Antarctica: Tales, Travels & News

Kondoru

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That's the thing about Antarctica, isn't it?

Its a bonanza of minerals.
 

blessmycottonsocks

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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). ...

https://lithub.com/polar-nightmare-on-one-of-the-first-international-expeditions-of-the-modern-era/

Just finished the book last night. Well worth reading, despite the author employing a slightly quirky style, that cuts abruptly from past tense authentic history book narrative to present tense dialogue.
He certainly works hard to restore Cook's tarnished reputation who, just might be remembered more now as a courageous and pioneering medic rather than a self-aggrandizing huckster of dubious honesty.

The mystery at the end of the book is worth a mention here, as I don't believe it's been covered elsewhere on this forum.

For more about this mystery see:

Arctic Expeditions & Explorations
https://forums.forteana.org/index.php?threads/arctic-expeditions-explorations.42925/
 
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ramonmercado

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A great tale.

A stowaway who found himself on a legendary Antarctic expedition that ended in shipwreck has been remembered as a bid to find the vessel gains pace.

When Percy Blackborow from Newport boarded The Endurance in 1914, he did not know the drama that would unfold on Ernest Shackleton's expedition to cross Antarctica via the South Pole.

Percy's grandchildren have planted a tree in his memory.

This month an international scientific expedition set off to find the wreck. The Endurance22 expedition, which includes the BBC's Dan Snow, is using underwater robots, helicopters and other state-of-the-art technology in a bid to be the first to locate and survey the wreck.

Shackleton's mission may have ended in failure but his efforts to save every one of his 28 crew would become the stuff of folklore.

However, 28th crew member Percy, known as Perce, shouldn't have been there at all.

Andrew Hemmings, author of Secret Newport said:

"Perce had been in the Merchant Navy since he was 14, and by age 18 he'd been shipwrecked in Montevideo, Uruguay. Soon after he and his American friend William Bakewell heard about Shackleton's voyage from Buenos Aires to the Antarctic, so they made their way overland to try out for the crew, but whilst Bakewell was accepted, Perce was deemed too inexperienced."
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He said the pair could not bear to be parted, so Bakewell hid Perce in his locker for three days, until the subterfuge was eventually discovered by a furious Shackleton.

"By this stage the ship was too far into its voyage to turn back, so Shackleton was faced with a fait accompli," he said. "Enraged, he told Perce that 'on missions like this' - when food was short - 'stowaways were the first to get eaten'."

He said a cocky Perce riposted to Shackleton: "I think the crew would get more meat from you Sir!"

Mr Hemmings said from that point on, Shackleton had a particular soft spot for Perce, assigning him to the ship's galley to prepare meals of seal, whale, and latterly even the voyage's huskies. ...

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-60525094
 

ramonmercado

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Widows of the Ice and Edgar Evans' legacy.

The story of a woman who restored her husband's reputation, after he was blamed for Captain Scott's doomed mission to the South Pole, has been highlighted by a historian.

Most accounts of Scott's ill-fated Terra Nova expedition end with his team's death on their return journey. Historian Anne Fletcher has set out to tell the story of the women who were left behind for decades afterwards.

Her book Widows of the Ice, The Women that Scott's Antarctic Expedition Left Behind, looks at the life of Lois Evans, who married Petty Officer Edgar Evans, from Middleton, near Swansea. Despite her working class background Lois "stood her ground" and defended her husband to a hostile and patronising press.

Evans was born in the Gower village of Middleton on 7 March 1876. Lois (nee Beynon), was born in Swansea three years later, and was a cousin of Evans. Anne Fletcher speculates that the two must have known each other from childhood, playing together while the adults ran the family business, Middleton's Ship Inn..

Evans joined the Royal Navy aged 15. By 1899 he had been transferred to HMS Majestic where he served under the ship's torpedo officer, then-Lieutenant Robert Falcon Scott.

In 1901 Scott hand-picked Evans for his first polar mission aboard RSS Discovery. After reaching Victoria Land on the western edge of Antarctica, he was highly commended on their return and promoted to Petty Officer. ...

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-60939090
 

ramonmercado

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Permafrost Postman Pat.

A British charity is searching for people to spend five months in Antarctica, to run the world's most remote post office.

The team will maintain the Port Lockroy base and be responsible for counting penguins, though will be without running water. The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust says it usually gets hundreds of applications for these jobs. It will be the first time the site will open to the public since the pandemic.

The trust, which is based in Cambridge, usually advertises annually for seasonal postmasters at the site. They are responsible for preserving historic buildings and artefacts in Antarctica. Successful applicants will be based on Goudier Island in the Antarctic Peninsula, with each other and a colony of Gentoo penguins for company.

Port Lockroy was the first permanent British base to be established on the Antarctic Peninsula, initially used from 1944 to 1962. However since 2006, it has been used as a post office and museum.

Candidates are required to have good level of physical fitness, environmental awareness and a knowledge of minimum impact living. They will be tasked with running the gift shop and post office, as well as conducting a penguin count as part of efforts to protect the Gentoo penguin colony. The team will also look after the artefacts and museum inside Bransfield House.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-60994404
 

Bigphoot2

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The story of one of Shackelton's team

Alister Forbes Mackay: The Dundee student who went to the ends of the Earth with Ernest Shackleton​

By Kate Brown
April 7 2022, 6.00am

He was the Dundee student who was part of the first expedition in the world to reach the top of Mount Erebus.
The story of Alister Forbes Mackay is one of the forgotten tales of Antarctic heroism.
Mackay applied to serve as junior surgeon on Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ‘Farthest South’ expedition on the Dundee-built ship Nimrod.
As part of the expedition, Mackay and his group reached the summit of Mount Erebus which is the southernmost active volcano on Earth.
But how did this young student from Dundee go on to reach such great heights?
https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/past-times/3174758/alister-forbes-mackay/
 

ramonmercado

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This midge might be unable to stand the heat.

The Antarctic midge might be smaller than a pea, but it’s the continent’s largest land animal–and only native insect. The midge has clearly evolved to survive in extreme conditions, yet a warming climate could threaten its existence, a new study finds.

Unlike temperate-zone midges that swarm around water, the Antarctic midge (Belgica antarctica) is flightless and lives in moist pockets of earth on the Antarctic peninsula and nearby islands. It also lives at a slower pace, taking 2 years to complete its life cycle and spending most of its life as a larva. The brown, wormlike juveniles “are not remarkable in appearance,” says Nicholas Teets, an insect physiologist at the University of Kentucky and an author of the study. “But they’re remarkable in their ability to survive stressful conditions.”

The midge has had 40 million years to perfect its survival strategy. It withstands the brutal winter temperatures the same way eccentric billionaires preserve themselves in science fiction movies—they freeze. To prevent internal tissue damage by ice crystals, overwintering larvae lose up to 70% of their body fluids. Once their bodies are frozen, the larvae spend about 6 months in a suspended state called diapause, during which they don’t eat, move, or do much of anything.

With Antarctica warming fast as a result of climate change, Teets and colleagues wondered how small changes in winter temperatures might affect the midges. To find out, they collected larvae from several islands off mainland Antarctica and placed them in incubators set at three temperatures: –5°C (representing a cold Antarctic winter), –3°C (a typical winter), and –1°C (a warm winter). After 6 months, the researchers found the larvae in the warm winter incubator had lower survival, slower movement, and smaller energy stores than those in the colder conditions, they reported in Functional Ecology earlier this month. ...

https://www.science.org/content/art...ould-wipe-out-antarctica-s-only-native-insect
 
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