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Race for the South Pole

A map of the routes taken by Scott (green) and Amundsen (red) to the South Pole, 1911–1912 Ernest Shackleton was one of the first to make an attempt on the South Pole. But bad weather forced him to turn back only 157 kilometres (97.5 miles) from the Pole in January 1908. Two expeditions set out in 1911. Robert Falcon Scott (1868–1912) led the British expedition, while Roald Amundsen (1872–1928) led the Norwegian attempt. Scott’s men hauled their own sledges and were held up by blizzards. Carrying no heavy equipment and assisted by a team of dogs to pull their sledges, Amundsen’s better-prepared team reached the Pole 34 or 35 days ahead of Scott in December 1911.


First discovery of Antarctica

Henrik Johan Bull's ship off the coast of AntarcticaNo human being had set eyes on Antarctica until Russian Admiral von Bellingshausen made the first reported sighting in 1820. Over the next 80 years, a number of explorers and scientists charted Antarctica’s coastline. In 1895 an Australian team led by Henrik Johan Bull probably became the first to set foot on the icy continent.

In 1926, Amundsen and 15 other men flew over the North Pole in an airship called the Norge. If the claims of three explorers, Frederick Cook (1908), Robert Peary (1909) and Richard E. Byrd (1926) that each had reached the North Pole first were false, then Amundsen and the crew of the Norge would be the first explorers to have definitely reached the North Pole.

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