On This Day in 1898

August 23, 2016

On 23 August, 1898, the Southern Cross left London at the beginning of the British Antarctic Expedition 1898–1900. The exhibition was the project of the half-British, half-Norwegian Carsten Borchgrevink and was financed by the English publisher, Sir George Newnes, 1st Baronet of Wildcroft.


Borchgrevink purchased the whaler Pollux, built in Norway in 1886, renamed her Southern Cross and prepared for her first journey into the southern waters. The ship left London on 23 August, 1898, and although it was criticised on its return (perhaps headed by Sir Clements Robert Markham) it conducted scientific research at its base at Cape Adare, it was the first expedition to over-winter on the Antarctic mainland, the first to land on the Great Ice Barrier’s surface and pioneered the use of dogs and sledges in Antarctica.


The expedition has also been criticised for its leadership, particularly in contrast to the naval basis of discipline aboard Captain Robert F. Scott’s Discovery expedition (see Ranulph Fiennes’s Captain Scott). Despite its faults and misfortunes, the Southern Cross expedition furthered knowledge of the Antarctic continent and provided the basis for future expeditions. Roald Amundsen later acknowledged the significance of the expedition for his own successful trek to the South Pole.

This list of ‘Antarctic firsts’ of the Southern Cross expedition was compiled at the Antarctic Circle website: http://www.antarctic-circle.org/firsts.htm .

First to use of Primus stoves in the Antarctic. (1898-1900).

First time dogs were used on the Antarctic continent. (1898-1900).

First deliberate wintering-over in Antarctica. (1899-1900) at Cape Adare.

First Australian to winter-over in Antarctica: Louis Bernacchi (1899).

First “cinematograph” (movies?) taken in Antarctica. (April 1899).

First human earth burial in the Antarctic. (14 October, 1899). Nicolai Hansen buried above Cape Adare; grave was “dug” with dynamite.

First sledge journey on Ross Ice Shelf. (16 February, 1900). Party sledged 10 miles to new ‘Furthest South’ of 78°50′S.




Bernacchi, L. To the Polar Regions: Expedition of 1898-1900. London, 1901.


Borchgrevink, C. E. First on the Antarctic Continent: Being an Account of the British Antarctic Expedition, 1898-1900. London, 1901.


Borchgrevink, C. E. Magnetic and Meteorological Observations Made by the ‘Southern Cross’ Antarctic Expedition. London, 1902.


Fiennes, R. Captain Scott. London, 2003.


Online resources

Wikipedia entry for Southern Cross expedition



Christopher Hawkins Borchgrevink, ‘Our Polar hero–Carsten Egeberg Borchgrevink’. Good article with paintings and photographs. Worth a read.



‘Carsten Borchgrevink: 1864-1934’ article at South-Pole.com.



‘British Antarctic Expedition 1898-1900’ at Freeze Frame—Scott Polar Research Institute.



David L. Harrowfield, South Latitude Research Ltd., ‘The Southern Cross Expedition (1898-1900)’.



Cape Adare, Antarctic Heritage Trust website.


Go top