A Brief History of Antarctic Exploration

One of the things that I love most about Antarctica, aside from… well, the fact that it is Antarctica, is the rich history of exploration that it contains. Antarctica was the last frontier on Earth. By the late 19th century, it was the only unexplored continent on Earth. If I could go back in time and re-live any period , the age of Antarctic exploration would be it. No questions asked, it doesn’t even require second thoughts. Every time I think about the earliest Antarctic explorers it ignites in me an intense desire for exploration. I envision myself joining one of the crews of valiant men who took to the oceans on their ships, with little prospect of a safe return, sailing off into unchartered waters, hoping to discover and explore new lands. I find it simply amazing to think that they did all of that without the modern equipment and advanced technology that we rely on to survive working in Antarctica today. I will not elaborate much on that today. The purpose of this post is a different one: to introduce those of you who know little-to-nothing about the magnificent age of Antarctic exploration to a brief part of that Antarctic history.

Last year we celebrated the 100th anniversary of a race of  epic proportions: The race to the South Pole! This event, and all that was associated with it, was important for many reasons, but I will only highlight two of them:

1) Man set foot on the south pole for the first time – with Robert Edwin Peary reaching the North Pole on April 6, 1909, the South Pole was the last great prize in the age of exploration, the most remote place on Earth, and this in and of itself was a significant accomplishment.
2) In addition to exploring the Antarctic region, many of these expeditions were also scientific expeditions, and in a sense those expeditions paved the way for the unique research that is conducted in Antarctica today.

Rather than re-typing the story of how the South Pole was finally reached, I would like to share an awesome video that will give you a brief yet excellent account of the race to the South Pole. But not without first giving credit where credit is due:

Drunk History: The South Pole: Filmed and produced in Antarctica. Story by Phil Jacobsen. Directed by Julie Katch. Edited by Allison “Sandwich” Barden. Big ups to Derek Waters of the original Drunk History series.


Drunk History: The South Pole


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