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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.’