Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration and the Discovery Hut

Antarctica has an incredible history behind its exploration and as it turns out, a huge portion of it was based out of Ross Island, which is where McMurdo station is located. They called this the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. Explorers such as Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton both spent time on Ross Island nearly 100 years ago as they were exploring the great white continent. There are a number of shelters which still stand today around the small island, including one called the Discovery Hut, which is located just outside of town. From the outside, it actually looks quite modern as the wood and structure of the building are in very good condition.

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

The 2 explorers I've done the most reading about are Scott and Shackleton. Their stories really demand more than just a summary, but here goes:

Scott was a British Royal Navy Officer whose claim to fame was his ill-fated journey to the South Pole starting in 1910. It turned out that at the very same time, Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer, was trying to be the first to reach the South Pole. It was truly a race to be the first. Amundsen reached the Pole first and successfully returned from his journey. Scott reached the pole, now being the 2nd to do so, and died on his return journey home. A cross sits just outside of McMurdo Station in honor of Capt. Scott.

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

Shackleton was a British explorer whose first real historical impact was in 1909 when he led of team of 3 others to the southernmost point humans had ever visited, 97 miles from the south pole. He lived and eventually returning in 1914 to lead the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. The goal of this expedition was to be the first to cross the entire continent. On the way south though, his ship was caught in pack ice and became permanently stuck. Eventually the ship was destroyed and the 28 men had to abandon ship. They drifted for about a year on sea ice which was being blown north by the wind. The crew then made a truly mad dash for a nearby island, which took 3-4 days of straight sailing. From here, Shackleton and a small crew sailed one of their small boats across the Drake Passage, notoriously the stormiest sea on Earth, to a small whaling facility nearly 1000 miles away. Shackleton returned to the rest of his crew nearly a year after he left them. All 28 men survived.

As mentioned, the Discovery Hut was used by both Explorers as well as others a century ago. It is now being preserved as a museum. I was fortunate enough to take a tour!

My time on the frozen continent draws nearly to a close. Stay warm!

1 comment:

  1. It's so cool that you're getting all these great experiences MikeyB! My advisor and another colleague just returned from Antarctica and gave a photo presentation. He explained that the reason you're not supposed to touch anything in the Discovery Hut (besides the obvious preservation) is that it's all covered with anthrax!! So crazy!!

    Also, that mummified seal rocks. We should all have one of those outside our homes.