- Dec 5, 2003
- Reaction score
I thought the Polynesians sighting icebergs was long known about in polar exploration literature.
Renewed quest to find Shackleton's lost Endurance shipJonathan Amos
Published6 hours ago
It's arguably the most famous shipwreck whose location has yet to be found.
The Endurance vessel, which was lost on Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated expedition in 1914-17, lies at the bottom of the Weddell Sea.
Many have thought about trying to identify its resting place; a few have even had a go. But sea-ice cover in the region makes navigation very tricky.
Dr John Shears and colleagues, however, are undaunted. Having been beaten on their last mission, they're returning.
The story of The Belgica Expedition and how a charlatan's reputation may be restored. A long article excerpted from Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey Into the Dark Antarctic Night, by Julian Sancton.
I first heard of the Belgica expedition in the spring of 2015, while procrastinating at my desk at Departures magazine.
I was flipping through the latest issue of The New Yorker when I found a headline that caught my interest: “Moving to Mars.” It was about an ongoing experiment taking place on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa—about as close as the earth gets to a Martian environment—in which six volunteers lived in isolation under a geodesic dome for a NASA-funded study on team dynamics, in preparation for eventual missions to the Red Planet.
In classic New Yorker fashion, the author, Tom Kizzia, backed into the story. The first few paragraphs were about an expedition that took place 120 years ago, involving the first men to endure an Antarctic winter. Kizzia mentioned the “‘mad-house’ promenade” around the ship, a phrase that immediately jumped out at me. I was intrigued to find out what possible connection there might be between the Belgica and far-flung space exploration. But even more fascinating to me was the character of the physician, Frederick Albert Cook, known as one of America’s most shameless hucksters, who through relentless ingenuity nevertheless managed to save the expedition from catastrophe.
I’ve always been drawn to heroic antiheroes: Sherlock Holmes, Butch Cassidy, Han Solo. When I looked further into Cook’s story and learned that he lived out his final days in Larchmont, New York, in a house I pass every time I walk my dog, it felt like a sign: there was no way I wasn’t writing this book.
Thus began a five-year obsession that took me across the world, from Oslo to Antwerp to Antarctica, on the trail of the Belgica and her men. The narrative that unfolded before me, through diaries and other primary sources, turned out to be far richer than the simple good yarn I’d imagined at first. The expedition shaped two future giants of exploration, one rightly revered, Roald Amundsen, and one unfairly maligned, the aforementioned Cook. It culminated with an epic breakout from the tenacious Antarctic pack ice that, in its scale and ambition, rivals the greatest man-versus-nature struggles in history and literature. And its legacy proved much more consequential than the mere survival of (most of) its men.
One of the challenges I faced in recreating a journey that took place so long ago, and in such extreme isolation, was getting access to the sensory quality of the experience. Not just what happened day to day, or what coordinates the ship reached along her circuitous drift, but what it must have been like for the men aboard, both to discover such splendors and to endure such hardship. To my delight, it soon became apparent that the Belgica voyage was among the most well-documented polar missions of the heroic age, in which no fewer than ten men kept detailed diaries or logs (even though one was later burned). ...