Sir Douglas Mawson

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The end of the heroic era of exploration.  

The Nineteenth Century passion for exploration continued into the early 1900’s, but now it was polar exploration that seemed to promise the greatest glory - as well as the fattest lecture fees and the swiftest military promotions.  The problem was that most expeditions still relied on courage and improvisation to see them through, and in the fatally hostile environments near the Poles, courage was not nearly enough.  Many of the ill-prepared polar explorers of this age barely made it back alive, and some didn’t make it back at all.  After World War I, polar expeditions were generally organized on a more sensible basis.

Robert Peary reached the North Pole on Apr.06.1909 - or so he claimed.  Attention then turned to the south.  Ernest Shackleton was not quite able to attain the South Pole in a grueling attempt in early 1909, but the highly capable and efficient Roald Amundsen made it on Dec.14.1911.  The rather less efficient Robert Falcon Scott had the misfortune to reach the Pole a month too late, and perished with his party on the return journey.  Other notable events include Amundsen’s patient completion of the Northwest Passage in 1903-1906, Frederick Cook’s bogus claim to have reached the North Pole in 1908 and his subsequent dispute with Peary, Bingham’s discovery of Machu Picchu on Jul.24.1911, the very, very rough Mawson Antarctic expedition of 1912-1914, and Theodore Roosevelt’s nearly fatal descent of the River of Doubt in Brazil in 1914.


 
 
1904

Antarctica.
==Feb.01-Feb.15 > The first expedition by the French explorer Charcot, sailing in the Français, maps the northwest coast of the Antarctic Peninsula 

Antarctica.
==Feb.19 > The Discovery sails out of McMurdo Sound, ending Robert Falcon Scott’s first Antarctic expedition, ongoing since 1902

Antarctica.
==Mar.03 > Bruce’s Scottish Antarctic expedition discovers Coats Land, the first sighting of land south of the Weddell Sea

Arctic.
==Apr.26 > On the Boothia Peninsula in the Canadian Arctic, Amundsen proves that the Magnetic Pole migrates

Congo.
==May.10 > African explorer Henry Morton Stanley dies in London

East Africa.
==1904 > The British complete a detailed reconnaissance of the White and Blue Niles, underway since 1901 

Sahara.
==1904 > The French commander at Timbuktu prevents Laperrine from completing the first French crossing of the Sahara from Algeria to the Niger bend - ~expeditions are securing French dominance of the western Sudan  


1905

Antarctica.
==Jan.--- > The Argentineans take possession of the abandoned Bruce expedition base on Laurie Island in the South Orkneys, which eventually becomes the oldest continually occupied station in Antarctica

Arctic.
Roald Amundsen completes the Northwest Passage in the sloop Gjöa:
==Aug.17 > Amundsen reaches Cambridge Bay on the southeast coast of Victoria Island, and completes the voyage through the last unnavigated stretch of the Northwest Passage
==Aug.26 > Amundsen encounters a ship from the Pacific in the Beaufort Sea
==Dec.05 > Amundsen reaches Eagle City, Alaska, after a 500-mile, six-week dog-sled journey from his iced-in ship on the Beaufort Sea, and wires his achievement to the world
1906
==Aug.30 > Amundsen (who set out in 1903) passes through the Bering Strait, completing the first trip through the Northwest Passage

Antarctica.
==Oct.12 > Robert Falcon Scott is made famous by the publication of his account Voyage of the ‘Discovery’ 


1906

Arctic.
Robert Edwin Peary’s 1906 attempt on the North Pole:
==Jul.16.1905 > Peary sets out from New York City for the Arctic
==Feb.09.1906 > Peary’s teams begin pushing north from Ellesmere Is. for the Pole  
==Apr.21 > Peary supposedly reaches 87º06´N, but is compelled to turn back

Arctic.
==Jul.28, to 1911 > Three expeditions under Bernier formally annex all islands north of North America for Canada

East Africa.
==1906 > Lake Victoria is completely surveyed

Egypt.East Africa.
==1906 > Lyons’ Physiography of the Nile Basin is published

Tibet.
==1906-1908 > The Swedish explorer Hedin travels through southern Tibet

Sinkiang.
==1906-1907 > The second expedition of the British explorer/archaeologist Aurel Stein to Chinese Central Asia

Arctic.
==1906-1907 > The Anglo-American Mikkelsen-Leftingwell-Stefansson expedition drifts on pack ice north of Alaska, but fails to reach the North Pole

Arctic.
==1906 > Frederick Cook announces that he has climbed Mt. McKinley - the claim is later proven to be fraudulent


1907

Arctic.
==Sep.02, to Oct.1909 > The American Walter Wellman makes unsuccessful attempts to reach the North Pole by semi-rigid airship, from Spitsbergen

Tibet.
==Sep.10 > The Swedish explorer Hedin reaches the source of the Indus in Tibet  

Sahara.
==1907 > The French Captain Arnaud traverses the Sahara in a hundred days, without meeting interference 


1908

Antarctica.
The early stages of Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition to Antarctica:
==Jul.30.1907 > Shackleton sets out from London  
==Feb.03.1908 > Shackleton lands at McMurdo Sound in the Antarctic
==Mar.10 > Members of Shackleton’s expedition climb 13,280 ft. Mt. Erebus  

Arctic.
==Apr.21 > Frederick Cook allegedly reaches the North Pole in an improvised expedition; the claim is almost certainly a fabrication - he spends the next year surviving extremely primitive conditions in the northernmost Canadian Arctic islands

Antarctica.
==Dec.22-Jan.22.1910 > Charcot’s second Antarctic expedition in Pourquoi-Pas? further explores the northwest coast of the Antarctic Peninsula 

Arctic.
==1908 > Keele explores the east Yukon-Keele River area of the Canadian Arctic

Arctic.
==1908-1912 > The Stefansson-Anderson expedition to the Coronation Gulf area of the Canadian Arctic Coast 


1909

Antarctica.
The later stages of Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition:
==Sep.22.1908 > Shackleton makes the first use of mechanical transport in a polar exploration - but the car is soon stuck in snow drifts
==Sep.26 > A party sets out from Shackleton’s McMurdo camp for the South Magnetic Pole
==Oct.29 > Shackleton sets off for the geographic South Pole from his McMurdo camp
==Jan.09.1909 > Suffering from exhaustion, malnutrition, and hypothermia, Shackleton gets to within 97 miles of the South Pole, reaching 88º 23´S,
==Jan.16 > David, Mawson, and MacKay of Shackleton’s expedition reach the South Magnetic Pole - they return to base Feb.05, having traveled 1260 miles by man-hauling
==Mar.01 > Shackleton is found by the Nimrod just before she departs from Antarctica  

Arctic.
Robert Edwin Peary’s North Pole expedition:
==Jul.06.1908 > Peary sets out from New York City on his final attempt on the North Pole  
==Sep.05 > Peary reaches Cape Sheridan on northern Ellesmere Island
==Feb.28.1909 > Peary’s teams begin pushing northwards from Ellesmere Island onto the Polar Ice Cap  
==Apr.02 > Peary begins his final dash for the North Pole
==Apr.06 > Peary supposedly reaches the North Pole - the claim is uncertain 
==Apr.25 > Peary’s polar party regains their base camp at Cape Sheridan

Sahara.
==Apr.--- > The dynamic French officer Théodore Pein almost dies in the first attempt to cross the Sahara by motorcycle, from Algiers

Brazil.
==May.03 to Christmas > Cândido Rondón explores Rio Jiparaná south of the Amazon in a grueling expedition

Arctic.
==Jul.01-Aug.31 > A Mountie patrol travels from Great Slave Lake eastward to Hudson’s Bay - ~whites begin to penetrate the Canadian central Arctic

Arctic.
The Cook-Peary dispute:
==Sep.01 > The American explorer Frederick Cook publicly claims to have reached the North Pole on Apr. 21, 1908, and is widely acclaimed
==Sep.06 > Peary publicly claims to have reached the North Pole on Apr. 6, 1909 - he soon begins publicly attacking Cook’s claims, setting off a fierce debate 
==Oct.14 > Cook’s claim to have climbed Mt. McKinley is attacked as fraudulent - ~Cook’s support is dwindling
==Dec.22 > The University of Copenhagen refutes Cook’s claim of having reached the North Pole: Cook is discredited; Peary’s claim is generally accepted

Antarctica.
==Sep.13 > Scott announces plans for an expedition to reach the South Pole  

Antarctica.
==Nov.--- > Shackleton publishes The Heart of the Antarctic 

Arctic.
==1909-1911 > German anthropologist Hantzsch explores Baffin Island  


1910

Antarctica.
The start of the Scott-Amundsen race for the South Pole:
==Jun.01 > Scott’s expedition departs London for Antarctica
==Aug.09 > Amundsen’s expedition departs Norway, secretly bound for Antarctica  
==Sep.09 > Just before departing Madeira, Amundsen dramatically informs his expedition members that he’s bound for the South Pole, and not the Arctic - all of his colleagues accept the new plan  
==Oct.12 > Scott learns of Amundsen’s plan to reach the South Pole
1911
==Jan.04 > Scott’s Terra Nova anchors at Cape Evans
==Jan.14 > Amundsen reaches Whale Bay on the Ross Ice Shelf  


1911

Arctic.
==winter > A four man Mountie patrol starves to death near the lower Mackenzie

Antarctica.
==Mar to Apr > The first attempt by Shirase’s Japanese expedition fails to reach the Antarctic coast 

Peru.       
==Jul.24 > Machu Picchu is discovered by Hiram Bingham 

Tibet.
==Aug, to 1925 > French Orientalist Alexandra David-Neel makes extensive travels through India, Tibet and China

Antarctica.
Climax of the Scott-Amundsen race for the South Pole, part one:
==Sep.08-16 > Amundsen’s first attempt to reach the South Pole fails
==Oct.20 > Amundsen launches his second (successful) attempt on the South Pole  
==Nov.01 > Scott sets out from McMurdo Sound for the South Pole  
==Nov.18-21 > Amundsen crosses the TransAntarctic Mountains
==Dec.14.[300 PM] > Amundsen reaches the South Pole  

Arctic.
==1911 > Count Zeppelin explores Spitsbergen from the airship Mainz 


1912

Antarctica.
Climax of the Scott-Amundsen race for the South Pole, part two:
==Jan.04 > Scott’s five member Polar group sets out from the main party  
==Jan.17-18 > Scott reaches the South Pole, only to find that Amundsen had already been there a month earlier  
==Jan.26 > Amundsen returns to base, completing a 1400 mile journey
==Feb.15 > Amundsen’s Fram reaches latitude 78º 41' S, the farthest south ever by a ship 
==Feb.17-18 > The first fatality in the Scott Expedition: Petty Officer Edgar Evans dies, probably of complications from scurvy  
==Mar.07 > Amundsen reaches Hobart, Tasmania - he publicly announces having reached the South Pole  
==Mar.17 > Oates, crippled by frostbite, tells the remaining members of Scott Expedition “I am just going outside and may be some time,” and vanishes into the snow
==Mar.21 > The final halt of the dying Scott Expedition
==Mar.29 > The last entry in Scott’s diary - the last of the Scott Expedition dies off in the next few days, with Scott evidently the last to go (see Nov.12)

Antarctica.
==Jan.07-Feb.05.1914 > Mawson’s Australian expedition to Adélie Land encounters persistent hurricane-force winds - the first use of radio in Antarctica

Antarctica.
==Jan.16-Feb.02 > Shirase’s Japanese Antarctic expedition explores the Ross Ice Shelf and Edward VII Land

Antarctica.
==Jan.30-Dec > Filchner’s German Antarctic expedition discovers the Luitpold Coast and the Filchner Ice Shelf on the Weddell Sea 

Antarctica.
==Nov.10-Feb.08.1913 > The horrific Mawson party journey into Adélie Land in Antarctica, with Mawson the only survivor  

Antarctica.
==Nov.12 > The bodies of the Scott Expedition are found, only eleven miles from a supply depot  

Arctic.
==1912-1913 > A German expedition traverses central Greenland


1913

Antarctica.
==Feb.12 > News of Scott’s death is cabled to the world from New Zealand  

Arctic.
Stefansson’s Canadian Arctic Expedition:
==Feb.22 > The Canadian government bankrolls the expedition
==spring.1913-summer.1916 > The Southern team of the Canadian Arctic Expedition maps the western Canadian Arctic coast and studies Eskimos
==fall > Stefansson’s ship Karluk is trapped in ice near Point Barrow and is carried westwards off of northern Siberia

Tibet.
==Apr.--- > The British Captain Noel gets within forty miles of Mt. Everest before being turned back by armed Tibetans

Alaska.
==Jun.13 > Stuck and Karstens climb Mt. McKinley’s south peak

Sinkiang.
==1913-1916 > British explorer/archaeologist Aurel Stein’s third expedition to Central Asia explores Sinkiang  


1914

Brazil.
Theodore Roosevelt’s travels in  South America:
==Dec.10.1913 > Roosevelt arrives in Concepcion, Paraguay, and fishes for piranha - he finds them tasty
==Dec.12.1913 to Feb.1914 > Roosevelt travels through the interior of southern Brazil  
==Feb.27-Apr.26 > Roosevelt and Cândido Rondón descend the unexplored River of Doubt (later renamed the Rio Roosevelt) in Brazil  
==mid.Mar > The situation of the Roosevelt-Rondón expedition is growing grave
==Apr.04 > Roosevelt injures himself and develops a dangerously high fever
==Apr.26 > The exhausted Roosevelt-Rondón expedition completes its journey  

Antarctica.
The start of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition to Antarctica:
==Jan.13 > Shackleton announces that he will lead a trans-Antarctic expedition  
==Aug.01 > Shackleton’s Endurance sails from London for Antarctica - on the same day, Germany declares war on Russia, as the First World War begins to erupt
==Aug.03 > Still in British waters, Shackleton offers to place his expedition at the disposal of the Admiralty; his offer is declined and he is allowed to continue - by Aug.05, Britain is at war
(The rest of the Endurance expedition falls outside of the time range of this chronology)


 
 
Sources include (websites in parentheses):
(Antarctic Philately)
Pierre Berton. The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909. 1988
Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th Edition. 1975  (and Encyclopedia Britannica Online.)
Edward J. Goodman. The Explorers of South America. 1972
(Gray Wolf Corporation - Theodore Roosevelt Timeline)
(Great Norwegians)
Roland Huntford. The Last Place on Earth. (aka Scott and Amundsen.)  1979/1983
Roland Huntford. Shackleton. 1985
Walter Lord. The Good Years: From 1900 to the First World War. 1960
Jan Romein. The Watershed of Two Eras: Europe in 1900. 1978
Morris Zaslow. The Opening of the Canadian North, 1870-1914. 1971

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