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Famous Outdoor Expeditions to Antarctica!

Roald Amundsen (1872-1928)

The original goal of Norwegian polar explorer and self-proclaimed "last of the Vikings," Roald Amundsen, was to be the first man in history to ever successfully reach the North Pole. This, unfortunately, was a goal that he did not reach as Robert Peary, a United States Navy engineer and explorer, claimed to have reached the North Pole in 1909. Adjusting his plans, Amundsen secretly made plans to reach the South Pole and began his journey in 1910. At the onset of his journey, the majority of his crew were unaware that he was not headed to the North Pole. It wasn't until his ship the Fram was well into the journey that he revealed his true plans. In his journey, he was in direct competition with British explorer Robert Scott. Amundsen successful reached the South Pole by dog sled on December 14, 1911 where he raised the Norwegian flag. Reaching the South Pole was not the only accomplishment made by Amundsen in his lifetime. Prior to his journey to the South Pole, he had successfully traveled the dangerous Northwest Passage, a journey which took him three years. In 1926 Amundsen and a small crew of people flew across the Arctic in a semi-rigid airship called the Norge. Two years later, Roald Amundsen's plane crashed in the Arctic Ocean as he searched for a friend and fellow explorer.

Richard E. Byrd (1888-1957)

On May 9, 1926, United States Naval Officer and Antarctic explorer Richard E. Byrd claimed to have navigated the first plane over the North Pole. Byrd and his pilot Floyd Bennett, claimed to have flown their plane, a Fokker F-VII named Josephine Ford, 15-1/2 hours round trip from Spitsbergen, Norway. Although he was highly celebrated and even presented with a Medal of Honor for his accomplishment, there has been much controversy as to whether the Josephine Ford ever actually reached the North Pole. In 1929 he flew over the South Pole.

James Cook (1728 - 1779)

British explorer James Cook was both an astronomer and an explorer. His travels took him to various locations around the world. He had three main voyages, with the last ending in his death. Prior to exploring Antarctica and the Easter Islands, Cook traveled to Tahiti in a journey that lasted from 1769 to 1771. During this expedition he was able to map Australia and New Zealand and also observe Venus passing between the Sun and the Earth. In 1772, Cook began his second voyage, headed toward the Antarctic, but was unable to endure the cold. His second journey ended in 1775. During his travels he successfully came up with a way to help prevent his crew from dying from scurvy. He did this by providing them with fresh fruit and, as a result, became the first captain to put a stop to scurvy. In 1779, Cook was killed while in Hawaii. He had traveled to the islands after an unsuccessful attempt to find a passage that linked the Atlantic and Pacific, called the North-West Passage. His death by stabbing was in response to his attempt to kidnap a chief in retaliation for a stolen boat.

Ranulph Fiennes (1944-)

In response to his many discoveries and records in exploration, Sir Ranulph Fiennes has been called the world's greatest living explorer by The Guinness Book of World Records. Through the course of his career he has led expeditions to both the North and the South Poles, and to other locations around the world. He has accomplished a number of firsts throughout his career, such as leading the first polar axis circumnavigation of the world in 1982. In addition, he also made the first trek across Antarctica in 1993. This crossing of Antarctica was unsupported, and it is currently also the longest unsupported journey of its kind. He counts the discovery of the lost city of Ubar in 1992 as one of his achievements. Fiennes is also the recipient of numerous rewards dating from 1968 to the present.

Hillary, Edmund (1919-2008)

Sir Edmund Hillary was a polar adventurer, a mountain climber, and an author. During his time in Antarctica, which occurred between 1955 and 1958, he led the Trans-Antarctic expedition for the New Zealand section. He traveled to the South Pole in 1958 using a tractor which was the first expedition using vehicles. Most of his accomplishments were for mountain climbing. In 1953, he and a mountaineer from Nepal were the first to reach the Mount Everest summit and in 1967 he climbed Mt. Herschel. Books written by Hillary include The Crossing of Antarctica in 1958 and No Latitude for Error in 1961.

Douglas Mawson (1882-1958)

Australian geologist Douglas Mawson was an explorer known for discovering the Australian Antarctic Territory. His likeness is on the Australian $100 bill and stamps. Early in Mawson's career the opportunity for geological investigation found him joining the British Antarctic Expedition from 1907 to 1909. In 1908, he was one of the first people to climb Mount Erubus in Antarctica. From 1911 to 1914, he went on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. While participating in this expedition, Mawson led a three-man team on what was the Far Eastern Expedition and one of five sledge groups. Into their journey, one of the three men, including his dog team, sledge, the tent and most of the provisions, fell and disappeared through a broken crevasse. As a result, the remaining two men who began to make their way back along the over 300 miles that had been traveled from their base. Because of their lessened food supply, the men turned to their dogs as a source of nutrition. Due to the lack of proper food and the extreme circumstances of their situation, the second team member died, leaving Mawson alone, ill and exhausted. It took him thirty days walking 100 miles to return to his base, pulling his gathered specimens and half of his sled. He later wrote about his struggles in the book titled The Home of the Blizzard.

James Clark Ross (1800-1862)

James Clark Ross was an officer of the Royal Navy who explored both the North and South poles during his journeys. He began his service with the Royal Navy in 1812 as a young teenager, making his first journey to the Arctic Circle with his uncle, Sir John Ross. In 1831, he traveled with his uncle again, where they discovered the magnetic North Pole, the spot where the Earth's magnetic field points down instead of north. In 1839, he picked the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus for an expedition to Antarctica to find the magnetic South Pole. He chose these ships because they had very strong hulls and were more resistant to iceberg impacts than other vessels. Along the way, he discovered the 200 mile long Ross Ice Shelf, which he named the Victoria Barrier at the time. He also discovered an active volcano named Mount Erebus, and another one named Mount Terror, which he named after his ships. He did not discover the magnetic South Pole, but he did discover the Ross Island and Victoria Land. A number of other landmarks, including Ross Sea, were named in his honor. He was knighted Sir James Clark Ross in 1843.

Robert F. Scott (1868-1912)

In the race to reach the South Pole, Antarctic explorer and British naval officer Robert F. Scott found himself in direct competition with the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. Scott's first journey to reach the South Pole was unsuccessful, but he wanted to make a second attempt to reach the South Pole for Britain. During his second journey, Scott and his team were faced with treacherous weather conditions, such as temperatures reaching minus 23 degrees. This considerably slowed down their progress and by the time Scott reached the South Pole on January 16 1912, it was to discover that Amundsen had already arrived and left weeks earlier. On the return journey, Scott and the four men on his team took a turn for the worse. Members suffered from frostbite, exhaustion, and hunger as their food supply dwindled. Scott made entries in his diary to document the tragic condition of his team, including two of the deaths that occurred and his awareness of his and his remaining team member's impending deaths. His last entry was made on March 29, 1912. Eight months following that last entry, the bodies of Scott and two team members were found in a tent 11 miles from the Depot camp.

Ernest Henry Shackleton (1874-1922)

Ernest Henry Shackleton was born in Ireland in 1874 and eventually became a sailor at the age of 16. His first trip to the Atlantic was aboard the Discovery during the 1901-1904 Discovery Expedition, led by Captain Robert Scott. He was unable to complete this mission because of health issues. He made a second attempt to reach Antarctica when he led the Nimrod Expedition in 1907. During this expedition, he became the first explorer to climb Mount Erebus. In 1909, Shackleton and his expedition established a new Farthest South point in which they came closer to the South Pole than anyone had previously reached. Upon returning home, he was knighted Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton by King Henry VII. Shackleton made his third journey to Antarctica in 1914, which was called the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. When his ship the Endurance, sank in 1915, Shackleton and his crew struggled across several miles of unstable icebergs, fighting hunger along the way, in search of civilization. They met a whaling ship in 1916 and were rescued. Shackleton is famous for having not lost any crew member during this ordeal, including a stowaway named Perce Blackborrow, who had previously been rejected as a potential member of the crew. He later embarked on the Shackleton–Rowett Expedition in 1920, where he suffered a fatal heart attack and died in 1922.

James Weddell (1787-1834)

Born into poverty in 1787, James Weddell turned to sailing by the age of nine, working aboard a coal transport ship to make ends meet. Despite being charged with insubordination, he eventually achieved the rank of Master Mariner in 1812. In 1819 he became captain of the Jane, formerly a captured American vessel, and made a trip to Antarctica to hunt for seals. The trip turned out to be highly profitable, and it led to a second seal-hunting expedition in 1821, with a second ship called the Beaufoy. This time around his hunting grounds were overcrowded with seal hunters, and as a result seals were harder to find. His fleet found another hunting ground and returned home in July of 1821. The third voyage started in 1822, again with the Jane, and this time around Weddell established a new Farthest South point, beyond which no one would reach for over another 75 years. In 1823 James Weddell discovered what he called the Sea of George the Fourth, which would later be called the Weddell Sea. Unfortunately, they did not find enough seals for this third journey to be profitable, and after Weddell returned, he was beset with debts. In 1829 the Jane, still under his command, sank, and he lost all his fortunes. He died in poverty in 1834.

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