Saturday, October 15, 2011

"The fiery handwriting of the gods."

What is the Aurora Australis?
Aurora is the collective name given to the photons (light) emitted by atoms, molecules and ions that have been excited by energetic charged particles (principally electrons) travelling along magnetic field lines into the Earth's upper atmosphere. Aurora results from the interaction of the solar wind with the Earth's magnetic field.

The amazing color displays and formations are produced by the solar wind -- a stream of electrons and protons coming from the sun -- as it collides with gases in the upper atmosphere. These collisions produce electrical discharges which energize atoms of oxygen and nitrogen causing the release of various colors of light. Earth's magnetic field channels these discharges toward the poles. Variations in sunspot activity or the occurrence of so-called 'coronal holes' can often considerably enhance the auroral discharge adding to the intensity and duration of the displays.

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Where on such an earth are men who walk like gods?"

Dates Country Expedition Name(s) Ship(s) Leader Expedition summary Refs
1897–99 Belgium Belgian Antarctic Expedition Belgica A bearded man of about 30 years in fur hat and winter coat.
Gerlache, Adrien deAdrien de Gerlache
This was the first expedition to overwinter within the Antarctic Circle, after the ship was icebound in the Bellingshausen Sea. It collected the first annual cycle of Antarctic observations. It also reached 71°30'S, and discovered the Gerlache Strait. [15][2][16]
1898–1900 UK British Antarctic Expedition 1898
(Southern Cross Expedition)
Southern Cross A man with moustache in a winter coat with a hat covering his ears.
Borchgrevink, CarstenCarsten Borchgrevink
The first expedition to overwinter on the Antarctic mainland (Cape Adare), it was the first to make use of dogs and sledges. It made the first ascent of Great Ice Barrier,[17] and set a Farthest South record at 78°30'S. It also calculated the location of the South Magnetic Pole. [18][19][20]
1901–04 UK National Antarctic Expedition 1901
(Discovery Expedition)
Morning (relief ship)
Terra Nova (relief ship)
A man in ceremonial military uniform.
Scott, Robert FalconRobert Falcon Scott
It made the first ascent of the Western Mountains in Victoria Land, and discovered the polar plateau. Its southern journey set a new Farthest South record, 82°17'S.[21] Many other geographical features were discovered, mapped and named. This was the first of several expeditions based in McMurdo Sound. [22][23][24]
1901–03 German EmpireGermany First German Antarctic Expedition
(Gauss Expedition)
Gauss A man with moustache in a smart dress.
Drygalski, Erich vonErich von Drygalski
The first expedition to investigate eastern Antarctica, it discovered the coast of Kaiser Wilhelm II Land, and Mount Gauss. The expedition's ship became trapped in ice, which prevented more extensive exploration. [25][26][27]
1901–03 Sweden Swedish Antarctic Expedition Antarctic A middle-aged bearded man in a smart dress.
Nordenskiöld, OttoOtto Nordenskiöld
This expedition worked in the east coastal area of Graham Land, and was marooned on Snow Hill Island and Paulet Island in the Weddell Sea, after the sinking of its expedition ship. It was rescued by the Argentinian naval vessel Uruguay. [28][29][30]
1902–04 UK Scottish National Antarctic Expedition Scotia A middle-aged bearded man wearing a tie, waistcoat and jacket.
Bruce, William SpeirsWilliam Speirs Bruce
The permanent Orcadas weather station in South Orkney Islands was established. The Weddell Sea was penetrated to 74°01'S, and the coastline of Coats Land was discovered, defining the sea's eastern limits. [31][32]
1903–05 France Third French Antarctic Expedition Français An older bearded man with a hat wearing a tie and coat. He is keeping a pile of papers or documents under his arm.
Charcot, Jean-BaptisteJean-Baptiste Charcot
Originally intended as a relief expedition for the stranded Nordenskiöld party, the main work of this expedition was the mapping and charting of islands and the western coasts of Graham Land, on the Antarctic peninsula. A section of the coast was explored, and named Loubet Land after the President of France. [33][34][35]
1907–09 UK British Antarctic Expedition 1907
(Nimrod Expedition)
Nimrod A young man wearing a tie, jacket and waistcoat.
Shackleton, ErnestErnest Shackleton
The first expedition led by Shackleton. Based in McMurdo Sound, it pioneered the Beardmore Glacier route to the South Pole, and the (limited) use of motorised transport. Its southern march reached 88°23'S, a new Farthest South record 97 geographical miles from the Pole. The Northern Party reached the location of the South Magnetic Pole. [36][37][38]
1908–10 France Fourth French Antarctic Expedition Pourquoi-Pas? IV An older bearded man with a hat wearing a tie and coat. He is keeping a pile of papers or documents under his arm.
Charcot, Jean-BaptisteJean-Baptiste Charcot
This continued the work of the earlier French expedition with a general exploration of the Bellingshausen Sea, and the discovery of islands and other features, including Marguerite Bay, Charcot Island, Renaud Island, Mikkelsen Bay, Rothschild Island. [33][39]
1910–12 Japan Japanese Antarctic Expedition Kainan Maru An Asian man in military uniform with a hat.
Shirase, NobuNobu Shirase
The first non-European Antarctic expedition carried out a coastal exploration of King Edward VII Land, and investigated the eastern sector of the Great Ice Barrier, reaching 80°5'S. [40][41]
1910–12 Norway Amundsen's South Pole expedition Fram A bearded man wearing a bow tie and coat.
Amundsen, RoaldRoald Amundsen
First to the South Pole: Amundsen set up camp on the Great Ice Barrier, at the Bay of Whales. He discovered a new route to the polar plateau via the Axel Heiberg Glacier. A party of five led by Amundsen reached the South Pole via this route on 15 December 1911. [42][43][44]
1910–13 UK British Antarctic Expedition 1910
(Terra Nova Expedition)
Terra Nova Man in winter coat wearing a balaclava or ski mask style headgear.
Scott, Robert FalconRobert Falcon Scott
Scott's last expedition, based like his first in McMurdo Sound. Scott and four companions reached the South Pole via the Beardmore route on 17 January 1912, 33 days after Amundsen. All five died on the return journey from the Pole, through a combination of starvation and cold. [45][46][47]
1911–13 German EmpireGermany Second German Antarctic Expedition Deutschland Middle-aged man wearing a tie, waistcoat and jacket.
Filchner, WilhelmWilhelm Filchner
The objective was the first crossing of Antarctica. The expedition made the southernmost Weddell Sea penetration to date, reaching 77°45'S, and discovering Luitpold Coast, Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, and Vahsel Bay. It failed to establish a shore base from which to mount its transcontinental march, and after a long drift in the Weddell Sea pack ice it returned to South Georgia. [30][48][49]
1911–14 Australia Australasian Antarctic Expedition Aurora Man wearing a tie, waistcoat and jacket.
Mawson, DouglasDouglas Mawson
The expedition concentrated on the stretch of Antarctic coastline between Cape Adare and Mount Gauss, carrying out mapping and survey work on coastal and inland territories. Discoveries included Commonwealth Bay, Ninnis Glacier, Mertz Glacier, and Queen Mary Land. [50][51]
1914–17 UK Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition Endurance
Bearded middle-aged man with a cowboy hat.
Shackleton, ErnestErnest Shackleton
Another transcontinental crossing attempt. It failed to land the Weddell Sea shore party after Endurance was trapped and crushed in ice. The expedition then rescued itself after a series of exploits, including a prolonged drift on an ice-floe, Shackleton's open boat journey, and the first crossing of South Georgia. [52][53]
1914–17 UK Ross Sea party In support of
Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition
Aurora A man in formal dress. Crop from a group picture.
Mackintosh, AeneasAeneas Mackintosh
Its objective was to lay depots across the Great Ice Barrier, to supply the party crossing from the Weddell Sea. All the required depots were laid, but in the process three men, including the leader Mackintosh, lost their lives. [54]
1921–22 UK Shackleton–Rowett Expedition Quest Man wearing a thick jumper and over it suspenders.
Shackleton, ErnestErnest Shackleton
Vaguely defined objectives included coastal mapping, a possible continental circumnavigation, the investigation of sub-Antarctic islands, and oceanographic work. After Shackleton's death on 5 January 1922, Quest completed a shortened programme before returning home. [55][56]

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Journey Back

The return trip started out fairly well but the weather would inevitably become more severe and there was no incentive of being the first to reach the pole to cheer them and spur them onwards. Scott wrote on the 21st of January "Oates is feeling the cold and fatigue more than most of us" and on the 23rd of January "Wilson suddenly discovered Evans nose was frostbitten - it was white and hard. There is no doubt that Evans is a good deal run down".

By the 24th the first note of serious apprehension entered into Scott's diary entries:
"This is the second full gale since we left the pole. I don't like the look of it. Is the weather breaking up? If so God help us, with the tremendous journey and scanty food".

The men were becoming tired now and injuries were increasing, Wilson suffered snow-blindness, Oates had frostbitten feet. Frostbite also affected Evans' fingers and nose. They had many falls, Scott damaging his shoulder in one. Evans had a bad fall on the 4th of February suffering concussion - he was never to really recover.

They became lost at one point while descending the Beardmore glacier and had a nightmarish two days in badly crevassed and broken ice not knowing in which direction to head and becoming more despondent. They were down to their last meal and unable to find the food depot until at the last they did so. "It was an immense relief and we were soon in possession of our three and a half days food. The relief to all is inexpressible.......... Yesterday was the worst experience of the trip and gave a horrid feeling of insecurity".

February 16th - "Evans has nearly broken down in brain, we think". The next day he started reasonably well but soon left his sledge traces to walk alongside. He fell further and further back and was soon out of sight. By lunchtime the others went back to find him. He was on his knees, clothing disarranged, hands uncovered and frostbitten and with a "wild look in his eyes". He was placed onto a sledge and taken to the camp they had set up, he was comatose by the time he was placed in the tent. He died quietly at 12.30 a.m.

The weather continued to be against them, particularly intense cold down to -40°C and the surface bad beyond their worst fears. On March 5th Scott records "Oates' feet are in a wretched condition... The poor soldier is very nearly done." Despite the cold and awful surfaces Oates kept going attended to by Wilson the doctor, but on March the 16th he proposed that his companions leave him in his sleeping bag and continue themselves. A request they could not grant and induced him to join the afternoon march when they made a few extra miles. He was worse that night and went to sleep hoping not to wake, he did wake however to find a blizzard blowing. His last words were "I am just going outside and may be some time." He walked out to his death so that he would no longer be a burden to his friends who themselves were in worsening physical condition. His feet had been so bad and the process of putting his boots on so painful that he didn't go through this torture and walked out to his death in his socks.

"We knew that poor Oates was walking to his death, but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman. We all hope to meet the end with a similar spirit and assuredly the end is not far."

The last camp was made on March 19th only 11 miles from the next depot. They woke on the 20th to another raging blizzard. Scott was suffering badly from a frostbitten foot and Wilson and Bowers were to go to the depot for fuel. By the 22nd they still had not been able to set off, the blizzard was as bad as ever. They never left this final camp having run out of food and fuel, eventually being too weak, cold and hungry to attempt the march. On the 29th of March 1912 Scott made his last diary entry;

"Since the 21st we have had a continuous gale from W.S.W. and S.W. We had fuel to make two cups of tea apiece and bare food for two days on the 20th. Every day we have been ready to start for our depot 11 miles away, but outside the door of the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. I do not think we can hope for better things now. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker of course, and the end cannot be far.

It seems a pity but I do not think I can write more."

The tent and the three frozen bodies were not discovered until nearly 8 months later on November 12th that year. A great cairn of ice was raised over their bodies surmounted by a cross made from skis, a sledge was stood on one end in a smaller cairn nearby.

A search was made for Captain Oates' body, but it was never found, only his discarded sleeping bag, cut open for much of the length to enable him to enter it with badly frostbitten feet.
A cairn was placed at the scene of the search with a note that began "Hereabouts died a very gallant gentleman...."

Later at hut point a cross was erected to the memory of :

Lieutenant H. R. Bowers
Petty officer Edgar "Taff" Evans
Captain L. E. G. Oates
Captain R. F. Scott
Dr. E. A. Wilson

Scott's Cross ta

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"I believe that concludes our lantern programme at this time."

The members of the Royal Geographical Society would have just enjoyed a slide show (lantern programme) of images taken on Scott's earlier Antarctic Expedition.

The magic lantern has a concave mirror in front of a light source that gathers light and projects it through a slide with an image scanned onto it. The light rays cross an aperture (which is an opening at the front of the apparatus), and hit a lens. The lens throws an enlarged picture of the original image from the slide onto a screen.

Main light sources used during the time it was invented in the late 16th century were candles or oil lamps. These light sources were quite inefficient and produced weak projections. The invention of the Argand lamp in the 1790s helped to make the projected images brighter. The invention of the limelight in the 1820s made it even brighter, and following that the inventions of the electric arc lamp in the 1860s, and then incandescent electric lamps all further improved the projected image of the magic lantern.

It was also an important invention for the motion picture film and 45mm projector because of its ability to screen moving images. To achieve this, mechanical slides were used to make the images move. This was done using two glass slides, one with the part of the picture that would remain stationary and one with the part of the picture that would move on a disc. The glass slides were placed one on top of the other in an orderly fashion and a hand-operated pulley wheel was used to turn the movable disc. The magic lantern also led directly to Eadweard Muybridge's invention of the zoopraxiscope, which was another forerunner for moving pictures.

(From Wikipedia)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Bowers, please set up the Kodak."

As a member of the shore party in early 1911, Ponting helped set up the Terra Nova Expedition's Antarctic winter camp at Cape Evans, Ross Island. The camp included a tiny photographic darkroom. Although the expedition came more than 20 years after the invention of photographic film, Ponting preferred high-quality images taken on glass plates.

Ponting was one of the first men to use a portable movie camera in Antarctica. The primitive device, called a cinematograph, could take short video sequences. Ponting also brought some autochrome plates to Antarctica and took some of the first known color still photographs there.

(Lukeanthony photographers, and Wikipedia)

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Twenty years after your death, and they talk about flying over the Pole in aeroplanes !"

The irony of it all..

Amundsen died in a plane crash in the summer of 1928, while attempting to rescue his friend Nobile, who had been lost in a dirigible crash in the Arctic (Nobile was found by another search crew). Amundsen disappeared on June 18, 1928, with his French flight crew; Amundsen's body was never found. Amundsen was 55 years old when he died.

"You Know I Cherish No Sentimental Rubbish About Remarriage"

She married the Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Scott, R.N., on 2 September 1908, and a year later gave birth to their son Peter Scott, ("I know you will keep him in the open air")who became famous in broadcasting, ornithology, painting, conservation ("Make the boy interested in natural history if you can")and sport. In 1910, she accompanied her husband to New Zealand to see him off on his journey to the South Pole. A biographer of the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen has suggested that, in her husband's absence, she began a brief affair with Nansen, the mentor of Scott's rival Amundsen.[3] In February 1913, while sailing back to New Zealand to greet Scott on his return, she learned of his death in Antarctica in March 1912.

In 1922, she married the politician Edward Hilton Young. Her second son, Wayland Hilton Young (1923–2009) was a writer and politician. Her grandchildren include Emily Young, artist, and Louisa Young, writer.