Adventurous Facts About Antarctic Expeditions

Facts About Antarctic Expeditions That Prove Humans Love Adventure

Chilling Facts That Prove How Dangerous Antarctica Is

Things to Know About Antarctica Before Booking Your Trip

Chilling Facts About Antarctica Expeditions That Will Make You Question Adventures

Adventurous Facts About Antarctica Expeditions That Prove We Love Danger

Human exploration and discovery has been an exciting and enriching part of civilization through the centuries. There is no question that man insists on dominating this world and will go to the world’s edge to discover more land. Apart from selfish motives spawned by imperialism, there are explorers throughout the ages who risked their lives for the sake of adventure, and possibly to break new records as they trek into uncharted territory.

Expeditions into the strange and unforgiving lands of the forbidden continent, Antarctica, started in 1520 when Ferdinand Magellan became the first person to circumnavigate the globe and discovered the Magellan Strait at the tip of South America. Seamen soon began coming back to this new region, slowly mapping out islands before discovering the Antarctic Peninsula over the centuries. Click next to reveal the most adventurous facts about Antarctic expeditions that contain a whole map of world wonders.

International Research Stations in Antarctica

All the centuries of expeditions have not ended in settlements, but instead camps, bases and research stations. There are currently 80 active research stations representing 30 countries that are spread across the continent. The inhabitant population is relatively high, considering the harsh nature of the climate. During the summer season, there are about 4,000 working at the research stations, with only 1,000 who manage to survive the long, treacherous winter months.

The United States operates the southernmost research station at the South Pole, where their team conducts research in astrophysics, geophysics, meteorology and astronomical observations. Living in isolation offers no hope of outside help and is risky. In 1999, Dr. Jerri Nielsen discovered she had breast cancer and was forced to self-administer chemotherapy until she could be air lifted out months later. To learn what life is like at the southernmost tip of the world, click next for facts that will make you question life on Earth.

Life in Antarctica

The South Pole is especially unique because the Earth’s tilt causes six-month winters with no sun, and six-month summers, when the sun doesn’t set. This extreme condition starts with the sun rise on the autumnal equinox, followed by the sunset on the vernal equinox. The South Pole doesn’t need a solar time, since day and night each last six months. With perpetual nighttime, winter temperatures sink to -73°C (-99° F), and the conditions are further plagued by blizzards and gale force winds.

The strongest winds on record whipped in at 320 kph (200 mph), and generally airlifts are banned during winter for this reason. The unforgiving continent also hosts Dry Valleys, making the land with low humidity and moisture the driest place on Earth. The valleys are constantly dusted with dirt, since snow and ice have no chance of accumulating on the terrain. Click next to check out the first big venture.   

Captain Cook Crossed the Antarctic Circle

In 1773, Captain James Cook became the first person to cross the Antarctic Circle. Although he and his crew sailed around the whole continent, they hadn’t yet caught a glimpse of the mainland. The voyage took nearly a year to complete, since he was stopped by ice at several points and had to wait in New Zealand until the summer for clear passage. This record breaking discovery marked Cook’s second voyage; during this time, he also visited and named many Polynesian islands.

At this point in history, a myth from antiquity or Terra Australis Incognita was still highly entertained, which Cook debunked during his trip. The “unknown land of the South” was a hypothetical continent that many believed existed to balance out the land masses in the Northern hemisphere. Cook predicted the Antarctic land would be located in the middle of the ice barriers. Click next to reveal who discovered the mainland.

Mainland Antarctica Wasn’t Seen Until 1820

Despite numerous excursions sailing around the Antarctic and island discoveries, it wasn’t until 1820 that the mainland of Antarctica was actually spotted. Russian explorer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen led the first Russian excursion and became the second to cross the Antarctic Circle. The aim of the voyage was to explore the Southern Ocean and find land in proximity to the South Pole. He discovered the mainland and got as close as 32 km (20 m) from the coast.

His discovery disproved Cook’s assertion that arriving onto land in Antarctica would be nearly impossible among the dense amount of ice fields. However, it wouldn’t be until 1838 when the United States Exploring Expedition took place and first set foot on the Antarctic Peninsula, which led to the discovery of the Shackleton ice shelf. For more on major expeditions, click next to learn about heroic feats at the cusp of the Industrial Revolution.

Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration

The Heroic Age marked the period of scientific and geographical exploration of Antarctica from the Industrial Revolution through World War 1. International efforts and financing were made to organize teams for 17 major expeditions. While these daring adventures led to important discoveries to map the uncharted continent, they were all dangerous ventures to say the least.

19 crew members lost their lives during the voyages, with four dying of illness and two perishing in a New Zealand accident. The Terra Nova Expedition of 1912 was the deadliest and killed all 6 men, most of the succumbing to starvation and cold at the Great Ice Barrier. The team led by Robert Falcon Scott succeeded at reaching the South Pole, but organization likely fell apart as they made their return. Their bodies and supplies left behind were first uncovered by a search party eight months later. Click next to learn about the Deep Lake.

 The Mystifying Case of Deep Lake

 In eastern Antarctica, Deep Lake is nestled around rocky terrain, and has been a part of the landscape for 3,500 years. After the ancient ice mass receded and the mainland of Antarctica rose above sea level, pockets of freshwater were left behind. Deep Lake is unique in several regards; it is the saltiest body of water on Earth and a whopping 10 times saltier than the oceans.

The lake sits 55 meters below sea level, which gives it an extreme crater-like depth. The deeper into the lake, the higher the saline concentration is. Because this extraordinary lake is extremely salty, it never freezes, despite dropping to temperatures of -20°C (-4°F) at its deepest point. Scientists are forever fascinated by this conundrum body of water, since it also has the scarcest ecosystem; the organisms swap genetic material so there’s little variety. If you think the Grand Canyon is big, click next for a record breaker.

The Grandest Canyon in the World

Although early excursions paved the way to the most important discoveries in Antarctica, it’s helpful to keep in mind that 91 percent of the continent is uncharted territory. With no maps and little exploration of the icy terrain, it’s expected that humans will still be making more discoveries for years to come. In 2016, a team of geologists just uncovered a massive subglacial lake and a series of canyons tucked into gigantic rifts.

From recent measurements, one of the canyons is predicted to be over twice as long as the Grand Canyon. However, this also means that the vast ice sheets are more unstable than originally thought, which may be attributed to current climate change. This evidence was revealed in the subtle changes in the ice sheets etch out a pattern indicating what may be beneath the surface. If you’re ready for more “firsts” in Antarctica, click next for the most epic trek.

The First South Pole Expedition

The race to Antarctica’s South Pole was a harrowing expedition for two teams in 1911. Unfortunately, the British team led by Robert Falcon Scott arrived second and later all perished on the return trip. Luckily for the Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen, they succeeded in reaching the South Pole before anyone else in the world and made a safe trip back to tell the tale.

This also was the first expedition team to make use of dogs and sledges on their voyage from the Great Barrier to the South Pole. On the way, they discovered the Axel Heiberg Glacier, which directed them across the vast Polar Plateau, and they were able to locate their destination at the South Pole. It took three days to declare the most precise location of the South Pole. They marked the destination with an actual pole for other parties. Click next for the largest mass of ice ever discovered.

Discovery of the Ross Ice Shelf

In 1841, Captain James Clark Ross led an expedition on the quest of reaching the Magnetic South Pole. His crew came across a humungous ice shelf, then called The Great Ice Barrier, as it prevented them from sailing further south. Captain Ross had previously located the Magnetic North Pole, but he searched for the Magnetic South Pole for two years in vain.

While looking for open water as an entry point to reach the mainland, the team ended up charting a large stretch of coastline. The Ross Ice Shelf soon became a starting point for excursions to reach the South Pole from. In 1953 the name was changed to Ross Ice Shelf and has since been measured to have an area that would roughly cover France. If you’re expecting things to get heated, click next for the only chance for rising above subzero temperatures.

Mount Erebus, the Southern-most Active Volcano

Ross Island is home to a chain of volcanoes, and three of them are inactive. Mount Erebus holds the record as the southern-most active volcano in the world and has been active since 1.3 million years ago. It also is the sixth highest ultra mountain on an island, referring to its prominent peak of just under 4,000 m (12,500 ft). Its summit also hosts a persistent lava lake, which has held liquid magma forever and isn’t deterred by Antarctica’s frigid conditions.

Mount Erebus is also the site of the 1979 disaster, which made New Zealand rethink tourism in Antarctica. Sightseeing flights had been organized to fly over parts of Antarctica for the previous two years, each trip lasting four hours. A pilot error caused the plane to crash into Mount Erebus, killing all 257 people on board. While this was a very tragic event, click next for other exploration failures.

The Nimrod Expedition

Ernest Shackleton led the Nimrod Expedition from 1907 to 1909 in his attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole. Despite his crew lacking the necessary experience to aid them in their quest, they pressed on, only to return in failure. Although they broke the record, as no previous team ventured as far south, they were unable to get closer than 160 km (100 miles) from the South Pole.

The team became weak and all members soon fell ill during their return trip after eating spoiled pony meat. On the verge of death with dwindling supplies, they trudged on and recognized landmarks, which pointed them to a nearby team at Bluff Depot. Ernest Joyce’s team came to their rescue with supplies and food. Their harrowing trip required a second rescue to make it back to the ship. For a 1909 success, click next to reveal the new record.

Success at the South Magnetic Pole

From the Nimrod Expedition, three members led by Douglas Mawson were successful in reaching the South Magnetic Pole in 1909. Perhaps the Nimrod crew needed to go back home with some kind of success story and swiped the credit for the conquest, but many fellow explorers have doubted their claims. The South Magnetic Pole constantly shifts due to the Earth’s magnetic field, and was located on land during the 1909 expedition.

Regardless of what happened during this voyage, leader Ernest Shackleton dedicated his career to polar exploration, and even spent the last days of his life on his way back to Antarctica. Shackleton never wanted to give up and was on route to what would be the last expedition of the Heroic Era, despite his failing health. He died of a heart attack in 1921 while on course in the Pacific. Click next to uncover a world frozen over Earth.

Discovery of Lake Vostok

Lake Vostok is the largest of Antarctica’s 400 subglacial lakes, with a surface area of 4,800 sq km (12,500 sq mi). The lake is 500 meters below sea level and covered in a layer of ice, 4,000 meters (13,100 ft) below the surface. The lake has been preserved in this condition for 400,000 years, but it’s possible for the lake water to have been sealed for as long as 25 million years. This lake is impressive, comparable to the size of Lake Ontario, it’s but one of more than 200 lakes that are preserved under ice in Antarctica.


A recent ice core was obtained in 2015 for analysis, which is comparable to the conditions found of Jupiter’s moons of frozen seas. Russian scientists believe that the results indicate several types of extremely unusual bacterium, which may indicate how life in other solar systems look. Click next to learn more about Antarctica’s impressive ice sheet.

The Antarctic Ice Sheets

Although Antarctica is a continent, it also holds a ton of ice that has remained part of its landscape for millions of years. The Antarctic Ice Sheets are not only the largest mass of ice that forms a singular sheet, it is Earth’s largest source of fresh water. All of Antarctica contains 90 percent of all the freshwater ice and 70 percent of all the fresh water on Earth. There are two main ice sheets in the East and West of Antarctica.

It seems as the West Ice Sheet has lost mass, the East Ice Sheet has gained a bit. Ocean circulation patterns are considered to be the main reason for melting and additional mass loss will have a small effect on sea levels, due to the salinity differences. If you really want to get a sense of Antarctica’s size, click next for an epic trek.

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition

After the failed Nimrod Expedition, Ernest Shackleton was just happy to come out alive although he didn’t reach the South Pole. He experienced another setback even more dangerous in 1915, when he led and expedition to traverse the whole continent. Their ship called The Endurancegot trapped in an ice drift for nine months and ended up sinking after it was crushed by the accumulating ice.

Shackleton’s team of 28 men were forced to camp on the ice drifts for another five months in the Weddell Sea until an opening in the ice allowed them to move their boats. The men headed for Elephant Island in the South Shetlands, but weren’t rescued until 1917. Although survival was an uphill battle and cost three men their lives, the survivors were able to live off of seal meat after their supplies were depleted. For more on the Ross Sea Party, click next to relive the spirit of adventure.

The Ross Sea Party

Compared to the daring quest of Shackleton’s party, who were planning to cross Antarctica, the Ross Sea Party had easy tasks in comparison. Their main goal was to leave supplies at depots within a 400 miles stretch for Shackleton as his crew made their journey across the continent. They were also to conduct a series of experiments. Unfortunately, the team also became stranded when their ship The Aurorabecame damaged after drifting in ice fields and had to return to New Zealand.

They experienced further devastation when their sled dogs and three team members died, which impeded their means of travel in the extreme winter climate. Crew members Mackintosh and Hayward disappeared into a blizzard and their footprints were later located on the edge of broken ice. The stranded crew and rescuers were later awarded with Albert Medals for lifesaving. Click next for a safer expedition leading to modern discovery.

 Gamburtsev Mountain Range

During the 3rdSoviet Expedition to Antarctica in 1958, nearly 450 men arrived in East Antarctica, with just under 200 due to spend winter there. There they discovered the Gamburtsev Mountain Range, named after the Soviet geophysicist. This subglacial mountain range is located near the South Pole of Inaccessibility, which is the point of the continent most distant from the Southern Ocean. It’s thought to be about the size of the East European Alps and is still unknown how the mountain range formed.

As of 2008, the mountain range is estimated to be over 34 million years old, possibly as old as 500 million years. Because they are subglacial mountains, they are also known as ghost mountains and it is theorized that they formed when the ancient supercontinent Gondwana separated. To see what Commonwealth nations were exploring during this time period, click next for more polar triumphs.

Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition

From 1955 to 1958, Briton Dr. Vivian Fuchs headed an expedition to the South Pole, which was the first ever to be sponsored by commonwealth nations. This successful trip to the South Pole was the third ever in history and the first overland crossing reached by motor vehicle.  Edmund Hillary was in charge of the South Pole party, and initially wasn’t even supposed to lead the team that far, but continued after laying supplies depots for the other party was a success.

As a famous mountaineer known for successful trips to the peaks of Mt. Everest and the Himalayas, Edmund Hillary wasn’t about to put an end to his adventures, and made it to Antarctica again in 2008, a year before he died. Not all Antarctica trips, no matter how spontaneous or carefully planned don’t always end in success, let alone break records. Click next for a shocking disaster from modern times.

Stephen Thomas’ Tragic Accident

Despite an international agreement in 1985 limiting access to research zones in Antarctica, thousands of tourists continue to cross Antarctica off their bucket lists. Such yearning for adventure is exactly what inspired 51-year-old Stephen Thomas to sail from the Arctic to Antarctica. He was nearing in on two years of sailing to make his voyage to Antarctica, and all seemed to go according to plan until the unthinkable happened.

On January 13, 2005, Thomas and two crew members were walking around to take pictures near the British Port Lockroy base, and suddenly ice gave out underneath his feet. The crew members were unharmed and went to get help, but Thomas fell to his death in a crevasse. A doctor on a nearby cruise ship responded to his rescue, but Thomas tragically lost his life. Antarctica hosts dangerous conditions in an unforgivable climate – click next to see how it symbolizes more than death.

Births in Antarctica

Antarctica is also a beacon of hope for life overcoming harsh conditions and defying the odds. While there are no permanent residents in Antarctica, there have been 11 births in the frigid temperatures of Antarctica, with 8 babies born in Esperanza alone. The first baby was born on January 5, 1978 to Argentine parents. Emilio Marcos Palma is still famous for being the first documented birth in Antarctica and holds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

An even more risky birth story goes to Solveig Gunbørg Jacobsen, who was born and raised south of the Antarctic Convergence in 1913. Since the Antarctic Territory is defined as any land located south of the 60thparallel, Jacobsen unfortunately missed her shot at the world record, but was still one of the few people in the 20thcentury born in a unique location.