Latest posts by Meenakshi (see all)
At the end of the 19th century, when many countries and avid explorers in Western Europe were resolute to head south to the Antarctic, the German South Polar Commission also suggested a national expedition to Antarctica. For his experience in the field of geophysics and geography at the University of Berlin, Drygalski was chosen to be a part of the expedition along with 31 others (22 crew members, 5 naval officers, 5 scientists).
This was the first German expedition to the Antarctic, led by Drygalski in the ship Gauss.
The Gauss Expedition started from Kiel (Northern Germany) on August 11, 1901 and reached Kerguelen Islands in the Southern Indian Ocean on January 2, 1902. After some very difficult navigation through the Ocean, the crew first sighted land on February 21 1902. But as luck would have it, later that day their ship was trapped while trying to enter a gap between two ice ridges.
The next year and a half saw Drygalski and his men battle harsh weathers, snow storms, subzero temperatures and also dearth of good food (towards the end). In March and April of 1902, sledging expeditions were conducted that resulted (for their team) in the first physical proof of reaching the Antarctic mainland in the form of volcanic rock that the crewmembers returned with.
When the weather was relatively better, the crew devoted time to geological and magnetic surveys and research. Drygalski also became the first balloonist in Antarctica after climbing aboard the balloon the Gauss had on-board and rose to a height of 1600 feet.
After being trapped for more than one year, the ice finally broke on February 8, 1903 and Gauss was free! With a heavy heart, Drygalski decided to head north. They reached South Africa on June 9, 1903 and finally arrived in Kiel on November 23, 1903.
Erich Von Drygalski wrote and published his experiences in 20 volumes between 1905 and 1931. He taught Geography in Munich until his retirement in 1934.