf and began his attempt to become the first person to reach the South Pole (see image 3). Amundsen and his team used dogs and sleds to cross the ice shelf. His ship, called 'The Fram', was an unusual ship, designed for polar travel. The ship was round-bottomed and built to avoid the perils of being stuck in pack ice.
Amundsen left Christiana, in Norway, in August 1910. He set off with provisions for two years and nearly 100 Greenland sled dogs. The dogs were to be the key to his team's success in reaching the South Pole ahead of his rival, Scott and his party.
Because Amundsen's dogs had been bred for survival in the Arctic, they were superbly equipped for Antarctica. He referred to them as 'our children', and said that 'The dogs are the most important thing for us. The whole outcome of the expedition depends on them.'
The English navy captain Robert Scott (see image 4) first explored the south polar region in 1902 aboard the 'Discovery'. In 1911, Scott received word that Roald Amundsen had begun his attempt to be the first person to reach the geographic South Pole. Scott wanted his team to be first, so he quickly began the Terra Nova expedition to try to reach the South Pole first.
Terra Nova turned out to be a disaster. When Scott and his team reached the pole, they found a Norwegian flag and a letter from Roald Amundsen, who had reached the pole a month earlier. The adventure had a tragic end, as Scott and two of his team-mates died on the return journey.
One of Scott's companions, Captain Lawrence Oates, became convinced he was a burden to the team because of his poor physical condition. Oates sacrificed himself by walking off into the snow. He was never found. Oates went down in history for his famous last words, which Scott wrote down: 'I am just going outside and may be some time.' Oates is remembered as an English hero for his sacrifice.
Douglas Mawson is Australia's most famous Antarctic explorer. In 1911, at the age of 30, Mawson led the first Australian expedition to Antarctica. Mawson's goal was to map and explore the coastal area of Antarctica that was nearest to Australia. Mawson and his team sailed on the 'Aurora' to Antarctica, through thick pack ice.
The team set up a base hut, which they called 'Home of the Blizzard', after the 300 kilometre per hour winds that blew there.
In spring of 1912, Mawson and another two explorers, Mertz and Ninnis (see image 5), began to map the coastline and to collect geological samples from the area. During their trip, Ninnis disappeared down a deep crevasse and Mertz became sick and died. Mawson was also very ill but he managed to survive the 160 kilometre journey back to the base camp. Mawson's journey is described as one of the greatest stories of individual survival in Antarctica.