To the ends of the Earth
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Dark clouds gathering over the Southern Ocean are mirrored in its steel-grey waters as a kelp gull watches on from lichen-strewn rocks here on Half Moon Island, part of the South Shetland Islands. Sealers first saw these forbidding snow-capped mountains, spliced by glaciers and riven with crevasses, in 1819. Yet it is the extraordinary courage displayed by the explorers of the ‘Heroic Age’ of 1901–1922 – their stories of triumph and tragedy – that still draws us to this unfathomable continent.
Driven by desire for fame and fortune, and the honour of planting the flag for king and country, men like Sir Ernest Shackleton, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Douglas Mawson and Roald Amundsen faced unimaginable hardship. Those that survived the hazardous four-month journey by ship into the pack ice were often ignorant of the perils that awaited them. And, of course, there was no guarantee of a safe return.
Yet many of these men – like Shackleton’s right-hand man, Frank Wild – returned to the white continent. Wild said of Antarctica: ‘Once you have been to the white unknown, you can never escape the call of the little voices’.
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