Norway’s Forgotten Polar Explorer Rediscovered

Extracts from a UK-AHT media release

 

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'Don't go looking for Antarctica without this book.' - Susan Solomon

 

 

Antarctica conjures up images of Amundsen racing Captain Scott to the South Pole, but over 10 years before that another group of Antarctic explorers showed the way – these are Norway’s forgotten men.

This important part of Norway’s polar history began on 24 January 1895 when a shore party from the Norwegian whaling and sealing ship Antarctic landed at Cape Adare at the western entrance to the Ross Sea in Antarctica. This was the first confirmed landing on the Antarctic continent.

Less than 5 years later one of these men, Carsten Egeberg Borchgrevink (1864-1934), returned as the leader of what became known as the Southern Cross Expedition 1899-1900. Although funded by British publishing magnate Sir George Newnes, this expedition and most of its members were Norwegian.

Borchgrevink and his men constructed the first buildings in Antarctica and became the first to winter-over there. Sadly the expedition biologist, Nicolai Hanson, died in the spring of 1899. He was buried in a lonely grave above the Cape; this became another ‘Norwegian first’ - the first grave in Antarctica.

The expedition returned to civilization after making many valuable discoveries. One of these discoveries was the bay (later named The Bay of Whales or Hvalbukta) that 10 years later was to become the site of Roald Amundsen’s base ‘Framheim’. It was from here that he won the race to the South Pole. Nothing now remains of ‘Framheim’, so when the centenary of Amundsen’s achievement is celebrated in 2011 Norway will have only Cape Adare as a focus point for its Antarctic heritage.

Borchgrevink’s huts at Cape Adare were prefabricated by Strømmen Trevarefabrikk and they still stand at this lonely location as a tribute to Norwegian timber, design and construction. Inside can be found supplies and equipment left by the expedition - many important artefacts that must be preserved. Unsurprisingly wind and weather are destroying these icons of Norwegian history. However, Antarctic Heritage Trust, an international not-for-profit organisation which cares for this site, together with three other sites associated with the other great polar heroes Captain Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton, has established the Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project.

Launched by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, this is a long-term conservation project to ensure that these sites remain for future generations. All four sites are listed on the US World Monuments Fund 2008 List of 100 Most Endangered Sites in the World. The project enjoys support from organisations such as the Getty Foundation and is supported by the New Zealand, British, Irish and Norwegian Governments.

In 2006 the Norwegian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, through the Directorate for Cultural Heritage, Riksantikvaren, has pledged a grant of Kr 300,000 to assist AHT’s conservation work on Borchgrevink’s hut at Cape Adare, and some of the funds have been used to produce a new bi-lingual website with the aim of making Norwegians more aware of their very important history and heritage at Cape Adare. Funding from the Norwegian Government is also being used to fund the detailed planning required for the conservation of the site at Cape Adare. The Trust is currently campaigning to raise the necessary funds to undertake the conservation work. More information can be found at their website www.nzaht.org.

On 13 November 2006 an event was held in Oslo, on the deck of the famed ship Fram, where Borchgrevink’s granddaughter had the honour of launching the bilingual website www.norgesglemteoppdager.org and www.norwaysforgottenexplorer.org. Descendants of some of the forgotten explorers were also in attendance, along with members of Norway’s polar community, Norwegian and New Zealand government agencies and some of Norway’s more recent polar explorers and adventurers.

Chairman of the NZ-AHT, Rt Hon Paul East, said ‘the website is intended to inspire and inform Norwegians of this forgotten expedition, forgotten men and their forgotten legacy that remains in Antarctica.’

 

 

 

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