Carsten Egeberg Borchgrevink was born in Norway in 1864. In 1888
Borchgrevink migrated to Australia where, after four years of bouncing
around, he became a teacher. It appears safe to claim that Borchgrevink
had an inner passion for adventure and exploration. In 1893 he signed
on as a "generally useful hand" with the Norwegian sealing and whaling
expedition led by Henrik Johan Bull. Commander Leonard Kristensen
and the crew of the ANTARCTIC investigated whaling
possibilities throughout the sub-Antarctic islands and eventually
landed at Cape Adare on January 24, 1895. Over the course of these
two years they visited Tristan da Cunha, the Prince Edward Islands,
Îles Crozet, Îles Kerguelen, the Balleny Islands, Campbell
Island and Possession Island. The landing at Cape Adare was the
first confirmed landing on the Antarctic continental mainland.
Commercially, the expedition was a failure.
poor commercial results, many geological and botanical findings
tweaked the interest of the Australian Antarctic Committee, especially
that of Professor T. W. Edgeworth David. Both Bull and Borchgrevink
went on the lecture circuit in Melbourne and Sydney but could not
raise enough interest to finance a second expedition.
Falling on deaf
ears, Borchgrevink left for England. He presented his study to the
Geographical Congress in London which resulted in Dr. H. R. Mill
declaring "His blunt manner and abrupt speech stirred the academic
discussions with a fresh breeze of realism. No one liked Borchgrevink
very much at that time, but he had a dynamic quality and a set purpose
to get out again to the unknown South that struck some of us as
boding well for exploration". The British went on a campaign to
raise the necessary funds and support for a significant expedition
to the Antarctic. Meanwhile, Borchgrevink offered to lead a small
expedition of his own with the primary goal of finding the South
Magnetic Pole. In 1897 Borchgrevink returned to Australia to raise
funds for his private expedition. Unfortunately, his success was
limited as Australian interest was now with the Royal Geographical
Society, under the leadership of Sir Clements Markham, and their
large-scale plans. Never giving up, Borchgrevink turned to his employer,
wealthy British publisher Sir George Newnes, and persuaded him to
provide £40,000 for the small expedition. The Royal Geographical
Society was furious as the money donated by Newnes would have been
enough to "get the National Expedition on its legs".
went to work on his expedition by purchasing the POLLUX,
a 521-ton ship, which he renamed the SOUTHERN CROSS .
The ship left London on August 23, 1898 and arrived at Hobart, Tasmania
on November 28. They departed Hobart on December 19 and sailed for
43 days before sighting the Balleny Islands on January 12, 1899. They
crossed the Antarctic Circle on January 23 and on January 28 they
sighted one of the Russell Islands, first seen by James
Clark Ross in 1841. The SOUTHERN CROSS became caught
in the ice and it was not until February 14 that they broke free.
Three days later they sighted their landing place at Cape Adare.
of the scene before them: "Approaching this sinister coast for the
first time, on such a boisterous, cold and gloomy day, our decks
covered with drift snow and frozen sea water, the rigging encased
in ice, the heavens as black as death, was like approaching some
unknown land of punishment, and struck into our hearts a feeling
preciously akin to fear . . . It was a scene, terrible in its austerity,
that can only be witnessed at that extremity of the globe; truly,
a land of unsurpassed desolation".
began the next morning and were completed some ten days later. "Camp Ridley",
named after Borchgrevink's mother, was firmly established with prefabricated
huts. The wintering party consisted of ten men and 75 sledge dogs.
The average age of the wintering party was 27 years old. A number
of measurements were taken at the start and conclusive evidence
showed that the three Englishmen were, on average, taller, stronger
and heavier than the Norwegians while the two Finns, although small
in stature, were slim and capable of withstanding any amount of
winter arrived on May 15, various members of the party surveyed
the coast of Robertson Bay and collected specimens of birds, fish,
seals and penguins. Then the blizzards hit. On July 24 the huts
were nearly destroyed by fire as a candle left burning in a bunk
set the structure on fire. A great deal of damage occurred before
the flames were extinguished. On the night of August 31, Hanson,
Ellifsen and Bernacchi were nearly asphyxiated by coal fumes as
they slept. Coal had been left burning in the stove and luckily
Bernacchi woke up in time to throw open the door before they all
died. One of the Finns fell to the bottom of a crevasse. Fortunately
he had a knife with him and, by cutting toeholds in the ice, he
was able to climb out to safety. Hanson, the expedition's zoologist,
died on October 14.
The cause of his death
is still a mystery. He was buried at the top of Cape Adare and Bernacchi
wrote "There amidst profound silence and peace, there is nothing to disturb
that eternal sleep except the flight of seabirds. In the long dark winter
night, the brilliant and mysterious Aurora Polaris sweeps across
the sky and forms a glorious arc of light over the Cape and the grave.
In the summer the dazzling sunlight shines perpetually upon it".
On January 28, 1900
the SOUTHERN CROSS returned for the party and early in the
morning, while all were asleep, Captain Jensen knocked on the door, calling
"Post!" The first to winter over on the Antarctic mainland, Borchgrevink
and the crew sailed around the coast into the Ross Sea and towards the
Ross Ice Shelf. They landed on Possession Island and found the tin box
that was left there in 1895. They later landed at the foot of Mount Terror
where Borchgrevink and the captain narrowly escaped drowning when a tidal
wave, created by a huge calving of ice, nearly swept them to their death.
During their exploring
of the area, a number of botanical specimens were collected and magnetic
observations taken. The ice shelf had receded 30 miles since Ross first
visited. On February 16, Borchgrevink, Colbeck and one of the Finns set
out across the ice shelf and reached an estimated 78°50´S which
was the farthest south reached to that time.
It was getting late
in the season to be lingering in the area so they sailed onwards to Franklin
Island where they made magnetic observations and determined the South
Magnetic Pole to be much farther north and west than previously assumed.
From here they sailed north out of the Ross Sea and crossed the Antarctic
Circle on February 28, 1900.
expedition contributed significantly to the knowledge of Antarctica. But,
the reception received in England was poor, at best. At this time, all
eyes were turned upon Robert Falcon
Scott's upcoming voyage in 1901. Besides, the authorities were still
unhappy with his funding by a fellow countryman. Nevertheless, Borchgrevink
continued to lecture in England and Scotland and was finally made a Fellow
of the Royal Geographical Society. In 1902 he visited the United States
where the American Geographical Society held a dinner in his honor. Norway
also bestowed honors on their hero. He was created a Knight of St. Olaf
and later a Knight Daneborg. It was not until 1930 that the English finally
awarded Borchgrevink for his efforts when he was given the Patron's Medal
of the Royal Geographical Society. The President of the Society proclaimed
that "When the SOUTHERN CROSS returned, this Society was
engaged in fitting out Captain Scott to the same region, from which expedition
much was expected, and the magnitude of the difficulties overcome by Borchgrevink
were underestimated. It was only after the work of Scott's Northern Party
on the second expedition of 1912 . . . that we were able to realise the
improbability that any explorer could do more in the Cape Adare district
than Mr. Borchgrevink had accomplished. It appeared, then, that justice
had not been done at the time to the pioneer work of the SOUTHERN
CROSS expedition, which was carried out under the British flag
and at the expense of a British benefactor".
Carsten Egeberg Borchgrevink
made one more voyage, to the West Indies in 1902 to examine volcanic eruptions,
but for the remainder of his life he lived in Slimdal, Norway where he
was active in literary and sporting activities. He died in 1934.
on the Antarctic Continent: Being an Account of the British Antarctic
Expedition 1898-1900, by C. E. Borchgrevink.
the South Polar Regions, by Louis Bernacchi.
the Extraordinary History of Man's Conquest of the Frozen Continent,
by Reader's Digest.
the Last Continent, by Ian Cameron.
the Heroes Came: Antarctica in the 1890's, by T. H. Baughman.
the Great Explorers in Their Own Words, by Walker Chapman.
The White Continent,
by Thomas R. Henry.
Extraordinary History of Man's Conquest of the Frozen Continent, Second
Edition by Reader's Digest.
of Antarctic Expeditions and Related Historical Events, by Robert