An Impressive List Of Polar Firsts (Part One)

In the modern world, opportunities to achieve something for the first time are dwindling. Many of the most inspiring accomplishments that exist on planet Earth already have someone’s name alongside them, as brave individuals push themselves to the limit of human endurance. And this is why we have since turned to the stars in search of a new wave of challenges to quench the thirst of the 21st-century explorer.

However, none of this can take away the triumphs of those who did achieve an outstanding feat for the first time, especially when you consider that most of them done it in a time where the technical advancements we have available today weren’t in place. So, in way of honouring these people, let’s take the first of two looks at some impressive polar firsts.

First Person To Cross The Antarctic Circle – Captain James Cook

Antarctica Globe

Captain James Cook is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest explorers, thanks to his exploits all over the world. He is most famous for three mammoth voyages that helped to map certain parts of the world which hadn’t yet been discovered. Whilst the first and third involved the crews of HMS Discovery and HMS Resolution looking for Australia and the Northwest Passage respectively, it was the second voyage, in 1772, that led him into the Antarctic Circle.

After proving in his first expedition that New Zealand was not attached to any other land mass to the south, James Cook set off to discover if the rumours of a Terra Australis (south land) were true. However, the closest he got was 70° south and so he returned with the news that Terra Australis was indeed a myth.

First Person To Reach The South Pole – Roald Amundson

South Pole Sign

After the Antarctic continent was finally found and the first person had set foot on it (Captain John Davis in 1821), it sparked a race as to who could be the first person to fully explore this new land. However, it wasn’t until 90 years later that the feat was finally accomplished, when Roald Amundson beat Sir Ernest Shackleton to the punch.

Amundson and his crew, sailing in the legendary ship Fram, landed in what is now known as the Bay of Whales (although they named it Framheim) on January 14th, 1911. It then took them almost an entire year, and one failed attempt, before they reached the South Pole on December 14th, 1911. The team arrived a full 34 days before Ernest Shackleton and his crew and left a note marking their achievement, in case they never made it back.

First Ship To Complete A Return Voyage Of The Northwest Passage – St. Roch

St. Roch ShipSt. Roch Ship

Although it was our good friend Roald Amundson who first traversed the fabled Northwest Passage, onboard a fishing vessel called Gjøa, the first ship to complete a return voyage was St. Roch. This ice-strengthened ship was actually a humble Canadian police schooner and often had her captain, Henry Larsen, wondering if she would make it through the icy waters.

Low and behold, though, in 1942, she cemented her place in the record books as the first vessel to travel through the passage in a west to east direction. Two years later, she then became the first ship to make a return journey through this treacherous route and the first to make it through it one season. St. Roch can now be found in the Vancouver Maritime Museum and has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada.

First Game Of Rugby At The North Pole – Various Ex-players

Rugby Ball

The last polar first of part one focusses on a feat that is yet to be achieved. As I write this, a team of ex-pros and amateur rugby players are taking part in a 10-day trek to the North Pole. Once they arrive, they hope to be able to muster up the strength to play the first ever rugby match at the North Pole and the northernmost rugby match ever. This will put their names firmly in the Guinness Book of Records.

The adventurous group includes former international players Ollie Phillips, Tim Stimpson and Lee Mears and the attempt has been organised to raise money for Wooden Spoon. This charity helps disadvantaged and disabled children all over the country through the medium of rugby and by staging events such as this. We wish them luck as they ‘try’ to play a 7-a-side game in temperatures that could reach -50°c.

If you would like to follow in the footsteps of these intrepid explorers, we have a wide range of expedition cruises available. Call us today for more information and look out for part two of our polar firsts next week.

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