Friday, 29 January 2010
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
On January 23 1960, Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard and US Navy Officer, Don Walsh travelled 11km down to the bottom of the Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench of the Pacific Ocean in the Trieste, a specially designed deep sea diving vessel.
Thursday, 21 January 2010
When the frozen remains of Gunther Messner, the lost brother of Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner, were discovered on a Himalayan peak in August 2005, a decades old mystery appeared to have been solved. However, as the Guardian reports, Nanga Parbat, a new film about the ill-fated expedition, has prompted fellow climbers to attack as "false" the version of events being portrayed on the screen. This, they say, only tells Messner's side of the story.
Ever since the expedition to climb the mountain in 1970, rumours persisted that Messner had abandoned his younger brother to die, as he continued to the top alone. The man, often described as the greatest mountaineer in history, always maintained that Guther died in an avalanche. The discovery of the body, and confirmation through DNA testing in October 2005, finally proved that Messner had been telling the truth.
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
In 1860, Robert O'Hara Burke and William Wills were part of the Victorian Exploring Expedition, a large, and well-equipped party, that aimed to complete the journey from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria, and return safely after making scientific observations. Instead, it was a shambolic affair that saw the death of eight of its members including Burke, the leader, and Wills its navigator.
Incompetence, impatience and mismanagement are just some of the words that have been used to describe why the expedition was such a disaster. Ignorance is another. Rather than use the knowledge and help offered by Aborigines, the expedition, as Jonathan King writes in the Age, shot at "the blacks" and Wills described the tribes as "mean-spirited and contemptible in every respect."
The 2010 expedition, which sets out in August,has an environmental objective with plans to carry out an audit of such matters as drought-induced soil erosion and feral animals. A century and a half after the orginal trek, the leaders will be seeking the advice and help of Aboriginal people and tribal elders are planning to welcome the entourage.
Despite it being a much celebrated catalogue of disasters, the Royal Society of Victoria, which is organising the commemoration, hopes to remind people of the expedition's achievements in exploration and scientific discovery, and the opening up of a path which many others would soon follow.
Monday, 18 January 2010
Saturday's Daily Mail featured a story about Roz Savage who singlehandedly rowed across the Atlantic in 2006 and is now attempting to become the first woman to row solo across the Pacific. More information on her website.
Rowing across the Atlantic features in Those Who Dared, including the 1966 voyage of Chay Blyth and John Ridgway. My favourite story of adventurous crossings of the ocean though is that Alain Bombard who in 1952 undertook a single-handed sail-crossing from east to west in an inflatable dingy. His aim was to prove that a human being can survive for weeks if not months by drinking seawater and juice pressed from the flesh of fish.
Sixty-five days after leaving the Canary Islands he landed on a beach in Barbados. He was emaciated and anaemic but had proved that his body could stand up to a diet of raw fish and plankton, although he very nearly make it. Read more about his remarkable journey and life here.
Friday, 15 January 2010
Monday, 11 January 2010
Thursday, 7 January 2010
Stefansson was a noted explorer and ethnologist who spent five consecutive record-making years exploring vast areas of the Canadian Arctic after adapting himself to the Eskimo way of life. However, he was also a controversial figure, particularly with regard to his 'blonde Eskimo' theory. This, he explained to members of the Royal Geographical Society, as reported in the Guardian March 11 1913:
'The thing that roused greatest interest is his account of his five years' trip has been his discovery of some Eskimo tribes of an unusual type. These tribes have never seen white men, at all events in recent times. The had distinct European characteristics (light , blue eyes, brown beards, and so on) , and tonight Mr Stefansson suggested that they might be descendeds of some Scandanavian settlers from Greenland who disappeared from there in the fifteenth century and may, he thinks , have made their way westward into these remote snowy places. He scouted the idea that these people might be descended from survivors of Sir John Franklin's expedition'.
Stefansson later regretted making the comments and recent studies have discredited the theory.
Wednesday, 6 January 2010
The discovery vindicates many of those who have gone in search of the Amazonian 'new world'. One in particular was Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, who christened the lost El Dorado, the City of Z. In 1925 he set off, along with his son, to find it, leaving a note that nobody should follow them in the event that they did not return. They vanished without a trace and over the past 80 years numerous expeditions have tried to find out what happened, no doubt spurred on by reported sightings. This news story appeared in the Guardian, March 16 1932:
Monday, 4 January 2010
One of Britain's earliest aircraft has been discovered buried in the frozen wastes of Antarctica. The plane - the first off the Vickers production line in Britain - was built in 1911, only eight years after the Wright brothers executed the first powered flight. It was taken to Antarctica by Douglas Mawson, the Australian explorer, but abandoned in 1914.
Mawson had hoped to stage the first flight over the Antarctic ice cap, but the plane crashed on the Australian mainland before he set sail. It was badly damaged but he decided to take the now wingless plane anyway and use it as an "air tractor" - keeping the propeller and guiding it by using a specially made tail rudder and skis - to pull his sledges while he was exploring.
A carpenter from the Mawson's Huts Foundation, a charity devoted to maintaining the buildings constructed in the Antarctic by Mawson's expeditions, spotted the remains of the plane among the rocks on at Cape Denison, on January 1. Low tides, prompted by a blue moon, the second full moon in a calendar month, and unprecedented melting ice led to its discovery.
Considered one of the great polar explorers, Mawson joined Ernest Shackleton's 'Farthest South' Nimrod expedition of 1907-09 as a scientist, being part of the team that climbed Mount Erebus and reached the Magnetic South Pole.
It was an expedition that set out in November 1912 to map part of the Antarctic coastline though, for which Mawson will probably be best remembered. After Lieutenant Ninnis, one of the three-man team, disappeared into a massive crevasse, along with six dogs and most of the supplies, the remaining two turned back. Resorting to eating the remaining huskies to survive, Dr Xavier Mertz then fell ill and died, probably due to poisonous levels of vitamin A from the dogs's livers. Mawson, while also in a dreadful state, eventually managed to make it back to base - only to see the ship that should have carried him to safety already out to sea. He finally managed to leave Antarctica and Those Who Dared includes an interview with the Australian when he visited London in May 1914.
More on Douglas Mawson can be found here.