How did Shackleton rescue his crew from the Elephant Island?

               In the Elephant Island, Shackleton’s party divided into two. Twenty one men were asked to stay back on the island. Shackleton left the island with five chosen rowers, to find a way out and to come back and rescue the members stranded on the Elephant Island.

               Shackleton braved the Southern Ocean for 16 days. Soon, they made a landfall. Unfortunately, three members of the party were too sick and exhausted to continue. Shackleton and the two others climbed the icy mountains. At last they reached their destination on South Georgia Island. Shackleton succeeded in chartering a steamship to rescue his men.

               On 30th August 1916, Shackleton managed to return to the Elephant Island. And he rescued his men from the Elephant Island. 

What were the hardships faced by Shackleton and his expedition to Antarctica?

              Ernest Shackleton set out on the ‘Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition’ in 1914. The expedition faced terrible hurdles throughout the journey. Their ship ‘Endurance’ became beset in the ice of the Weddell Sea on the way. He and his crew were forced to spend the whole of the 79 days of the winter there. Finally, the crew was forced to abandon the ship, because it was about to be crushed by the ice.

               However, they had saved a large quantity of food and gear, as well as their three boats. For three months the ice floes took them further to the north. Food shortage became acute as weeks passed. They caught seals and ate their meat. So they could conserve the remaining packaged rations. The most dangerous thing was the cracking up of ice. Sometimes, huge killer whales charged up from below, and sought to attack them.

               Later, Shackleton found that instead of making good progress westwards, they had actually travelled 48 kilometres to the east, as a result of the drifting ice. However, they finally made a landfall on an uninhabited island known as the Elephant Island. 

Why was Ernest Shackleton’s voyage remarkable?

               Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton was an Irish born polar explorer who led three British expeditions to the Antarctic.

               In 1901, Shackleton joined his first expedition to the Antarctic. Unfortunately, he was sent home early due to bad health, after he, and his companions Scott and Edward Adrian Wilson set a new southern record by marching to latitude 82°S.

               In 1914, he set off on his own expedition to Antarctica. Shackleton was in a race with Roald Amundsen to reach the South Pole. The race ended in December 1911, with Roald Amundsen’s conquest.

               Shackleton later planned a voyage to the South Pole, and while returning, he wanted to pick a different route to the Ross Sea, and thus, become the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

               To this end, he made preparations for what became the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. On 1st August 1914, Shackleton departed London on the ship ‘Endurance’ for his voyage to the South Pole. There were unimaginable hurdles throughout the voyage, which Shackleton overcame with his will power, and leadership quality. 

Who was Robert Peary?

            Robert Edwin Peary, an American explorer, known for his discovery of the geographic North Pole, was one of the greatest polar explorers. Peary made several expeditions to the Arctic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Peary was one of the first Arctic explorers to study Inuit survival techniques, which he used to his great benefit.

            After many failed attempts, Peary decided to set out on a final voyage. Peary and 23 men set off from New York City on 6th July 1908, under the command of Captain Robert Bartlett.

            They spent their winter near Cape Sheridan on Ellesmere Island. He reached the North Pole with his expedition on 6th April 1909. But, it is now suspected that he might have been 48 to 96 kilometres short of the Pole, but is still credited with the achievement.

            His success is widely disputed today, but his effort was noteworthy. Peary was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral in the Navy Civil Engineer Corps on 6th April 1909, and retired the same day.

            Admiral Robert Peary died in the US, on 20th February 1920. 

Why is it said that Robert Scott’s voyage to the South Pole was a disaster?


               Robert Scott, a British Royal Navy officer and explorer, led two expeditions to the Antarctic region, at the same time as Amundsen.

               Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott took on a gripping race through danger to reach the South Pole. Amundsen reached the South Pole on 14th December, and became the first person to reach the South Pole. Robert Scott reached his destination on 17th January, only to see Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian flag waving their gloriously. However, Robert Scott’s return journey turned out to be a catastrophe, as they were too late to travel because of the deteriorating weather conditions.

               Robert Scott and his entire crew froze to death. Scott is presumed to have died on 29th March 1912. Eight months later, a search party found the bodies, which were buried under the base tent. News of Scott’s death reached the world on the 10th of February, 1913.

               After confirming the legend’s death, the British government recognized him as a national icon.

               However, the reasons behind the fate of Robert Scott and his team were identified as lack of polar knowledge and poor planning skills.


Why is it said that Roald Amundsen’s South Pole expedition was a secret mission?

               Amundsen planned to sail to the North Pole, and explore the Arctic Basin. But, later he decided to reroute to Antarctica. He kept this as a secret from everyone except his brother, who knew that Amundsen was heading to the South Pole, instead to the North.

               Roald Amundsen even made his crew believe they were embarking on an Arctic voyage, and revealed their destination only when the expedition was leaving their last port of call.

               He set up his Antarctic base in the Bay of Whales, on the Great Ice Barrier. The base was 96 kilometres closer to the Pole than the base of the English explorer Robert Scott, who was heading a British expedition at the same time. But Amundsen was more skilful and he used skis and sledge dogs which ensured rapidness. Robert Scott used Siberian ponies, instead of sledge dogs but they failed to brave the weather. 

How did Roald Amundsen cross the North-West Passage?


               Roald Amundsen, from Norway, is one of the world’s most famous polar explorers. He was the first person to sail through the North-West Passage which is the seaway across the Arctic, linking the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

               When Amundsen and his crew progressed through the dangerous course and passed through the North-West Passage, they realized that they had navigated the much sought after North-West Passage. They sighted a whaling ship from San Francisco there.

               Amundsen and his crew were jubilant as they crossed the passage, which had defeated so many seamen for many centuries before them. The Gjoa, Amundsen’s ship, became the first vessel to transit the passage.

               However, more struggles were ahead, as they continued their voyage. His ship got trapped in the ice again. However, the Gjoa passed through the Bering Straits in 1906, and only then could Roald Amundsen claim to be the first to navigate the North-West Passage. 

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.