Before the Heroes Came: Antarctica in the 1890s

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Overview

Although the Antarctic ice pack and some off-shore islands had been sighted and even landed upon briefly as early as the 1820s, it was not until an eccentric Anglo-Norwegian explorer, Carsten E. Borchgrevink, went ashore in 1895 that a human set foot on the Antarctic continent. Borchgrevink, snubbed by the British establishment, had stolen a march on several planned competing expeditions from Germany and Scandinavia. Borchgrevink returned to Antarctica in 1899 with a party that was the first to winter over on the continent. Regrettably, bad weather and unscalable mountains limited their forays inland. Borchgrevink's survival was proof that with adequate supplies, the Antarctic winter was survivable, and that with a better geographic position, the enormous unknown of the continent could be investigated. Borchgrevink galvanized the British geographical authorities, who had come to consider polar exploration their exclusive province. Led by Sir Clements Markham of the Royal Geographic Society, the British keenly felt this blow to their national pride delivered by an explorer they regarded as an arrogant upstart. The RGS pushed forward with its plans, and a tragic competition to be the first to reach the South Pole was set in motion between the British and the Scandinavians. This work is an account of the first tentative human gropings in Antarctica, and concentrates on the coalescing of official and popular attitudes that later resulted in the polar races of Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen, which dominate the story of the "Heroic Era" of Antarctic exploration, from 1901 to 1922.
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Editorial Reviews

Choice

"A history of human experience in the [Antarctic] in the second half of the 19th century . . . There was courage, of course, a good deal of romanticism, vanity, competition, spitefulness, and other entirely human qualities displayed by these early visitors. . . . [The book] is very well written, as well as good history."—Choice
Science

"A long overdue appreciation of . . . pioneering ventures in the far south. . . . A well-researched book that gives a fresh picture of the personalities and influences behind exploration in the late 19th century."—Science
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803261631
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author


T. H. Baughman is chair of the History Department at Benedictine College. He is the author of Pilgrims on the Ice: Robert Falcon Scott’s First Antarctic Expedition (Nebraska 1999).
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
1 The White Enigma 1
2 From Thought to Action 13
3 Lifting the White Shroud 23
4 No Way South 43
5 Toward the National Expedition, 1896-1899 61
6 The Interloper 77
7 Pilgrims on the Ice 90
8 Lessons Not Learned 114
Notes 123
Selected Bibliography 151
Index 155
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