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The New Antarctic World.

The importance of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition's work, first reported to the world by The Standard Union, yesterday, becomes more apparent upon consideration. It is obvious, at the first glance, that Lieut. de Gerlache's plans of crossing the Antarctic zone from west to east, and in an initial summer's cruise -- all that Dr. Cook's personal plans contemplated -- have been completely abandoned, and that the expedition has not circumnavigated the globe. Later dispatches report its arrival at Punta Arenas, the most southern South American port of importance, indicating that it is returning practically upon its own track. The great fact, however, which is certain to include a vast amount of valuable scientific information, is that the expedition is coming home in its own vessel, under her own steam, and in safety, indicating, with substantial certainty, that a safe harbor was found during the Antarctic winter; that a party was landed, and that, in addition to the marine and sea ice phenomena, much valuable information concerning the characteristics of the land must have been gained. The confirmation of the theory that open water extends to the far South will be awaited with much interest, since the earlier navigators, three-quarters of a century ago, in sailing vessels, reported substantially the same facts, and would have gone onward had the wind been favorable and return certain.

The Belgian Expedition has undoubtedly cleared up the method of Antarctic work in the same manner, though not to the same degree, as recent expeditions within the Arctic Circle. A week's experience in these matters counts for a century of theory, and de Gerlache and his companions, having demonstrated that neither temperature nor other obstacles deter white men from wintering within the zone, it is reasonable to suppose that the work may now be advanced until the last secret is wrested. It is not a little interesting that the comparatively small and unimportant kingdom of Belgium should be at the very front of African and Antarctic exploration, while the greater nations lag far in the rear, or quarrel over the distribution of the prizes. To King Leopold are due the thanks of scientists and of civilization the world over for his shining, personal example -- another illustration of the familiar line: "Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war."

The "Belgica's" success must inevitably be of the greatest value to the expeditions contemplated by England and by Germany. England has been so far indifferent, that the two subscriptions of $25,000 each from the Royal Geographical Society and from Alfred C. Harmsworth, the well-known publisher, include all of importance. The German project, however, backed by the Government of the empire, is in a more favorable condition, with indications that within the next two or three years it may be ready to take the field. Expectation will be keen and alert for the details of the winter in the Antarctic, both for the definite results, and for its information for the guidance of future explorers. No more competent master could be sent into the unknown field; no more intelligent, painstaking, honest and enthusiastic worker than our Brooklyn surgeon, who cast in his fortunes with the foreigners, and has been, without doubt, of the utmost service both in everyday practical affairs, and in the scientific work of the expedition. Were it not for the fact that just at the present time the United States has a contract well under way for the complete exploration of the Arctic, it might not be amiss for it to take on the remaining geographical problem of the world. After Dr. Cook's return, and a full statement from him of the results and work of the expedition, it will be by no means remarkable if some enterprising American is ready to come to the front and offer to undertake to place his country's flag at the opposite end of the axis, where, God willing, it will soon wave.


Reproduced with permission: L.L. Dyche, Explorations (Newspaper Clippings Related to Polar Exploration), Vol. 1 & 2. University Archives, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence, KS.

 

 

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Original Source:
  Brooklyn Standard Union, Brooklyn, NY, Apr. 5, 1899.  
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Transcriber: 
  Jennifer F. Holvoet, University of Kansas.  
 
  Would you like to do a transcription for us? If so contact us at admin@ku-prism.org.   
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