Plans to explore inland were thwarted by weather, inexperience and the impassable mountains behind Cape Adare. For most of the year, the Southern Cross party was limited to short journeys around Robertson Bay.

Although they didn’t venture far, the men learned valuable lessons about travelling in Antarctica, particularly how swiftly deadly storms can arise and how easily the sea ice can break apart, leaving travellers marooned.

Climbing the Adare Peninsula after 3 nights marooned on a failed sledging trip, April 1899

Canterbury Museum 1978.207.9. No known copyright holder

Carsten Borchgrevink, Per Savio and a packed sledge, 1899

Norwegian Polar Institute 001092. All Rights Reserved

Carsten Borchgrevink, Per Savio and a packed sledge with Dogs
Hugh Evans, Carsten Borchgrevink and Anton Fougner at the farthest south point reached, February 1900

Hugh Evans, Carsten Borchgrevink and Anton Fougner at the farthest south point reached, February 1900

Canterbury Museum 13905. No known copyright holder

Colbeck’s map showing the route taken by the Southern Cross from Cape Adare along the Ross Ice Shelf (labelled as the Ice Barrier) in 1900.

The bay where the ship moored giving the men access to the Ross Ice Shelf is at the top left. Their route south is also indicated. This was the farthest south anyone had travelled at the time.

From: Borchgrevink, C E First on the Antarctic Continent, George Newnes Ltd, London, 1901

Borchgrevink map

The two most significant geographical achievements came in the expedition’s closing days. After the ship had collected the men for the return journey, they took a detour southwards along the Ross Ice Shelf.

They discovered a bay where the ship could anchor. In 1907, Ernest Shackleton named it the Bay of Whales. It was here that Roald Amundsen built his expedition base in 1911, the starting point for his successful journey to the South Pole.

The Southern Cross moored there on 17 February 1900 and two groups ventured onto the ice shelf, the first people ever to do so. They walked about 15 km, the farthest south any human had then stood.

With the sea ice closing in, the ship made for home 2 days later.

Leather boots containing sennegrass worn by Antarctic explorers

Leather boots containing sennegras

Antarctic Heritage Trust 11564.1


The soles of these boots are lined with sennegras, a plant fibre that insulates and absorbs moisture. This is important because sweat can freeze close to the skin in polar conditions.

Sennegras had been used for generations by the Sami people to line their komager (summer footwear) and skaller (reindeer boots). Per Savio and Ole Must brought sennegras to Antarctica for themselves and the other expedition members. The technique was later adopted by Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

Snow goggles

Snow goggles

Canterbury Museum A175.104


Canterbury Museum A180.35

Snow shoes
Men from Southern Cross expedition using primus stove to heat meal

Sledging group boiling water on a Primus, 1899

Canterbury Museum 1978.207.10. No known copyright holder

Primus stove

Antarctic Heritage Trust 11502.1


Carsten Borchgrevink’s team was the first to use a Primus stove in Antarctica. It was the latest high-tech gadget of the day, having been developed in Sweden 6 years earlier.

The Primus became a cornerstone of the heroic era of Antarctic exploration. Lightweight and reliable, it heated the food and water that sustained Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen and all the men who travelled the ice with them.

Dry matches were also required.

Tin-plated iron alloy match box

Antarctic Heritage Trust 5233.1

Match box
Field canteen

Field Canteen

Antarctic Heritage Trust 5072.1.15

Symington’s Pea Soup

Antarctic Heritage Trust 11442.1

Pea soup rations

Dehydrated foods developed for military use were successfully adapted for the short journeys made during the Southern Cross expedition.