Carsten Borchgrevink bigraphy, stories - Anglo-Norwegian explorer

Carsten Borchgrevink : biography

1 December 1864 - 21 April 1934

Carsten Egeberg Borchgrevink (1 December 1864 – 21 April 1934) was an Anglo-Norwegian polar explorer and a pioneer of modern Antarctic travel. He was the precursor of Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen and other more famous names associated with the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. He began his exploring career in 1894 by joining a Norwegian whaling expedition, from which he brought back a collection of the first specimens of vegetable life within the Antarctic Circle.

In 1898–1900 Borchgrevink led the British-financed Southern Cross Expedition, which in 1899 became the first to overwinter on the Antarctic mainland and the first to visit the Great Ice Barrier since the expedition of Sir James Ross nearly sixty years previously. Borchgrevink landed on the Barrier with two companions and made the first sledge journey on its surface, setting a new Farthest South record at 78°50'S. On its return to England, notwithstanding its array of "firsts", the expedition was received with only moderate interest by the public and by the British geographical establishment, whose attention was fixed on Scott's upcoming National Antarctic Expedition. Borchgrevink's colleagues were critical of his leadership, and his own accounts of the expedition were regarded as journalistic and unreliable.

After the Southern Cross Expedition, Borchgrevink was one of three scientists sent to the Caribbean in 1902 by the National Geographic Society, to report on the aftermath of the Mount Pelée disaster. Thereafter he settled in Oslo, leading a life mainly away from public attention. His pioneering work was subsequently recognised and honoured by several countries, and in 1912 he received a handsome tribute from Roald Amundsen, conqueror of the South Pole. In 1930 Britain's Royal Geographical Society finally acknowledged Borchgrevink's contribution to polar exploration and awarded him its Patron's Medal. The Society admitted in its citation that justice had not previously been done to his work with the Southern Cross Expedition.

Post-expedition life

Mount Pelée disaster

In summer 1902 Borchgrevink was one of three geographers invited by the National Geographic Society (NGS) to report on the after-effects of the catastrophic eruptions of Mount Pelée, on the French-Caribbean island of Martinique. (Chapter XXIII by Trumbull White) These eruptions, in May 1902, had destroyed the town of Saint-Pierre, with enormous loss of life. Borchgrevink visited the island in June, when the main volcanic activity had subsided, and found the mountain "perfectly quiet", and the islanders recovered from their panic. However, he did not think that Saint-Pierre would ever be inhabited again. He reported a narrow escape when, at the foot of the mountain, a jet of steam came out of the ground over which he and his party had just passed: "If it had struck any one of us we would have been scalded to death". He later presented his report to the NGS in Washington.


On his return from Washington, Borchgrevink virtually retired into private life. On 7 September 1896, he married an English bride, Constance Prior Standen, with whom he settled in Slemdal, in Oslo, where two sons and two daughters were born. Borchgrevink devoted himself mainly to sporting and literary activities, producing a book entitled The Game of Norway. On two occasions he apparently considered returning to the Antarctic; in August 1902 he stated his intention to lead a new Antarctic expedition for the NGS, but nothing came of this, and a later venture, announced in Berlin in 1909, was likewise stillborn. Although he remained out of the limelight, Borchgrevink retained his interest in Antarctic matters, visiting Captain Scott shortly before the Terra Nova sailed on Scott's last Antarctic expedition in June 1910. When news of his fate reached the outside world, Borchgrevink paid tribute to Scott: "He was the first in the field with a finely organised expedition and the first who did systematic work on the great south polar continent". In a letter of condolence to John Scott Keltie, the Royal Geographical Society's secretary, Borchgrevink said of Scott: "He was a man!"Jones, p. 248

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Living octopus

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