Archive for the 'Antarctic' Category

Jul 13

Exploring The Antarctic

Friday, July 13, 2012 9:52 AM

On July 13, 1939, RADM Richard Byrd was appointed as commanding officer of the 1939-1941 Antarctic exploration. This was Byrd’s third Antarctic expedition, and the first one that had the official backing of the U.S. Government. In honor of his work, and the work done by many others who braved the cold and ice, here is a brief history of American Antarctic exploration, originally published in the November 1961 issue of Proceedings.

Ice floes off the coast of Marie Byrd Land.

Charting of an Unknown Land: The Antarctic Continent

By SCOT MAcDONALD

There is a suspicion among some cartographers that Christopher Columbus carried with him on his first trip to the New World a map of the Antarctic coastline.

Later, so the story goes, a Turkish naval officer and geographer, Piri Reis, waylaid a former pilot of the famous explorer and swiped from him one of Columbus’ charts-the one purported to be of the Antarctic. Piri Reis then set about compiling a map of the world, using this chart and others, many first drawn some 300 years before Christ was born.

The existing fragment of the map (now in the Library of Congress) has stumped experts since its discovery. But famed cartographer Arlington H. Mallery believes he has solved the mystery. The fragment, he claims, represents an ice-free Antarctic continent as it appeared 5,000 years ago.

Though the map, or chart, is interesting, it hardly represents the continent as it appears today. Antarctica measures some 5 1/2 million square miles in area, most of this solid ice. Mountain ranges, peaks, and nunataks (out­croppings) pierce the ice sheet, sometimes in an expected orderly fashion, but more often in places completely strange and unsuspected. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 19

First American Sighting of Antarctica

Thursday, January 19, 2012 11:51 AM

January 19, 1840

Lieutenant Charles Wilkes discovers Antarctic Coast

On January 19th, 1840, Lt. Charles Wilkes, during an expedition circumnavigating the globe, became the first American to sight the Antarctic Coast, and to discover the existence of an Antarctic continent. This discovery was the highlight of a four-year surveying expedition which greatly contributed to the scientific and cultural knowledge of the time. In October 1939, Proceedings published a detailed article about the expedition, excerpted below, written by Captain G. S. Bryan, U. S. Navy. In his article, Captain Bryan charts the course of Wilkes’ expedition, from beginning to end, and emphasizes not only the profound impact of the expedition and its discoveries, but the character and temperament of the commander responsible for its accomplishments as well:

The closing months of 1939 and early 1940 mark the one hundredth anniversary of the crowning achievement of the United States Exploring Expedition, or the Wilkes Exploring Expedition as it was later called. The accomplishments of this expedition under the command of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, U. S. Navy, stand perhaps as the greatest achievement in the field of exploration that this country has ever known. Read the rest of this entry »