Tragedy and Triumph: The story of polar exploration

Few stories in exploration are as fascinating as the early attempts to find a way through the North-West Passage and the expeditions to be first at the North and South Poles.

In the most hostile environments on earth, men perished, survived and occasionally triumphed.  This is their story.

The day school will focus on three areas:

The search for the North West Passage, from Frobisher and Davis in the 16th century to Roald Amundsen in the early 20th century.

This search was to overlap with various attempts, some as desperate as they were imaginative, to reach the North Pole.  These expeditions culminated in the Englishman, Wally Herbert’s remarkable journey at the end of the 1960s.

Robert Scott, Roald Amundsen and the Race to the South Pole.

With the help of the evocative photographs of Scott’s photographer, Herbert Ponting, this session focuses on the so-called Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration, in particular the journeys by Robert Scott and his rival, Roald Amundsen to be first at the South Pole.

Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition.

This session focuses on one of the most dramatic escapes from disaster in polar history.  Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, got trapped and eventually crushed in the pack ice.  With the help of the expedition’s photographs by Frank Hurley, we will follow the saga of this escape against the odds.

The aim of the day is that it should be interesting, enjoyable and thought-provoking.  I hope it will also stimulate further reading of an endlessly fascinating subject.

Course Details

This course finished on 04 March 2023