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THE SEARCH FOR THE POLE

Interest Now Centered In Southern Sea.

Sacrifices of Intrepid Explorers Who Have Sought Knowledge At The Cost Of Life.

There is no project of scientific investigation that has attracted a wider attention and public interest than the search for the pole. For centuries intrepid navigators and explorers have engaged upon voyages of discovery in the north and directly or indirectly sought the pole. Hundreds of lives have been sacrificed in the cause and hundreds of expeditions sent out, costing thousands of dollars, until we have come to regard the success of the project impossible. While this constant attention has been bestowed upon the north the south has been practically neglected. Until the recent Belgica expedition aroused dormant interest in them the south seas were deserted. With the news of the Belgica's success scientific atention (sic) is likely to be generously bestowed upon the south in the future.

The reasons for its neglect hitherto are obvious. The polar expeditions, more than 300 years ago, had their origin in the attempt to discover a northwest passage to India, to obviate the necessity of the long and in those days tempestuous voyage around the Cape of Good Hope. The convenience of the Arctic regions to the shores of Europe and the United States was also responsible, for a port of operations for the explorer in the south was difficult to obtain. But now that Tasmania and New Zealand have many thriving seaports this drawback has been removed. Again, a romantic interest attached to the north pole from the fact that so many lives had been lost in endeavors to unveil its hidden mysteries.

There is something in the Antarctic, however, that delights the fancy of the dreamer, and will for all time lure the daring mariner -- a something comparable to the witchery of the Rhinish Lorelei (sic). The imagination that rejects the North Polar circle as all-destroying and purely tragic finds perennial warmth, life and romance in the frozen centre of the aurora australis.


As early as 1822 Captain James Weddell of the British navy, after having been hemmed in desperately by ice many times, sailed at length through an open sea as high as the latitude of 74 degree 15 minutes. The following year Captain Benjamin Morrell, of the American schooner Wasp, wrote in his logbook February 1, in latitude 64 degrees 52 minutes: "The wind soon freshened to an eleven-knot breeze and we embraced the opportunity of making to the west. Being convinced, however, that the farther we went south beyond latitude 64 degrees the less ice was to be apprehended, we steered a little to the southward until we crossed the antarctic circle and were in latitude 69 degrees 15 minutes east. In the latitude there was no field of ice and few ice islands in sight."

Under the date of March 14, on the same expedition, Captain Morrell made this entry: "The sea was not entirely free from field ice and not above a dozen small islands were in sight. At the same time the temperature of the air and water was at least 13 degrees higher (more mild) than we had ever found it between the parallels of 60 degrees and 62 degrees.

"We were now in latitude 70 degrees 14 minutes and the temperature of the air was 47 degrees and that of the water 44 degrees. I have several times passed within the Antarctic Circle in different meridians and have uniformly found the temperature both of air and water to become milder the farther I advanced beyond the sixty-fifth degree of south latitude, while north of this latitude we frequently had great difficulty in finding a passage for the vessels between the immense and almost immeasurable ice islands, some of which were from one to two miles in circumference and more than 500 feet above the surface of the water."

Captain Morrell expressed the opinion that had he not been obliged to retreat for want of necessary ship supplies he could have penetrated, if not the pole itself, at least to the eighty-fifth parallel.

A subsequent experience of Sir John Ross, and latterly of the good ship Antarctic, the glory of whose exploits Borchgrevink appropriated, although he was a mere guest of the expedition, were equally surprising and satisfying in the '70s.

No similarity save in the color of ice, exists between the conditions of the Arctic and Antarctic. The most notable difference is an increase in the temperature of air and water with approximation to the South Pole on certain longitudinal courses. No doubt this effect is produced by a warm transantarctic current not yet determined or traced. Birds and animals of wondrous color, bulk and species abound everywhere and are found in great plenty at the highest latitude attained in the open sea.


Even the icebergs are totally unlike those of the north. In the arctic region they are high, irregular and pinnacled. In the south though they may be of any length, they are almost invariably flat-topped, and are really floating ice plateaus. Antarctic icebergs have been found thirty miles long and many hundred feet high. Although they are brilliant with whiteness, they glow with variegated color.

They are supposed to originate on shorelines because of the stone and earth usually found adhering to them. Those that are recently detached from land are easily detected by their beautiful stratified appearance.

Assuming the fall of snow at the point of iceberg formations to average an inch daily, or thirty feet each year, experts estimate that it would require thirty years for nature to build up one of the typical ice blocks of the antarctic sea.

Spasmodically since that time efforts have been made to penetrate the secrets of the antarctic, but never with much success until C.E. Borchgrevink aroused the enthusiasm of scientists by his account of his "Voyage to Victoria Land" in 1894-'95 in the ship Antarctic, a whaler which left Melbourne for the circumpolar seas in September, 1894. The fact that the sea at a point but 16 degrees from the south pole was found to be open, the temperature not over 7 degrees below the freezing point, and animal and vegetable life abundant, excited great interest by reason of the favorable conditions that usually prevail in equally high northern latitudes. The magnetic south pole is calculated to be about latitude 75 degrees and longitude 150 degrees east. Large deposits of guano and indications of valuable minerals exist; it is found at accessible points and these may be expected to give a practical interest to future expeditions. The aurora australis, as seen by the voyager surpassed the aurora borealis in splendor. Within the Antarctic circle the barometer, he stated, at 29 inches always indicated calm, beautiful weather, and even down to 28 it kept fine. The minimum air temperature was 25 degrees Fahrenheit and the maximum 46 degrees. The temperature of the water was throughout the ice pack 28 degrees, rising to 29 degrees, where a large sheet of water broke the ice fields. The water movement was in a northwestward direction. Such were some of Borchgrevink's general observations, but his itinerary had interesting details.

In strange contrast to these barren wastes found by Borchgrevink was the discovery made by Captain Larsen in 1893, on Seymour Island, a patch of land lying almost due south of Patagonia, of an abundance of fossilized plant remains -- remains not indicative of a low type of vegetable organization, but of the noble structure of the South American pine, or arancaria.

The Belgica expedition, from whose discoveries so much is expected, was sent out in the summer of 1897. In command of the expedition is Adrien de Gerlache, a young officer in the Belgian navy. With him are two lieutenants. Dr. Cook, of Brooklyn, who accompanied the expedition as surgeon, two engineers, a sailing master, carpenter, two harpooners, twelve sailors, two stokers, a cook, and a steward. In the winter of 1898 the exploring party reached Punta Arenas, in the Magellan Strait, from which it set out for Graham Land. Graham Land lies between 63 degrees and 68 degrees south latitude and longitude 61 degrees to 68 degrees west, and was discovered by Briscoe in 1832. He is credited with being the first explorer to set foot on the antarctic continent. From Graham Land the intention was to go southwards to Victoria Land, in latitude 70 degrees to 79 degrees south, and longitude 168 degrees east. This is the land discovered by the Sir James Ross expedition, on which are the two towering volcanoes -- Mount Erebus and Mount Terror. From this point the expedition intended to begin observations for the austral magnetic pole.

Dire predictions have been made of the fate before the Belgica. It has been declared that a single vessel could not safely venture on explorations within the antarctic circle; for, if a serious accident should occur, there would be little chance of escape. Ice-imprisoned or shipwrecked explorers there could have little hope of retreating safely to inhabited lands, as arctic travelers have done, for the nearest places where human beings can be found are at Terra del Fuego and Patagonia, on the Magellan Straits' shores. No man ever wintered on the Antarctic continent, and no quadruped like the bear and wolf and the musk-ox of the arctic lives in this frigid zone.

This assertion may be made in spite of the story from Paris that an old man calling himself Marquis de Dangely had arrived there. The genuine or pseudo Marquis has created a great sensation with a wonderful story concerning the south pole. He claims that in 1863 he was shipwrecked with the vessel Oregon on the south polar continent, and that he found there a French colony, founded by the fugitives who left Europe during the war of the first Napoleon. These fugitives are said to have established the kingdom of Adelia. The Marquis also claims that he visited the south pole three times, and he describes this interesting point of the globe as a gigantic volcano.

Better equipped than the Belgica expedition is that of the Borchgrevink. Its return is not expected before 1900, but its results are certain to be of great importance. Sir George Newnes fitted out this expedition, which is in command of Captain C. E. Borchgrevink. The steamer Southern Cross left Hobart on the Australian island, Tasmania, early last February, and recent telegraphic advices (sic) state that the Southern Cross has arrived at Fort Chalmers, New Zealand, after having landed Borchgrevink and his companions at Cape Adair, on Victoria Land.


As indicated by this telegraphic information, Borchgrevink's expedition will use sleds for its further progress southward, and in this respect is as completely fitted out as all arctic experience could suggest. The sled dogs are the best and purest Samojede breed, the finest of their kind that were imported to England. To obtain these animals Dr. Russell Jeafferson (sic) undertook a long and difficult trip through North Siberia, the home of the Samojedes, and on this trip he met the brother of Nansen, the famous arctic explorer, who was of great assistance to him. The dogs were shipped by sea from Flango to Hull.

Of course, the expedition has its complete quantity of preserved food, proper tents, surveyor's instruments, portable stoves, and everything that can be thought of in connection with a trip through snow and ice. Like Nansen on his north pole expedition, Borchgrevink also has a number of kajaks (sic), boats covered with reindeer skin, which can also be used as sleds.

The leader of the expedition, Carsten Egeberg Borchgrevink, was born in 1864. He is the son of a prominent Norwegian, and his mother, whose maiden name is Ridley, descends from the Archbishop of the same name, which during the reign of Queen Mary, became a martyr. Borchgrevink received his education first in Christiania, in Norway, then in Tharandt, in Germany, and then went to Australia, where he became a teacher of natural science and surveying at Coodewull College, in New South Wales. Here he conceived the first plans for an antarctic expedition, but he could not realize them for lack of means. However, he undertook a short voyage south to gain some knowledge of the regions which he is now exploring. His expedition will cost about $175,000.


The third expedition is that sent out by the German Government last year to make deep-sea soundings. While investigation of polar lands is not its chief purpose, yet valuable discoveries are expected.

These expeditions are the first to have the advantage of modern instruments for and methods for taking scientific observations. The results should certainly prove of great value.

The accompanying charts show the progress made by the various expeditions sent to the north and south poles, the extreme points reached by the more important being numerically recorded. The north pole has been approached by fourteen important expeditions, which are denoted upon the chart as follows:

Map of the Polar regions

1. Barents, with Ryp and Meemskerck, 1596, 77 degrees 20 minutes north, 62 degrees east.

2. Henry Hudson, 1607, 80 degrees 23 minutes north, 10 degrees east.

3. J.C. Phipps, 1773, 80 degrees 48 minutes north, 20 degrees east.

4. William Scoresby, 1806, 81 degrees 30 minutes north, 19 degrees east.

5. W. E. Parry, 1827, 82 degrees 45 minutes north, 20 degrees east.

6. Weyprecht and Payer, 1874, 82 degrees 5 minutes north, 60 degrees east.

7. Fritjof Nansen, 1892, 86 degrees 14 minutes north, 95 degrees East.

8. Henry Hudson, 1607, 73 degrees north, 20 degrees west.

9. William Baffin, 1616, 77 degrees 45 minutes north, 72 degrees west.

10. E. K. Kane, 1854, 80 degrees 10 minutes north, 67 degrees west.

11. C.F. Hall, 1870, 82 degrees 11 minutes north, 61 degrees west.

12. G. S. Nares, 1876, 83 degrees 20 minutes north, 65 degrees west.

13. A.W. Greely, 1882, 83 degrees 24 minutes north, 41 degrees west.

14. R.E. Peary, 1892, 81 degrees 37 minutes north.

But five Southern expeditions of note can be recorded. They are:

1. John Briseve, 1831, 65 degrees 57 minutes south, 47 degrees 20 minutes east.

2. John Briseve, 1832, 67 degrees 1 minute south, 71 degrees 48 minutes west.

3. James Ross, 1841, 78 degrees 11 minutes south, 168 degrees east.

4. Captain Cook, 1774, 71 degrees 15 minutes south.

5. M. d'Urville, 1838, 73 degrees south, 140 degrees west.


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:
  Philadelphia Times, Philadelphia, PA, Apr. 23, 1899.  
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Transcriber: 
  Jennifer 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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