Author: Alan Gurney
Paperback: 320 pages
In the 1830’s much of the world was still unexplored territory to European and American travelers, and the forbidding Antarctic region represented perhaps the ultimate mystery. Thus far all attempts to travel south of 71º had been thwarted by impenetrable pack ice and speculations on what lay beyond ranged from an open or ice covered sea to a yet-to-be discovered polar continent. They even included American trader John Cleves Symmes’s hollow earth theory, which proposed that the polar regions consisted of gigantic holes allowing access to the Earth’s interior. Was there in fact a huge mass of land to be found below the Antarctic Circle, where James Cook during his voyages of the 1770’s had encountered only 'Firm Field and Vast Mountains of Ice'?
Rivalries among U.S., French and British exploring parties had been escalating in the previous decades during numerous forays into Oceana and the South Seas, voyages of discovery that also served to promote Pacific trade. Now that the possibility of landing on the Antarctic continent finally appeared within reach, the prospect that discovering a lucrative new whaling ground made this as yet unexploited and uncharted region seem especially enticing. As the decade drew to a close, three expeditions to the Pole were planned and launched simultaneously by the United States, France and Britain, each nation vying to be the first to forge a path through the ice and venture farther south than any vessel had sailed before. The leaders of these expeditions were US Navy officer Charles Wilkes, seasoned French explorer Dumont d’Urville, and Royal Navy captain James Clark Ross, whose mission included determining the exact location of the magnetic south pole.
The Race to the White Continent is a colorful and captivating account of the travelers and adventurers of these navigators.
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