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.
Older than you know! – Research shows that Antarctica has existed for over 200 million years! Back all those aeons ago, it was joined with Australia, Africa, South America, India and New Zealand, in the supercontinent Gondwana. Then around 40 million years ago, it made its final disengagement from the Australian continent, settled into its present polar position, and began to cool dramatically.
Watch this amazing video to know what life’s like on the coldest place on the planet!
A bit of history – Antarctica was discovered in 1820 by a Russian team but it took almost 100 years before further serious expeditions were undertaken. In the 1890s, John George Bartholomew, a Scottish cartographer, became the first person to formally use “Antarctica” as a name for the continent. Translated literally, Antarctica means “opposite the bear” (from the Great Bear, or Ursa Major, above the North Pole) or “opposite to the Arctic”.
Coldest place on the planet – Antarctica is the world’s highest, driest and coldest continent, with an annual mean temperature of -55°C. It was at Russia’s Vostok Station, in Antarctica, that earth’s lowest ever temperature ever, -89.2°C, was recorded, on 21st July, 1983.
Ice Ice baby –
The ice sheet in Antarctica is 4,776 metres deep at its thickest point, with an average thickness of 2,160 metres. This is 90 percent of the world’s entire ice, and 70 percent of the world’s total freshwater. There is about eight times as much ice in Antarctica as there is in the Arctic. If all this ice were to melt (let’s hope for everyone’s sake that it doesn’t!), ocean levels across the world would rise by 200-210 feet.
Ernest Shackleton is the ultimate personification of a time at the beginning of the 20th century that is now regarded as the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration”. An Irishman by birth, Shackleton put behind him the disappointment of his first foray into the frozen wastes of Antarctica – poor health led him to return home from the 1901-04 Discovery Expedition (also known as the National Antarctic Expedition) – to become one of history’s most storied polar explorers. His epic, though ultimately futile, attempt at crossing the continent of Antarctica would become a feat of “Endurance” for the ages.
2. Pull of the Ocean
It was through books that Shackleton got his taste for adventure. But such was his restiveness as a teen that his school (Dulwich College London) let the boy leave to seek a life out at sea. With the (reluctant) encouragement of his doctor-father, Shackleton became an apprentice aboard the Hoghton Tower, a sailing boat, and spent the next four years living the life of a seaman, learning the tools of the seafaring trade. Shackleton travelled around the world, sailing with men from all walks of life. These experiences would prove invaluable as he turned his gaze towards Antarctica.
3. “The Great Southern Journey”
Shackleton’s second journey to the South Pole was as part of the four-member Nimrod Expedition, which he led. During this trip, Shackleton and his fellow explorers reached as far south as anyone had ever done at that point in time – a latitude of 88° 23’ S, the equivalent of 97 geographical miles (that’s 112 statute miles, or 180km) from the South Pole. The party also reached the summit of Mount Erebus (3794 m/12,448ft), the first men to do so. Shackleton proved to be a fine, as well as an empathetic, leader of men. For his Nimrod exploits, he was knighted by King Edward VII.