An Impressive List Of Polar Firsts (Part Two)
Last week, we brought you part one of our list of people who have been the first to accomplish something in the Polar Regions. Here, we continue by looking at some more impressive polar firsts.
First Unsupported Journey To The North Pole – Will Steger
Will Steger was the fourth man to reach both poles and spent time as an explorer-in-residence with National Geographic. As well as leading expeditions from Russia to the Canadian Arctic and across Greenland (the latter being the longest unsupported dogsled expedition that has ever been made), he also made the first unsupported trek to the North Pole, in 1986.
‘Unsupported’ means that the team of six, led by Steger, didn’t stop for more supplies at any point and there was no one following them in the air to help them out if needed. To give you an idea of how hard this feat was to achieve, the heroic explorer Ranulph Fiennes failed in four attempts between 1986 and 1990.
First Dog On Antarctica – Sydney
In the late 1830s and early 1840s, six American navy vessels were sent out to explore the known world. Their task was to travel into unchartered waters, mapping them as they went, and extend the reaches of US commerce, industry and knowledge. A year into this mammoth expedition, the ships called into Sydney harbour to procure provisions and ended up leaving with one extra adventurer on board.
The governor of Australia gave Charles Wilkes, the commanding officer of the expedition and captain of the flagship USS Vincennes, a gift in the form of a Newfoundland dog. The crew proceeded to name him after the port they were in and continued their journey. Soon after, Sydney became the first dog to set foot on Antarctica and it is recorded that he saved Wilkes’ life on a number of occasions when warning him of hidden dangers during their travels.
First Pilot To Fly To Both Poles - Colonel Bernt Balchen
Bernt Balchen was an esteemed pilot during World War II and is known for a number of aviation-related achievements in the Polar Regions. So much so that he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and many other honours for his exploits.
After being the chief pilot of the first plane to fly over the South Pole, in 1929, Balchen completed the polar set when he later circled over the North Pole during a flight from Alaska to Greenland. He then landed at what is now Thule Air Base as the first person to fly a plane over both poles. Incidentally, it was he who played a key role in the development of this military base, which later helped the Americans during the Cold War.
First Head of State to visit Antarctica - Gabriel Gonzales Videla of Chile
It’s one thing for an explorer to visit extreme landscapes such as those found on Antarctica, but it’s a rarity for a head of state to follow suit. Nonetheless, Chilean president Gabriel Gonzales Videla became the first to do so when he arrived at paradise harbour in the 1940s. To mark this occasion, a shelter was built close to one of Chile’s research stations on the continent. The shelter is still there to this day and has been designated as a Historic Site, protected under the Antarctic Treaty. The research station, which still works between December and April every year, is now named after this first head of state to set foot on Antarctica.
If you would like to follow in the footsteps of any of these people, and visit either of the Polar Regions, we have various different Antarctic and Arctic expedition cruises available. Call us today or more information or to book the adventure of a lifetime.