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For The South Pole.

It is an interesting coincidence that about the same time that Lieut. Peary is expected to leave the United States for Greenland, preparatory to resuming his quest of the north pole, a party of explorers will leave Belgium for the purpose of making a "dash" for the south or "austral" magnetic pole. This is not the first time that an errand of this kind has recently been projected. About two years ago Dr. Frederick Cook made elaborate plans for invading Antarctica, and later Herr Borchgrevink, the Norwegian traveler who had penetrated the Antarctic regions, visited the United States with the object of enlisting interest in further research in that part of the globe, but these projects seem to have dropped out of sight, evidently from the failure of popular support. The Belgian explorers appear to have met with better fortune, for it is stated that their countrymen have raised 250,000 francs in order to defray the expenses of their enterprise.

The latter, it is announced by way of comment, "will be one of the most perilous expeditions of the last half of this century." It could be safely added that it will also be one of the most futile expeditions of the last half of this century. The positive knowledge that we possess of the Antarctic continent is exceedingly meagre, but such as we do possess indicates the hopelessness of any attempt to reach far inland into that territory. Indeed, up to date, we believe, no human being has ever set foot upon the Antarctic continent proper, although Ross and other navigators repeatedly tried to effect a landing. The shore, so far as has been discovered, consists of a perpendicular wall of ice hundreds of feet in height and thousands of feet in thickness. Of the interior of Antarctica little is definitely known, except that it is a mass of smoking and extinct volcanoes, the cones of some of which rise 10,000 and 12,000 feet above the sea. In the whole length and breadth of this continent, estimated to be twice the size of Europe, no animal life what ever exists, neither mammals, birds, insects, spiders nor reptiles, and, according to Gen. A. W. Greely, it is equally destitute of all land vegetation "except the lowest forms of cellular tissue, lichens," and these have been found only in ocasional instances. It is a land, in a word, of sheer (unreadable), of constant snow wreaths and mists and murky clouds of volcanic vapor.

To hope to be able to penetrate into such a continent is apparently the climax of folly. Northern Greenland, with its furious gales, and Franz Josef Land, with its vast stretches of ice fields, are almost Oriental gardens in comparison with this frozen inferno. At best, all that the Belgian explorers are likely to accomplish is to furnish us with a more accurate description of the coast line of Antarctica and perhaps a clearer idea of climatic conditions in Antarctic waters, but even this will probably not increase materially our stock of useful knowledge.

Dispatches from Norway put an end to all doubt as to the sincerity of M. Andree in attempting to reach the north pole by means of a balloon. The ascent was made from Spitzbergen last Sunday, and if Andree's theories have held good the north pole by this time has been "conquered" and the discoverer is now on his aerial return to civilization. It is useless to speculate upon the outcome of this hazardous project. Only an enthusiast of dauntless courage and supreme faith in his convictions could have undertaken it. Neither can M. Andree be positively set down as a "crank," for his scheme has received the encouragement and support of so intelligent a person as King Oscar of Sweden and Norway. Hope will be general that tragedy will not crown M. Andree's piece of daring.

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:
  N.Y. Commercial Advertiser, New York, NY. July 17, 1896.  
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  Jennifer Holvoet, University of Kansas.  
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