The Auckland Star: WITH WHICH ARE INCORPORATED The Evening News, Morning News and The Echo.
FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 1909. ANTARCTIC VOYAGES.
For the cause that Jacks assistance, ■For 'the wrong that 'rieeds resistance, Far the future in the distance. And the good tliat we con do.
It is too early yet to estimate the value of the scientific results secured by the Nimrod*s expedition; and for the moment the .public imagination is chiefly occupied by the fact that Lieutenant Shackleton and his comrades have succeeded in getting to a point much nearer the South Pole than ianybn lias ever got before. To reduce •within the narrow margin of a hundred miles th e distance still to bs travereed before the goal of all Antarctic exploration can be attained is iuiieed a wonderful achievement. But it rrnist not be .forgotten that the success or this last expedition has 'been due not more to the courage and determination of the .Nimidd's voyagers than to the efforts and Sacrifices of all their predecessors, and the present occasion affords a reasonable excuse for referring briefly to the attenjpts previously made by navigators und scientist* to solve the mysteries of (the Antarctic world. Early in the seventeenth century tile explorers ,and buccaneers who sailed the -Pacific and Indian Oceans were led by "curiosity to turn their course southward, but they were easily deterred by the "appearance of icebergs and the more terrible dangers of the. unknown. In the 17.th century the astronomer .Halley.succeeded in getting an expedition fitted "out to make scientific observations ia 'the southern seas as far as oOdeg S. fat.; and in .1738 a French voyager (Bouvet, who reached 54deg S. lat.) gave to the world the first approximately accurate description of the Antarctic ice. But that the information about Antarctica relied upon even by scientists was still largely legendary and fabulous, is evident from the extravagant stories of mineral wealth and beautiful scenery brought homo, by; •Kergiielen In 1772; and it was not till XTaptain Cook Inaugurated his wonderful merles of voyages to the "South Sea sfctiat any-cohsistent attempt wasiinade <to en- , "■cUre 'ae<j\i"rate ''observation -and reliable 3e£tt3piloh oJt ihwe inlioanlUble region*.
To underßlaaft ■ th« ofCook'ei expeditions, it- Mr-jrteessaiy ■ to remember! that oip to tfie of the 18th century it was generally Wlieved that the' South Pole was eurrouSded by a-igreat Antarctic Continent awaitoiig fexplbratioh. After Gbok had proved.'hifc ability' an'S 'cbui&gb. on a p'reliininairy voyage for, scientific purposes, lie was commis'sibne'd ■ by the Admiralty to settle once and for all the cfuestioa of the allegea Antarctic Continent, and between 1772 and 1775 he was almost continuously employed in navigating the Southern Pacific and Antarctic seas. On January 17thi 1773, he crossed the' Antarctio Circlei and tEoiigh he had the Satisfaction oi knowing thai Sβ was 'tie "first man to perform this tfekt, he was turned feck in lat. 67dcg. S. toy "a vast expanse of "solid fee, rising only about 18 feet above "the sea", but stretching with a perfectly uniform surface as far as the eye could reach." Returning i' 6 the -charge next -year Cook got as far south as Jldeg. lOmin., .but he was once again driven back by tfie ice, and by the lack of food and Other privations which even today assail the intrepid adventurers -who tempt the perils of Antarctica, fie made a third attempt, but fell back banned bhee more, and on his return, looking 'back on the hardships he had endured, he even committed himself to the assertion that ho one would ever push farther south than he had 'gone, ana that the Antarctic pole would remain for ever sealed in ice and unknown to man. Bui Cobk had at Feast the consolation of kho"wing that he had entirely exploded the old belief in a great Antarctic 'Continent, and for nearly a generation the world restedi content with this addition to Its Knowledge. ■However, early in the 19bh century, the keen competitioß between English and American sea captains engaged in whaling and sealing in the Pacific, turned the attention of the British and American Governments once more towards the Par South and ■its unsolved problems, and even the least enterprising and progressive of European countries joined in the quest. The Antarctic voyage of the Russian BcDingshausen was one of the greatest exploits of the age, .for though he did hot attain Cook's highest latitude he covered a greater area south of the Antarctic Circle than Cook himself, and •filially demonstrated the existence of a continuous open sea south of the 60th parallel. Another advance is marked by the -royage of George "Weddell, who, in 1523, reached 74deg. lomin. South latitude, thus beating Cook's record. A further step was uiade by the Enderby expeditions fitted out in 1839 by a .famous trading firm that from 1755 onward had paid careful attention to the Southern Pacific. These voyages are of interest to New Zealand, aa they showed .for the..first. ti.nie. that land existed due south of thie country Within the Antarctic Circle. But these spasmodic and disconnected attempts at exploration produced 'few results of permanent value. It was not till the interest of the scientific world was directed to terrestrial magnetism and kindred subjects early in the Victorian era that the work left unfinished by Cook was once more systematically taken up. It was not till 1837 that careful observations had made it possible to calculate the variations in the earth's magnetic force—the declination of the needle from the true north, the inclination of the needle to the horizon, and the total intensity of the magnetic attraction. The investigations of Gauss had placed the subject on a firm scientific basis, and in 1837 the Royal Geographical Society decided to fit out a"n expedition to take complete magnetic observations in the Antarctic world. And s6 we come to the epoch-making voyage of Sir James Eoss, who -in the -Erebus *nd the Terror reached a point which for more than half a. century marked the utmost limit of man's progress towafd the southern pole. About the same time the French expedition under D'Urville and the American expedition -under Wilkessefc otii with the same purpose, but neither of these achieved the came success as the British exploration. Robs was admirably fitted forhia work, as he bad a eouud scientific •training, and he had already had considerable experience in the Arctic regions, where he had located 'the north magnetic .pole. After getting well beyond 76deg S. lat., the Erebus and the Terror were turned back by the wall of ice "as impossible.to sail through as the straits of ■Dover," end though the exact point of extreme inclination was fixed, the south magnetic pole could not bo reached from the sea. In spite of this disappointment the scientific work done by lioes was of great value, -and .the highest latitude he reached—7Bdeg Oinin S.—remained for 60 years the extreme outpost of man's advance toward'the Pole. For a generation after Eoss returned from bis last voyage the scientific world, occupied ivito other and more pressing problems, directed very little attention towards the Antarctic regions. At last, in 1872, the British Admiralty, anxious to obtain "a physical as well as a biological survey of all the oceans," fitted out the Challenger expedition to explore the Antarctic regions. Ho attempt was made to .penetrate very far beyond the Antarctic Circle, and the interest of the voyage was chiefly in its scientific results, Which I were of great and permanent Value. So J varied and important was the material secured by the Challenger that scientists of all classes turned toward Antarctica as a fertile field for investigation, and for I tlte last thirty years Antarc- J tic exploration has thus been syste- ! matically directed towards scientific ends. I One of the most notable of the subse- ! rj'uent expeditions was the voyage of the ! JJclgjca, which in 1809 reached 71deg I couth, aad secured extremely important ■scientific observations. Th'en canie sßbrchgrevihelc?s expedition ,in ihe South-: ■crn Cross, 'memorable -tottt only'for reaching itho "furthest eowth" point y«fc *t-
talned—7ftJe|. 21«ilS-^-buii'fer the fact' that- this was the first feepTKlition that passed a'Afinter'in ••tire awful ; fi3aosdny ! o£ the Antarctic, wight. \Vith the more recent efforfe a-t polar exploration, our readers Should be familiar,'and it & Sufficient to remarjc that the -Discovery expedition in 1902 got- as far south as' 82deg VTmin, Which was expected to mark ithe fl'o'tfth'ern boundary bl exploration for some .time to come. However; Lieut. Shaokleton and his party have, far -eur■paseied this record, and ft Should be a source oi gratification, to all Englishmen that their country gtill hold's pride of place in the long musrteT role of intrepid Vbyagers wKo in -the <&iiee of knowledge or for IbVe di -adveilttrre have 'io often imperilled their livee in the -Aht j arctic s"eae.