Wiki Abridged: Farthest South

James Cook

The Farthest South was a term used to describe the furthest southernly points explorers reached, before the South Pole was reached. Although many explorers ventured south, this post will only discuss those that actually searched for the most southern points, and those that came near the Arctic circle. We start with Captain James Cook, who went searching for the Terra Australis, a rumored sort of promised land way down in the south, where fertile soil would be plentiful. James Cook left England in September 1772. With two ships, he and his crew managed to sail to Cape Town and continued due south from there, but heavy winds brought them to the east, where they encountered the first pack ice. They managed to make their way through and became the first crew to reach the Arctic Circle. However, the ice became impenetrable and they all retreated to New Zealand. They had reached 66°20'S. Cook and Co. went for another try and he went past the Arctic Circle, reaching 77°10'S before continuation being truly impossible. On the 30th of January, the Farthest South became 77°10'S, and it  would hold for 49 years.

Many more went down south after Cook, some discovering new islands, others making no discernable accomplishments. Cook's record kept its place until James Weddell tried his luck at finding the Aurora Islands in 1819, which proved to be non-existant. Regardless of the failure in that sense, Weddell came home (England) with plenty of seal skins and a new record by a very small margin. For sometime it was questioned whether Weddell actually broke the record, but it has since then been affirmed.

James Clark Ross

The next time the Farthest South would expand was with James Clark Ross. He departed on an extensive Royal Naval expedition on the 30th of September 1839, the principle purpose to test out emerging theories on magnetism. He departed from England to Tasmania, and there he began to head south where he would surpass Weddell's record. He discovered new islands and two volcanoes along the way, however, he was eventually faced with the Great Ice Barrier, now known as the Ross Ice Shelf after Ross himself. He followed the coast of this great mass of ice, but with no where to anchor, he returned to Tasmania. He set out again, and brought luck with him, as he found a small inlet which allowed him to bring the Farthest South to 78°09'30"S. Even though Ross couldn't find the South Magnetic Pole, or even land on the Antarctic, he was still knighted on his return to England in 1843.
The record is broken 58 years later when Norwegian-born Carsten Egeberg Borchgrevink (living in Australia) would join a whaling expedition lead by Henryk Bull. The group became the first to land on the Antarctic, at Cape Adare. Borchgrevink vowed to return, and he did, returning to Cape Adare and continued along, discovering that the Great Ice Barrier that stopped Ross had moved by 48 kilometers. They landed again further down, only with sled dogs, and became the first to sleigh ride on the continent. On the 16th of February 1900, the Farthest South was extended to 78°50'S. However, despite all these accomplishments, Borchgrevink wasn't received with much praise. He was almost ignored, simply because all these new records and new information weren't done and discovered by an English naval officer.

Amundsen and his crew at the South Magnetic Pole

Robert Falcon Scott, Edward Wilson and Ernest Shackleton extended the Farthest South in 1902 to 82°17'S, approx. 370 kilometers further than Borchgrevink.
Ernest Shackleton returned to the Antarctic with the Nimrod Expedition, whose precise goal was to discover the South Magnetic Pole. He came with his party within 180 kilometers of the pole, at 88°23'S. Depleting supplies forced him to return, but he was praised as a hero when he returned to England, and was knighted.
After Shackleton, it became a race to reach the South Pole first. Robert Falcon Scott returned to the Antarctic after Shackleton, and when on his way, he was informed of a rival. Roald Amundsen had kept his plans to discover the South Pole quiet until he was well underway and communication wasn't as good on board the ship.
Amundsen used a different route to land on the continent, and he and his party of five all used their Norwegian knowledge, and their higher ice-travelling skills, as well as use of sled dogs, which allowed them to reach the South Magnetic Pole, 90°S, on the 14th of December 1911. Scott's team reached the pole 33 days later, and all died on their way back. Since James Cook in 1772, all the expeditions to further the Farthest South were British, even counting Borchgrevink, as he was sailing under the patronage of an Englishman, and was a citizen of Australia, which was very much a part of England. However, the true triumph belongs with the Norwegians, who can claim to be first to reach the South Magnetic Pole.

The table below corresponds to the map, placing records pertaining to the Farthest South, including records not mentioned in this post. Taken from Wikipedia's page on the Farthest South.

Expedition leader Country Latitude achieved Location Ref. Date
Ferdinand Magellan Spain 54° (approximate) Magellan Strait A November 1521
Francisco de Hoces Spain 55°59' (speculative) Cape Horn B January 1526
Sir Francis Drake England 55°59' (speculative) Cape Horn B October 1578
Bartolemo and
Gonzalo Garcia de Nodal
Spain 56°30' Drake Passage: Diego Ramirez Islands C February 1619
James Cook Kingdom of Great Britain 66°20' SE of Cape Town D 17 January 1773
James Cook Kingdom of Great Britain 71°10' SE of New Zealand E 30 January 1774
James Weddell UK 74°15' Weddell Sea F 20 February 1823
James Clark Ross UK 78° (approximate) Ross Sea G 8 February 1841
James Clark Ross UK 78°09'30" Ross Sea G 23 January 1842
Carsten Borchgrevink UK 78°50' Ross Ice Shelf H 16 February 1900
Robert Falcon Scott UK 82°17' (adj. to 82°11') Ross Ice Shelf I 30 December 1902
Ernest Shackleton UK 88°23' South Polar Plateau J 9 January 1909
Roald Amundsen Norway 90° South Pole K 14 December 1911
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