Why is it said that Roald Amundsen’s second expedition had a scientific purpose?

                 To obtain strong financial backing for the next expedition, Roald Amundsen came up with a scientific purpose - to determine the North Magnetic Pole. But the expedition was mainly in search of the North-West Passage.

                 In 1903, Amundsen set out from Christiania with a crew of six. The ship passed through the west coast of Greenland, Baffin Island, and Canada. The expedition had to put in strenuous efforts to overcome the hurdles of ice flows, fog and shallow water. They made their first landfall at a natural harbour on King William Island. The expedition stayed there for two years to do research, and to build observatories.

                 After two years, they left the island, and travelled to their destination. They had highly accurate instruments to determine the North Magnetic Pole. They included observations of such high accuracy that they provided the experts on polar magnetism with sufficient data.

                Unfortunately, it was later found that Amundsen never reached the real North Magnetic Pole as it had moved about 48 kilometres to the north of where he thought it was. However, the fact that the pole had been moving was of huge scientific significance. 

Who was Roald Amundsen? Why is it said that he was a man of exceptional willpower?

               Roald Amundsen, born in 1872 near Oslo, Norway, left his mark on the ‘Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration’ as one of the most successful polar explorers of all time. He was the first to reach the South Pole, on 14th December 1911. He was also the first to make a ship voyage through the North-West Passage, and one of the first to cross the Arctic by air.

               From his childhood days, Amundsen aspired to become an explorer. But his parents forcibly sent him for medical studies. After the death of his parents Amundsen decided to pursue his ambition.

               At first he was appointed in a ship sailing on a Belgian-financed Antarctic expedition led by the polar explorer Adrien de Gerlache de Gomery. On the way, the expedition got trapped in ice. They were stranded for 13 months, and most of the crew members contracted scurvy. The captain also fell ill. Amundsen, as first mate, took over the command.

               He ordered to catch seals and penguins for food. He also came up with the idea of making warm clothes out of woollen blankets. Thus the expedition survived the extreme winter. 

Why is it said that the third voyage of Sir John Franklin was fateful?

               The British ‘North-West Passage Expedition’ of 1845 was proposed by the Admiralty in February. The two ships allocated to the expedition, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, left England on 19th May 1845. The expedition wintered at Beechey Island, and then they sailed southwards along the western side of Cornwallis Island.

               Later, they continued to the Victoria Strait, where three young sailors died. Initially it was thought that the sailors died of extreme weather conditions, but later it was discovered that they died of lead poisoning from canned food. The young sailors were buried on the King William Island.

              The expedition gradually started meeting a terrible fate. The ice did not melt in the spring; they were trapped in the ice for 18 months. They ran out of food and supplies. John Franklin died in June 1847. The ice bound ships were abandoned and the entire crew perished from starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning and scurvy.

               The dreadful fate of Sir John Franklin and his crew prevented any further exploration to the north for many years. 

Who was Sir John Franklin?

            Sir John Franklin was a naval officer and Arctic explorer. He was born on 16th April 1786 in Spilsby, England. Franklin entered the Royal Navy at the age of fourteen.

            In 1821, Franklin was ordered to chart the northern shoreline of Canada. It became the first expedition to map large sections of the Arctic seaboard.

            He led another expedition in 1825. The expedition took two routes from Mackenzie Delta. One ventured east to map as far as the Coppermine River while Franklin led the other west toward Alaska.

            He is best known for leading his third, the tragic 1845 expedition, to find the North-West Passage. It was in the year 1844 British Admiralty planned an expedition to the North-West Passage. Although Franklin was in his late fifties, he campaigned hard to lead the expedition. The Admiralty gave him command in February 1845. It is said to be the most technologically advanced polar expedition at that time.

            This expedition is remembered in history as one of the most tragic expeditions ever. All the sailors perished on that voyage, including Sir John Franklin despite being close to discovering the elusive sea route through the Canadian north. 

When did polar exploration become frequent?

               The mapping of the world was almost finished before 1800. Almost every nook and corner of the world had been discovered and charted, except for some of the most inhospitable parts of the world.

               In the 18th and 19th centuries, both the British and Dutch remained curious about the North-West Passage. They tried to find out the lands across the North-West Passage. In 1741, Christopher Middleton attempted to find the Passage with two ships, but the expedition was a failure.

               In 1773, under the leadership of Horatio Nelson, a British, an expedition reached much nearer to North Pole.

               In the 18th century, the last serious attempt was James Cook’s abortive expedition of 1778 when he successfully passed through the Bering Straits. Unfortunately, he had to reroute due to sea ice.

               Throughout the 19th century, polar exploration dominated popular culture in Europe and America. The major goals of the 19th century exploration were the discovery of the North-West Passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via a northern route and reaching the North Pole. 

What made the Galapagos Island a treasure island for Charles Darwin?

               The flora and fauna of the Galapagos Island gave Darwin crucial information about the evolution of life.

               The Galapagos Island was home to an amazing array of animal species. The Galapagos Island had a special kind of tortoise, which came to be known as the giant tortoise. Interestingly, the appearance of these tortoises varied from island to island. Darwin observed that the tortoises living on more arid islands had to stretch their necks to reach branches of cactus and other vegetation. Consequently, they had longer necks, and a high peak to the front edges of their shells.

               Then he studied finches, a type of birds, known for their remarkable diversity in beak form and function. The food supplies differed on each island, and the beaks of the finches were adapted to the islands on which they lived. These were the key pieces of information that helped Darwin to formulate his theory of adaptation.

               On his return journey, Darwin started to write ‘The Origin of Species’. It introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection.


Why is it said that fossil findings made Charles Darwin’s voyage significant?

               During the first two years of the expedition, Darwin collected several fossil mammals from Argentina and Uruguay. It was in the cliffs near Punta Alta, that Darwin recovered his first fossil bones. It was of a large extinct mammal. He sent all the specimens to his mentor, John Stevens Henslow.

               A fossil tooth helped Darwin to identify the little-known Megatherium. Megatherium was a genus of elephant-sized ground sloths, endemic to South America. These findings later helped Darwin in formulating the theories about evolution of life.

               Darwin was interested in geology too and he studied volcanic rock formations intently. He was surprised to find the fossils of sea creatures at high altitudes, or thousands of metres above sea level. This led to his exploring further into the realities of natural disaster.

               During this voyage Darwin was witness to a severe earthquake in Chile on 20th February, 1835 which was claimed to be the largest earthquake ever recorded in Chile. Thus the voyage was eventful as well as significant. 

What was the main purpose of Charles Darwin’s expedition?

               The British admiralty decided to chart the islands around Cape Horn. Captain Robert FitzRoy was ordered to command the voyage. Charles Darwin was offered the chance to join Robert FitzRoy.

               The fleet set sail from Plymouth in Southern England, with a crew of 73, on 27th December 1831 on HMS Beagle. As the ship’s naturalist, he thoroughly enjoyed every occasion for exploration. He studied natural history, and discovered many new life forms.

               As the ship proceeded to Tierra del Fuego, the main object of the expedition commenced- charting of the islands around Cape Horn. The expedition rounded the Cape Horn to discover a new passage, which was later named ‘Beagle Passage’. It was a picturesque long straight channel that offered an alternative, but slower route from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

               Darwin explored the glorious mountainous region around the passage. Interestingly, he never thought that he would make iconic scientific discoveries during the voyage.

               Interestingly, Darwin became seriously ill on the way, as he suffered from seasickness.

Why James Cook is considered the greatest of all maritime explorers?

               James Cook was an intelligent and skilful navigator, and his maps and charts were so well prepared and exemplary that some of them were used even after his death. His wise and amiable character endeared him to everyone, including his crew members, and the natives of the lands he visited.

               He was the first captain to know his position on the surface of the globe within a few nautical miles. He was an excellent disciplinarian, and always commanded respect from his men.

               He always had a great appetite for knowledge. He was much more scientific than many explorers of his time. He was the first sailor to use a nautical almanac and chronometer during an expedition. He even took a professional astronomer to enable him to calculate his longitude from the observations of the Moon. Cook is also remembered for navigating by latitude and longitude.

               Cook was the first sailor to find an apt remedy for scurvy. He knew that shortage of vitamin-rich food was the main reason behind scurvy. He stocked up fresh fruits and vegetables in his ship, and collected more from the islands he visited on the way. 

What was the purpose of Captain Cook’s third and last voyage?

            James Cook’s third and last voyage was to find the North-West Passage around the American continent. The Passage which was supposed to open more convenient trade routes was believed to link the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

            Cook commanded the HMS Resolution, while another Captain Charles Clerke, commanded the HMS Discovery. Cook travelled north, and in 1778, became the first European to explore the Hawaiian Islands. After making his initial landfall on the island Kauai, Cook named the islands the Sandwich Islands, after the Earl of Sandwich, because at the time, the Earl was the acting First Lord of the Admiralty.

            Cook made his next landfall on what is today the Oregon coast. Then he sailed on to Vancouver Island and did trading with the natives. In a single visit, Cook charted the majority of the North American north-west coastline.

            By August 1778, Cook was through the Bering Strait, sailing into the Chukchi Sea. Later, he sailed further to reach Alaska, but couldn’t continue due to sea ice. Cook returned to Hawaii in 1779. Cook was killed in Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii on 14th February 1779, in a dispute with the natives.


Why is it said that Cook’s second voyage was as significant as the first one?

               Captain Cook’s second voyage was to find out whether Terra Australis really existed or not.

               On his first voyage, he discovered the southeast coast of Australia. On the same trip, he also mapped them. However, the ‘hypothetical’ Terra Australis still remained an unsolved mystery. Shortly after his return from the first voyage, Cook was promoted to the rank of commander.

               Later he was commissioned for a second voyage. Cook commanded the HMS Resolution on this voyage. During this voyage, he became the first explorer to sail into the Antarctic Circle. He circumnavigated Antarctica at the very limits of the ice shelf. But he did not make a landfall on the mainland of Antarctica, as he had to sail towards Tahiti to resupply his ship.

               Cook visited Easter Island, the Marquesas, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, and the Tonga Isles. Cook was able to find these comparatively smaller lands in the Pacific, and to map them. After sailing through all its likely locations, Cook confirmed that there was no land called Terra Australis.

               Thus, Cook became the first to officially prove that the existence of Terra Australis was a myth. 

What was the significance of James Cook’s first voyage?

            The main purpose of Captain James Cook’s first voyage was to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun. It was at the behest of the Royal Society.

            Captain Cook set on this expedition from England on 26th August 1768. Those on board included the astronomer Charles Green and botanist Joseph Banks.

            The expedition rounded Cape Horn, and arrived at Tahiti on 13th April 1769, where Charles Green observed the transit of Venus across the Sun.

            Captain Cook then reached the south-eastern coast of Australia. Thus, he became the first recorded European to explore the coastline of Australia.

            He made his first recorded direct observation of indigenous Australians. The fleet made its first landfall at Kurnell Peninsula. Cook called the land ‘Stingray Bay’, which was later, renamed the Botany Bay. However, on the return journey, Cook’s ship ran aground on a shoal of the Great Barrier Reef, and became badly damaged.


Who was Captain Cook?

               James Cook or Captain Cook was a British navigator, who mapped much of the South Pacific. He made three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, during which he became the first recorded European to explore the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands.

               James Cook was born on 7th November 1728 in Marton, United Kingdom. His father was a Scottish farmer. Cook did his schooling in the village school. Young Cook used to help his father with farm work. During his teenage days, Cook began to get lured to the sea. At the age of 17, Cook moved to the coast, settled in Whitby, and found work with a coal merchant. He worked in the North Sea coal trade for John Whitby, and he proved himself to be an exceptional sailor. In 1755, Cook enlisted in the Royal Navy. He served in North America where he learnt to survey and chart coastal waters.

               He was a very fine seaman, and an excellent commander. In 1768, the British admiralty sent out an expedition, choosing Cook as the commander.

               The expedition was to witness a rare event, visible only in the southern hemisphere -the transit of Venus across the Sun.


Why is it said that the Dutch voyages witnessed many more discoveries?

               After leaving New Zealand, Abel Tasman sailed towards the north.

               He made a landfall on the southernmost island of the Tonga group, named Tongatapu. He received a cordial welcome from the islanders, and enjoyed their good hospitality. The amiable natives stocked his ships with food and fresh water.

               Later, as he sailed further, Tasman discovered the Fiji Islands. Nearing Fiji, he had to encounter one of the greatest dangers of the Pacific islands. He had to get his ships off a coral reef, with sharp rocks, to make a landing.

               He charted the eastern tip of Vanua Levu and Cikobia before making his way back into the open sea. During the difficult return journey to his starting point at Batavia, he still made a few discoveries. He located two more islands, which he named New Britain and New Ireland. He had mapped everything in detail.

               Tasman’s voyage was absolutely remarkable. He had started and ended his voyage in Batavia, which was a tremendous advantage for him, compared to other European explorers. 

Why is Abel Tasman’s entry into the straits between the islands of New Zealand significant?


          Tasman was the first European explorer to sight New Zealand. This finding led to the discovery of an alternative route to Chile, South America, and Cape Horn.

          Tasman called New Zealand ‘Staten Landt’, meaning land of the State General. He was convinced that it stretched all the way to Cape Horn, and that it joined up with another land discovered earlier by his countrymen.

          While on his voyage, Abel Tasman sighted a landmass, which he thought as the great continent in the south. He made a landfall there.

          Unfortunately, the local population called ‘Maori’ came out to the shore with weapons raised to defend their territory. In the skirmish, four of Tasman’s men were killed. Hence, Tasman named the land ‘Murderers Bay’.

          Tasman left the place without exploring the land further and it was also one of the reasons why Tasman did not discover that New Zealand consisted of two islands.