Polar exploration

Wrap up warm and take a journey to the icy ends of the earth. From the countless attempts to find the fabled North-West Passage in the Arctic Circle, to the race to reach the South Pole, read about the triumphs and the tragedies of history's polar explorers.

A View of Cape Stephens in Cook's Straits with Waterspout

Polite society was thrilling to the idea of an undiscovered continent in the south. Was it even there and what would count as proof if it didn’t exist?

captain-scott-south-pole.jpg

In 1911, British explorer Robert Falcon Scott and Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen both aimed to be the first to reach the South Pole.

Ernest Shackleton.jpg

In 1907, Ernest Shackleton embarked on an expedition to the South Pole aboard his ship Nimrod. He was almost successful, falling just 97 miles short.

Divers explore the wrecks of HMS Terror and Erebus (banner).jpg

Archaeologists exploring the shipwrecks of HMS Erebus and Terror have recovered over 350 objects from the lost Franklin expedition. Senior Exhibitions Curator Dr Claire Warrior examines the vital new discoveries.

Ernest Shackleton 2.jpg

In the early 20th century the race was on to reach the South Pole. Robert Falcon Scott led the first British expedition.

Terra-Nova-PW2173_detail.jpg

The Terra Nova was built in 1884 as a whaling ship but became better known for her role in Polar exploration and her association with Captain Scott. 

1895, William Smith, They forged the last links with their lives.jpg

Sir John Franklin made three attempts to find the North-West Passage. His final voyage in 1845 in HMS Erebus and HMS Terror ended in tragedy for him and all his men, becoming the worst disaster in the history of British polar exploration. 

Foxe.map_.jpg

Explorer Luke Foxe led an expedition to search for the North-West Passage in 1631. He set out at the same time as rival explorer Thomas James.

Since North-West Passage exploration began over 400 years ago the polar ice caps have started to melt due to global warming.

Sir_William_Edward_Parry_by_Samuel_Drummond.jpg

William Edward Parry was a key figure in the discovery of the North-West Passage. He made three voyages to find it and his research was invaluable.

Pages