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Explorer Borchgrevink Talks of His Next Antarctic Expedition.

Found A New Continent.

On His Last Trip to The Cold and Silent Southern Seas.

Possibilities of Antarctica.
Arrangements for His Proposed Trial to Reach the Southern Pole.



WASHINGTON, April 4. -- I have just had a talk with the great Antarctic explorer. His name is Carsten Egberg Borchgrevink, and he is the first man who has ever landed on the great continent which is now believed to lie about the South Pole. The hemisphere of North and South America contains a little over 16,000,000 square miles. Mr. Borchgrevink claims that the continent of which he is to some extent the discoverer contains 8,000,000 square miles, and says he is convinced it is twice as large as all Europe. His journey to this unknown land was through vast bodies of floating ice, and at times he drifted between snow-clad peaks, some of which kissed the sky at an altitude of more than two miles above his little vessel. His trip was over 5,000 miles in length, or longer than that made by Columbus, and the ship in which he made the voyage was a steam whaler of only 320 tons. He had to sail before the mast in order to be able to make the trip, and he submitted to all kinds of hardships that he might carry out his desire for exploration.

How Borchgrevink Looks.

I was introduced to Mr. Borchgrevink by the Hon. Gardiner Hubbard, the President of the National Geographical Society at Washington, and I spent a morning with him not long ago, during which he gave me some interesting information as to the expedition which he will make next year to explore this new continent. Before I give you the chat, however, let me tell you something about the man. His name is Borchgrevink, which should be pronounced as though it were spelled Bork-re-vink. He is a Swede, and was born in Christiania about 30 years ago. He stands, I judge, about five feet nine in his stockings, weighs 160 pounds, and has a straight, well-rounded form. His features are almost German in their cast. His eyes are blue, his hair light brown, and his mustache is of a sandy hue. He has a high forehead, a straight nose, and lips rather thicker than ordinary. In repose, his face is rather stern, but as he talks his eyes light up with a smile. He appreciates a joke, and he gave a hearty laugh now and then during his descriptions of some of the humorous incidents connected with his voyage. Mr. Borchgrevink is a well-educated man. He went to college in Sweden, and continued his education at one of the German universities. He speaks English fluently, and our chat was in that language.

Drawing of Borchgrevink and a correspondent

Nansen and the North Pole.

In talking about his first desire for polar explorations, he said that he had for years aimed to go to the North Pole, and that all of his studies had been with that in view. He told me that he had worked together with Nansen, and that the two had often taken excursions together in Norway to harden themselves for future work. Upon my asking as to what he thought of the reports of Nansen's having reached the pole, Mr. Borchgrevink replied:

"I doubt it. The news from Nansen comes to us at the wrong time of the year. Had he reached the North Pole we should have heard from him in September, instead of in the middle of the winter. Had he been successful, I do not see why he should have come back over the same road that he went in going to the pole. His idea, you know, was to get into a certain stream, which he thought flowed around the pole, and to have floated or drifted right around it. Why, he should have gone to the pole and then come back fighting against the current I cannot see. I think there must be some mistake about the reports. "

"What kind of man is Nansen?" I asked.

"He is a man of great force," was the reply. "He is very enthusiastic, is full of energy, and at the same time is cool and calculating. He is not a crazy enthusiast, as many people suppose. He laid out his plans on what he believed to be scientific grounds, and it may be that he will succeed."

Andree and His Balloon.

"How about the balloonist's voyage to the pole? Do you think there is any chance of his success?"

"Who can tell?" replied Mr. Borchgrevink. "I met Mr. Andree during the geographical congress at London last July, and had a chat with him about his proposed trip. He argues very plausibly as to his schemes. You know King Oscar of Sweden is much interested in it. King Oscar is a man of extraordinary ability. He is well up in science, and is quite an able writer. I mean by this that he can write things himself. He is not like many other monarchs who have posed before the world as having literary ability, who have had others do the writing for which they have got the credit. King Oscar is much interested in science. He has paid much attention to Arctic exploration, and he has given quite a lot of money to furnish Mr. Andree's expedition.

"In connection with this," Mr. Borchgrevink went on, "I heard a curious story about King Oscar the other day which somewhat illustrates my idea of Andree and his trip. A well-known geographer of Philadelphia paid a visit to Sweden a month or so ago, and during his stay there he met His Majesty, the King. His Majesty talked with him at length about geographical subjects, and among other things asked the Philadelphian what he thought of Andree's expedition. Thereupon the Philadelphian laughed, and replied that Andree must be crazy, and that his whole scheme savored of lunacy. The King answered the Philadelphian that he might possibly be right, but if that the balloon expedition savored of lunacy, it was a sublime lunacy. I don't think that the Philadelphian knew that the King had contributed to the expedition."

Some of Andree's Dangers.

"How long will Andree's balloon voyage probably be, Mr. Borchgrevink?"

"It is Andree's idea, " was the reply, "that he will be able to fly over the North Pole in about a week. He will carry his balloon on a ship to the furtherest (sic) possible point north, and then, by rising, the current of wind will carry him over the pole. He expects to accomplish in the course of a few days that to which others have in vain devoted money and years.

"The serious dangers of Andree's expedition," Mr. Borchgrevink went on, "are the winds. When I met him he asked me all kinds of questions as to the winds of the south polar regions and their continuance. He told me that his great fear was that he would get in a calm some place near the pole. In this case his balloon might settle and he would be almost surely lost. He told me that he hoped in such a case to be able to rise to a higher strata of air, where he would find a fresh current and thus go onward. it seems to me that this question of the wind currents is the most important one in his case. The winds are, I judge, less strong as you approach the poles.

"Another thing to be considered will be heat. You know very well that the air gets colder as you rise above the surface of the earth. As you get into the colder regions, the difference in temperature is great, and it is a question how Andree is going to keep warm. He dare not have a fire in his balloon for a spark might ignite the gasses and blow everything to pieces. He will have to keep warm by clothing. He knows a great deal about aerial navigation, however, and has a very good idea of what he can do with a balloon."

Borchgrevink's First Voyage.

The conversation here turned to Mr. Borchgrevink's trip to Antarctica, and he gave me a very interesting story of his voyage, the most of which has never been published. The expedition was organized as a whaling enterprise, and, in order to go, Borchgrevink joined it as a seal shooter and sailor. He slept in the forecastle of the little steamer and did all the work of an ordinary seaman He said:

"The trip was taken with the idea of catching whales and seals, though I went along for purely scientific purposes. You know there are different kinds of whales. That which is the most valuable is called the right whale. It is a black whale, and is supposed to exist in large quantities in the waters about the South Pole. We did not find any, however, though I still believe that they exist in those waters. We also expected to catch some seals. I went along as a seal shooter, and with the understanding that I should aid in curing the skins. We found quite a number of fur seals and shot some. There are many fur seals about the South Pole, though it is doubtful whether they exist in as large numbers as they do in the Bering Sea."

"How long were you gone?" I asked.

"The trip took us just five months," was the reply. "We started out from Australia in September and returned on the 12th of March."

"How far was the point on which you landed on the Antarctic continent from Australia?"

"It was just about 5,000 miles from New Zealand," replied Mr. Borchgrevink.

The New Southern Continent.

"What makes you think the place where you landed was not an island rather than a continent?"

"Many things," was the reply. "In the first place, the waters, then the rocks, the mountains and their distance above the sea. These and numerous other things lead to the almost positive conclusion that there is a great continent down there about the South Pole. It is true, that it may be an archipelago of islands united by thick sheets of ice, but I believe that it is a continent. I have made careful estimates of the lands which I visited and of those discovered by other explorers at different points about the pole, and I feel sure that there is a body of a land there at least twice the size of Europe."

"I suppose the whole country is covered with ice and snow?"

"That which I saw was of that nature," replied Mr. Borchgrevink. "We traveled for days through the ice packs. Now and then we passed great icebergs, and our ship was often struck by heavy pieces of ice, which made it tremble and crack."

"Is there any difference between the ice of the south polar regions and that of the north?"

"Yes; there seems to be a decided difference. A part of the ice we saw was in great blocks rather than in mountains of ice, such as you find at the north. I don't think the icebergs of the south polar regions last as long as do those of the north. Still they are immense. Some of the bergs which we passed rose to a height of 300 feet above the water, and when you remember that as a rule from eight to ten times as much ice of such a berg is under the water as above it, you can get some idea of their size. Traveling among icebergs is not very safe, and we had at times to move very slowly."

Nansen's Ship Is A Good One.

"Suppose you had a ship like that of Nansen's. Could you have made any better progress?"

"Yes," was the reply. "Nansen's ship would have been a great advantage, but we had to take what we could get."

"The experience of landing on this continent for the first time must have been a strange one, was it not?"

"You know the land called Victoria Land had been discovered before I went south, but our party was, I think, the first to ever set foot on what I believe to be the mainland of the continent. As we came into the bay we could see on each side of us the coasts of victoria Land extending in both directions as far as our eyes could reach. Every one of the crew wanted to be the first on shore, and they crowded me back to the rear of the boat. As soon as we got near enough, however so that I could see the bottom through the waves, I jumped out and waded on shore, and thus got there first."

" I can't describe the feeling that I had. There was a reverence mixed with it, and an indescribable pleasure. I realized that I was on a new continent, and upon land on which the feet of man had never before trod."

Commercial Value of Antarctica.

The conversation here turned to the commercial value of the discovery, and Mr. Borchgrevink told me that the ground where he landed was covered with guano. There were millions of penguins covering the rocks, and these birds came about them by thousands, and they had to take their clubs in order to beat them away. The penguins look very much like a small seal standing on its flippers. They waddle about the shore, feeding on fish and nesting in the rocks. Mr. Borchgrevink brought some back to Sweden with him, and one of these is now in the museum of the university of Christiania. He told me that he found evidence of minerals on the mainland, and that the fur seal ought to be of value.

He had no opportunity to make excursions into the interior, and he has reserved this for his new expedition, when he expects to find the South Pole.

I here asked some questions as to the expedition. Mr. Borchgrevink replied:

"We expect to start next September. We shall sail from London for Australia, and thence will go to Cape Adare. The expedition will be a commercial as well as a scientific one. I belong to the scientific part of it. "

"How much will it cost?"

A Costly Scientific Expedition.

"Between $125,000 and $150,000," was the reply. "The scientific part of the expedition will be under my command. I shall have 11 men under me. A number of these will be Norwegians, and among them Mr. Alme, who was with Mr. Wellman on his trip to the North Pole. We shall sail first for Cape Adare. We shall take with us the material for building two huts, and shall expect to remain for a couple of years."

"How do you expect to get into the interior?"

"My idea is that we shall travel to the South Magnetic Pole on sledges. I will take about 50 dogs with me."

"Will you take any fuel with you?"

"Yes; we shall have coal and other concentrated fuel. We shall have clothing of reindeer skins, and outside of this we shall use canvas clothing. Canvas keeps out the wind, holds down the fur and is a great aid in retaining the warmth."

"How about your food?"

"Oh! We shall have all sorts of condensed foods. We shall have extracts of beef, and shall carry a large quantity of pemmican or powdered meat, and dried vegetables."

"Will you be able to get any food on you new continent?"

"Yes; there is no doubt but that we can get fish, and we shall have the seal and the penguin."

"Are the penguins fit to eat?"

"Yes," replied Mr. Borchgrevink, with a laugh, "they make a very fair soup, though I must confess there is a little too much blubber in it to satisfy any one except the Eskimo."

He Will Take News Balloons.

"How about balloons, will you take any with you?"

"We shall not take any large balloons," said he, "though we shall carry a large number of small ones. We are going to take them in order to see if we cannot send messages to the civilized world with them. We shall tie letters to them and send them up into the air to go wherever the wind will carry them. We shall also take carrier pigeons from Australia for the same purpose. Whether the birds will be able to find their way back is a question. Still, by flying from one iceberg to another they may be able to make it. At any rate we are going to try. I wonder, by the way, whether any one has ever sent a carrier pigeon across the Atlantic. I am going back to London in a few days and I will then take some with me and make the experiment. "

"Will your ship stay with you for the two years?"

"No," replied Mr. Borchgrevink, "it will come back, but it will return again next year."

"But suppose it should not return?"

"Oh, in that case," replied the explorer "I suppose we shall get along until a relief expedition comes for us. I think there is enough enterprise right here in America to send out such an expedition if the men who have agreed to return should fail us. This, however, I think there is no prospect of their doing."

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:
  Pittsburgh Dispatch, Pittsburgh, PA, April 5, 1896.  
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  Jennifer Holvoet, Ph.D.,
University of Kansas.
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