The Southern Cross expedition

The expedition’s goals were to explore, contribute to science and look for commercial opportunities. The details were sketchy, but Carsten Borchgrevink and nine others were to spend a year in Antarctica, cut off from the rest of the world.

One of them would die, their hut would catch fire, arguments would fester unresolved and almost every man would regret his decision to take part. But Borchgrevink’s expedition did establish several major Antarctic firsts which influenced the course of history for decades to come.

Left: The Southern Cross leaving Hobart, 17 December 1898. Canterbury Museum 1978.207.120. No known copyright holder

The deck of the Southern Cross, 1898. Canterbury Museum 1978.207.23. No known copyright holder

Cargo on deck of Southern Cross en route to Antarctica

With food and equipment for 3 years stuffed into every available space, the Southern Cross left London in August 1898. A huge crowd cheered the men on their way, while the dogs howled back from the deck.

The ship travelled south for the remainder of the year, stopping in Hobart for final provisioning. In December, the expedition departed the Hobart docks, saying farewell to the comforts of everyday life.

Union Jacks on dispay at Cape Adare huts built by Southern Cross expedition

The first New Year’s Day in Antarctica, Cape Adare, 1900

Norwegian Polar Institute 066272. All Rights Reserved

Union Jack flag

Antarctic Heritage Trust 11343.1

AX650 190502

The Southern Cross departed with over 500 Union Jack flags on board. They proved useful on celebration days like New Year.

This wind-battered example is the only one that survives at Cape Adare

Sir George Newnes. From Carsten Borchgrevink’s book First on the Antarctic Continent, published by George Newnes Ltd, London, 1901

Portrait of George Newnes

English publishing magnate Sir George Newnes funded the expedition. He had his eye on the story sales that would result from the daring exploits. Newnes’ investment was £35,000, a staggering NZ$7.6 million today.