The race to the South Pole
Norwegian Roald Gravning Amundsen, who had been part of the de Gerlache expedition that
wintered in Antarctica, set sail from Christiana (modern-day Oslo) in 1910 in a bid to be
the first man to reach the North Pole. When he heard American Robert Peary had already
reached the North Pole, Amundsen did a literal about-face. Aware of Robert Scott's rival
expedition, Amundsen secretively headed south. Setting out from his Ross Ice Shelf base on
19 October, 1911, Amundsen and four others headed for the Pole. The planning was
meticulous: Amundsen took three or four backups for every critical item and set up 10
well-marked depots down to 82 south. On 14 December, 1911, Amundsen and his party
reached the South Pole, claiming it for Norway. Amundsen left a tent at the Pole with a
note inside for Scott to read.
Meanwhile, Robert Falcon Scotts second expedition was preparing another sortie and
was desperate to beat Amundsen to the South Pole. He sailed from New Zealand in November
1910, and a team of five made a final push to the Pole on 2 October the next year. The
journey was impossibly difficult, and they reached the Pole only to find that Amunsden had
been there 23 days earlier.
Amundsens team had several factors in their favor. Their base at the Bay of Whales
was 69 miles (105 km) closer to the Pole than Scott's on Ross Island. The Norwegians set
out 13 days before Scott and had the added advantage of 59 husky dogs hauling their sleds
and the skill to use them to maximum advantage. Scott, on the other hand, had opted to use
ponies as well as dogs; but the ponies were not able to the haul in soft snow, and the
dogs were used only in support. In short, Amundsen's party were better managed and able to
move more swiftly.
Scott's disappointment was enormous, and the party turned around to begin the return
journey. Two men died within two months, and the surviving three pushed on for another
month until, just 18km (11mi) from base, the weather pinned them down. Scott's last
journal entry was 29 March and their frozen bodies were found eight months later by a
Crossing the Antarctic by land - Shackleton
Before Scott and Amundsen reached the Pole, Shackleton had won the credit for going
The Furthest South. After the Norwegian and British arrival Shackleton decide
to approach by crossing the Antarctic on land. Setting out for Antarctica with the
intention of crossing the continent coast-to-coast by sledge, Shackleton's Endurance was
caught in the ice where it drifted until it was crushed.
1914 In early December, Shackletons' ill-fated "Endurance" entered the
Weddell Sea only to be trapped in the icepack by 19 January, 1915. Their ship sank in
November that year. The crew were not able to save their life boats or supplies but
escaped themselves to Elephant Island. Shackleton decided to leave most of the party
behind, while he set out in a boat to reach South Georgia, the nearest inhabited island,
800 miles away. He knew that he would find help there, at the Norwegian whaling stations
on the north side. He and five others left in the best of their ship's boats, the James
Caird, which was 7 metres long and 2 metres wide. Although it was winter and the Southern
Ocean is the stormiest in the world, they knew the plan was their best hope for the
survival of the whole party. When the six set sail, the rest of the group were left behind
to make camp on Elephant Island.
Fortunately, in April 1916, Shackleton and his party reached the
South Georgia Islands and in August 1916 Luis Pardo VillalŪn commanding the Yelcho, a
totally inappropriate little Chilean tugboat, set off to the rescue.
The ship had been servicing the Chilean Navy, accomplishing sovereignty missions in
Chile„s territorial waters. The courage of Chilean sailors and captain Pardo„s skill and
experience made possible for this old noble ship to bring Shackletons shipwrecked
men from Elephant Island back to mainland.
A second party were sent by Shackleton to the Ross Island to put stores in depots that his
own party would need when they arrived. This was successfully done, although Shackleton
The heroic age of Antarctic adventure ended in 1917 when survivors of Shackleton's Ross
Sea party were rescued after their epic depot laying journey, but with their group sadly
The wooden pre-fabricated huts and their contents, erected and inhabited by the pioneers
of the 'heroic age' remain relatively intact to this day and they are a legacy must remain
frozen in time - forever. But they are more than just wooden huts. They are the last
vestiges of the hardship, heroism, endurance and courage of the early Antarctic explorers.
To these men, these huts were home. As Shackleton himself wrote:
"... the little hut, which had been our home for a year that must always live in our
Talk of ex-soldiers: give me ex-antarctics, unsoured and with their ideals intact. They
could sweep the world.
Shackleton was on his way to the Antarctic again, on board another ship the Quest when he
died of a heart attack, at Grytviken, South Georgia on 5 January 1922. He is buried there
Following their dramatic 800 mile voyage to South Georgia, Shackleton immediately set about the task of securing the rescue of their 22 comrades marooned on distant Elephant Island from their icy prison. However despite all Shackleton's efforts the first three attempts were unsuccessful. There was no way they could break through to Elephant Island.
The hero of that hour was the skilled acting commander of the Chilean navy ship the Yelcho - a redoubtable small ship that was well familiar with performing duties in Antarctic waters - and that man was Pilot Luis Alberto Pardo Villalon.
It was Pilot Pardo's experienced and masterly navigation, that guaranteed the ship was able to navigate through the pack ice and secure a safe approach with all the men safely onboard.
Pilot Pardo himself became a national legend. He was promoted to Pilot, first class, and a ship was in due course named after him, and was further honored with a Chilean stamp bearing his likenes
Pardo was further honored, in that his name was given not only to the prominent ridge on Elephant Island that bears his name, but also to a Chilean naval vessel, the Piloto Pardo. Built in Holland, the Piloto Pardo served the Chilean Navy for many years as an Antarctic vessel before it was retired.
In the period following World War I, scientific research expanded in the continent and it
was mapped, studied and territorially divided among nations intent on furthering research.
In 1959 an international convention of 67 countries convened to draw up a peaceful treaty
that allowed for scientific study on an international level. The result was the Antarctic
Treaty; an unprecedented contract that forbade any military bases, supported scientific
research, preserves the wildlife, bans mining and prohibits other profiteering on the
continent. A new provision as of 1991 bans drilling for oil or precious minerals for 50
The only humans to inhabit Antarctica year-round are scientists and researchers stationed
at various outposts throughout the continent, mainly at the coasts. It is here that
biologists, glaciologists, geologists, oceanographers, meteorologists, etc. carry on
painstaking studies in the name of science and gain the rewards that knowledge has to
offer. Nowadays, the southern continent is shared between 18 nations that have scientists
based there permanentely.
Join us and experience the "Antarctic Dream"