Carsten Egeberg Borchgrevink

Carsten Borchgrevink was born in Christiana (now known as Oslo), Norway, in 1864 to a Norwegian barrister and English mother. After finishing his studies he moved to Australia where he worked as a government surveyor for six years. In 1894 Borchgrevink moved to Melbourne, joining the H.J.Bull whaling expedition to Antarctica. In 1895 this expedition landed at Possession Islands, followed by Cape Adare on 24 January, and Borchgrevink claimed that as the first man to step ashore at Cape Adare he was also the first to have landed on the Antarctic Continent. However, evidence suggests that other sailors had beaten him to it.

1898
British Antarctic Expedition

In 1898, after his fundraising efforts had taken him to England, Borchgrevink led the British Antarctic Expedition, which aimed to be the first party to winter over on the Antarctic Continent. Making their base at Cape Adare, the expedition also carried out various scientific investigation and survey work. Borchgrevink returned from the successful expedition to find the public distracted by the Boer War and in 1902 moved to the US to study the effects of the volcanic eruption of Mont Pelee. He later returned to Norway, and in 1930 was awarded the Patrons Medal of the Royal Geographical Society. Borchgrevink died in Oslo in 1934.

1898-1900
British Antarctic ‘Southern Cross’ Expedition

Led by Carsten Borchgrevink, the British Antarctic Expedition of 1898-1900 was the first Antarctic expedition to winter over on the Antarctic Continent. After visiting Antarctic in 1895, Borchgrevink set about raising funds for an expedition to Antarctica. Failing to secure funding in Australia, he moved to England and in 1897 secured funding from a wealthy British magazine publisher. Despite its name, the expedition was to have only two British members, but Borchgrevink took a large number of Union Flags to leave in Antarctica as territorial markers for Britain.

1898
Scientific Investigation and Commercial Intrigue

After fitting the Southern Cross, a former sealer, with more powerful engines, the expedition set off for Antarctica in 1898. Their aim was to collect scientific data, be the first to winter over on the Continent, and perhaps reach either the South Pole or Magnetic South Pole. Borchgrevink also wanted to investigate the commercial possibilities of the region, focusing on whaling, mineral prospecting and the mining of penguin guano for fertiliser. The expedition took with it a number of technical innovations, including the first to take dehydrated food, the first to use primus stoves, and the first dogs to be used for sledging in Antarctica - fitted out with their own coats and fur boots.

1900
Achievements and Successes

Despite personality clashes within the team, a fire within the hut and the party nearly dying of carbon monoxide poisoning, the expedition achieved many successes. The team carried out significant scientific, meteorological and magnetic observations, collected specimens, mapped the local region, and carried out sledging and ski journeys, achieving a furthest south record for that time. On 28 January 1900 the Southern Cross returned to collect the expedition members. Before leaving they placed a cross on Nicolai Hanson’s grave, who had died the previous October after months of illness. After stopping at the Ross Ice Shelf to ski about ten geographical miles, the party returned to New Zealand on 31 March.

Returning home
The Legacy of the Expedition

On their return to England, the party was met with little interest as the public was distracted by the Boer War and Boxer Rebellion in China. Borchgrevink was also disappointed to learn that the guano he had collected had little value as a fertiliser, being mixed with gravel, and the minerals he had collected were in fact iron pyrite, rather than gold. Whilst the scientific specimens the party had collected were given to the Natural History Museum, the real legacy of the expedition was the proof that man could survive the winter on the Antarctic Continent.

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Go back to our Antarctic history timeline here to learn more about Antarctica and its rich human history.

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