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THE SOUTH POLE WILL BE FOUND.
When Shackelton reached latitude 88 south, he had traveled far beyond the best record of Capt. Scott, his mentor, in 1892, and had gone 18 degrees farther than the best previous mark. This was made by C. E. Borchgrevink, a Dane, in March, 1900. Borchgrevink's exact record was latitude 70 degrees 50 minutes. Before him came a German and a Scotch expedition — these in addition to the Belgian party with which Dr. Cook got his training. The German party under Capt. Ruser made a trip in 1901 which was without sensational incident. The Scotch expedition, headed by Capt. Bruce sailed in the ship Scotia in 1903. Neither of these parties established a notable record. Of the various trips, however, the combined results were such as to prove the utterly desolate character of the Antarctic, and threw much added light on the basic discoveries made by Capt. Cook, an 18th century hero and navigator whose book "Capt. Cook's Voyages," is one of the celebrated books of the world. Cook, in 1773-5, first circumnavigated the southern continents and was really the discoverer of the Antarctic region, which even in modern times had been supposed by many excellent folk to be non-existent, except as an unbroken sea.
It is now known that the Antarctic, though mainly composed of vast stretches of ocean, does include some comparatively small areas of land. These, however, are so ice-covered and bleak as scarcely to be distinguished from the frozen seas. There is no vegetation, and for the most part, no animal life whatever. Explorers cannot, as Nansen, Cook and others did in the Arctic, shoot quantities of life-saving game when near the South Pole.
There have been three recognized routes of exploration to the lands lying south of the Antarctic circle, — Patagonia, Kerguenlen Island, and Tasmania.
The first American Antarctic traveler was a whaler named Nathaniel B. Palmer. He made his attempt in 1821 and discovered what is known as the Palmer Archipelago, lying north of what is supposed to be the Antarctic continent. In the above three named routes the most important discoveries have been made by way of Tasmania.
In recent years a new line of travel has been used. Lieut. Shackelton's was the most recent. He sailed from New Zealand for the southern regions.
Prof. T. W. E. David who made a trip to the southern magnetic pole asserts that in company with two other explorers he found the Magnetic Pole after a journey of 1,260 miles which lasted four months. Prof. David describes the Magnetic Pole as a circular area about thirty miles in diameter, within which the pole is situated from time to time during different days and at different hours of the day the pole constantly moving around.
Prof. David said that when his party got to the Antarctic Magnetic Pole the needle of the ordinary compass refused to work, but their position was more accurately told by an instrument which contained a number of magnetic needles, which tilted up vertically the nearer they got to the Magnetic Pole till at the Magnetic Pole itself they were upright. The compass would act in a similar manner in the Arctic magnetic circle.
That the South Pole will be discovered, and speedily, was asserted in an earlier chapter. Activity in this line was immensely stimulated by the discoveries of Cook and Peary. Explorers who had hoped to be the first to plant the flag of their nation at the northernmost point began to yearn for the glory of finding the southernmost. No sooner had the success of the North-pole-finders become known than preparations were begun by several travelers to go to the Antarctic. For a time it was believed both Cook and Peary would try for the South Pole, but later Peary announced he was through with polar travel. Cook did not give out his intentions immediately. In the meantime announcement was made that Capt. Scott, the Englishman, had received the backing of the Royal Geographical Society for a South Pole trip in which he expected to use motor sledges and all the other most modern means of polar travel. He expected to establish two bases, one in McMurdo Sound and the other in King Edward Land.
The Antarctic has not furnished the same black record of death, starvation and misery that has attended the search for the farthest north. This, perhaps, is because there has not existed the same fever of desire to reach the South Pole. But the day of discovery is coming. They will push forward, these intrepid voyagers, into the great white waste of the Antarctic, until the last discoverable land is charted, the last mountains climbed, and all that is knowable about the South Pole, as well as the North, will be known. And they will find — a waste, and nothing more. The Antarctic cannot be populated, unless with increasing knowledge mankind can devise some now undreamed-of method of making life possible in the lands of perpetual ice.
There is at the South Pole no race of Eskimos who have learned by years of slow and dearly-bought experiences how to exist in the face of nature's sternest obstacles. And yet it is conceivable that, in the far-distant future, as civilization expands, and the wildernesses are inhabited, bands of pioneers will penetrate the Antarctic and force their livelihood from its rocks and its frozen seas. By such time, it may be believed, the Arctic region will already have been seized upon by men of the skill and hardihood needful for those who blaze the way.
Then will the names of Franklin, Greely and Nansen, of Peary and Cook, of Scott and Shackelton, have a luster far different from that which shines about the heads of men who achieve great but empty feats. To men like those will accrue the glory of heroes who extended the boundaries of the earth and discovered a foundation-place for the homes of the world's future millions.
Admiral Schley, the man who rescued Greely, has discussed most forcefully the question: "Does Arctic exploration pay?" Says he:
"There are two sides to this Arctic problem. There is a material side and there is a scientific side. . . . It has been asked. What is the use of all this loss of life? What is the use of all these expeditions? It may be said from the material side that millions of square miles of discovered territory have been added to our geography; that the gospel of Christ has been sent into this north land; that the domain of civilization has been extended; that the empire of commerce has been made to penetrate into this polar ocean, which has resulted in adding millions of money to our material possession and circulation. That being the case, it does seem to me that there is some compensation, certainly, for the small loss of life which has attended these expeditions."