In the Classroom
The Age of Polar Exploration
From the turn of the 16th Century when Dutch Sea Captain Dirk Gerritz saw ice-covered mountains from the deck of his ship that had blown off course to the league of scientists planning International Geophysical Year (IGY) 2007-2008, explorers and scientists have been fascinated with the enormous ice cap at the bottom of the world and the life that survives in the frigid waters surrounding it. Several early explorers helped stimulate the scientific interest in this region that continues today. More information about the explorers.
Jean Bouvet de Lozier
French explorer. In 1728 he discovered a cape covered in ice. The land is now called Bouvet Island. More Facts about Bouvet
English explorer. Called the greatest navigator of his age, Cook, in 1773, was the first man on record to cross the Antarctic Circle. Dispelling growing doubt that the Antarctic continent even existed, Captain Cook discovered South Georgia Island and told stories of the “sea of whales” and the abundance of seals. The main character penguin in the Newberry Award winning story Mr. Popper’s Penguin is named Captain Cook. Captain Cook's Journal
Scottish explorer. In 1778 he brought the first inshore seal (now called the Weddell Seal) to Scotland. Antarctica’s Weddell Sea is also named after him. More Facts about Weddell
Thaddeus Von Bellinghausen
Russian explorer. In 1820, he most likely made the first sighting of the Antarctica continent. By the 1830s scientific interest in studying the polar region and economic interest in whale oil and seal fur was growing in France, Great Britain and the U.S. More Facts about Von Bellinghausen
Nathaniel B. Palmer
American sailor. In 1820, the 21-year-old captain of the 14-meter sloop Hero, became the first American credited with seeing Antartica. The research vessel used for the ICEFISH 2004 cruise is named for him. More about the research vessel
French explorer. In the 1830s, during his search for the Magnetic Pole, he viewed the icy shoreline and a host of penguins which inhabited it. He gave his wife’s name “Adelie” to both the small Penguins and the shoreline. More Facts about d'Urville
English explorer. In 1840 Captain Ross sailed to within 12 degrees of the South Pole, penetrating far deeper into the Antarctic than anyone before him. The Ross Sea is named for him. (click to icefish map) More Facts about Ross
Norwegian Whaling Crew
It is believed that at the turn of the 20th Century, a Norwegian Whaling Crew became the first humans to set foot on the Antarctic continent just a few months before the famous expedition team of Robert Scott, Ernest Shackleton and E.A. Wilson.
Robert Scott, Ernest Shackleton and E.A. Wilson
English explorer. In 1902 Robert Scott, traveling with Ernest Shackleton and E.A. Wilson, he set up a base camp, becoming the first group to explore the Antarctic continent with dog-sledges. They traveled the length of the Great Ice Barrier to the Beardmore Glacier. They made several fascinating expeditions through Antarctica, resulting in some of the most fascinating adventure stories ever told.
More Facts about Scott
More Facts about Wilson
Norwegian explorer. In 1911 he and seven men, six sledges, and 86 dogs set out to become the first to reach the South Pole. On December 14th, Amundsen, five frostbitten men and 18 hungry and exhausted dogs declared victory as they reached the South Pole. More Facts about Amundsen
American explorer. Beginning in 1929 Byrd made five Antarctic expeditions. He flew over Antarctica enabling the continent to be mapped for the first time.
Byrd’s response to “Why do you keep going back to Antarctica?” “I like it there. I like the endless reaches of wind-rippled snow, the symbols of life’s triumph in a lifeless land: the squawking of Skua Gulls, the comical penguins, seals wheezing at blowholes, the arching back of whales.” The Papers of Richard Byrd