Walking in the footsteps of explorers

Antarctica is a continent with big shoes to fill. Can I measure up? Would I have survived against all odds with a soul of steel, like Shackleton or will I lose the challenge and then my purpose like Scott?

Will I blow through this pristine place as fast as Amundsen and leave nothing of value behind or revel in scientific discoveries, like Mawson?

I am zealous about one thing. I want to discover the ticking heart and soul of these heroes from the golden age of exploration. (1898-1917)

The Greek’s offered a philosophical deduction that a large continent lay at the bottom of the world and named it “Antarktos” but the first recorded reports of previously unknown land occurred in 1675 when ships were blown off course. As men sailed further south in search of fur seals and whales, the pillage of Antarctic islands followed. With stiff competition,  they did not share information, leaving no recordings from that time.

Science entered the game late, around 1898 with the first wintering’s. The climax of The- Big- Race-To-Be-First-To-The-Southern-Pole occurred  late  1911-1912  with Robert Scott, Road Amundsen, and Douglas Mawson. You might argue that this was driven by ego but most of what the world would discover about Antarctica would begin with Scott and Mawson.

Road Amundsen reached the pole first, 33 days before Scott and his doomed expedition.


I wonder what Scott felt, after exhausting all of his resources to see the Norwegian flag planted there. There’s a copyrighted picture at the polar institute that shows resignation and defeat etched on their faces. (g00gle it)  Psychologically, his team must have been crushed because they died within 20 kilometers of a supply depot.

Around the same time,  Australian Douglas Mawson led a horrific trek to the south magnetic pole after scientific work and mapping the coastline.  His first mistake was to split his men into four groups. His team of three men headed for the pole with 1,720 pounds of food pulled by 16 dogs on three sleds.


After dreaming about his dead father and witnessing one of his dogs eating her pups, ominous signs grew worse. Teammate Ninnis fell into a crevasse with most of the food and the survival gear. He died. His other companion, Mertz, ate dog meat and died mad ( later thought to be Hypervitiminosis A ).

That left Mawson over one hundred miles from help, all alone and ill, with skin falling off his body. Even the cocaine wash for snow blindness didn’t offer relief. What will-power it must have taken to put grief and physical discomfort aside to save himself.

World War 1 put the brakes on scientific study, until Richard Evelyn Byrd and the polar flights of 1928, 1934, and 1939.


So what does this mean for you and me?

Never has our environment and climate change been more important. consider this one statement–our lives center around a little tiny krill, the basis of the life chain in Antarctica. If the water warms, the krill die and so does everybody else up the food chain.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re too big to be affected. The top relies on the bottom to fill the cycle. We have slogged, tooth and nail, through environmental safeguards for decades.  Politically, recent comments about climate change and reducing environmental controls is beyond alarming. Never has your voice been more important than now.

Yeah, there was a big race to be ‘first’ to both poles. Big deal. The environmental lessons we should have learned from destruction of the fur seal, the whales, the killing of penguins–the mistakes of our predecessors— is a far more important lesson.  Will our generation protect or destroy like they did?