Google Lets You Follow in Antarctic Explorers’ Footsteps
A century after the great Antarctic explorers crossed that icy continent, many of their destinations remain inaccessible — at least on foot.
From your desktop, though, you can visit huts built by Ernest Shackleton and Robert Scott, even plant a virtual flag on the Ceremonial South Pole.
“It’s the next best thing to being there,” said Alex Starns, technical manager of Google’s Street View program.
Using a tripod-mounted version of the Street View cameras, researchers from the University of Minnesota’s Polar Geospatial Center and New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust captured 360-degree panoramic views of the sites, which were released July 17 as part of Google’s World Wonders project.
Antarctica was the last continent to be explored, with Roald Amundsen reaching its center and Ernest Shackleton crossing it early in the 20th century.
‘Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful.’In a 1913 newspaper advertisement that captured the spirit of their endeavors, Shackleton wrote, “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”
Many of the explorers’ camps and base stations have been almost untouched in the decades since, with Antarctica’s few tourists and even its research community unable to reach them.
That the sites remain so remote in an age of technologically augmented travel makes the explorers’ accomplishments all the more extraordinary.
“We wanted to show the legacy of these early explorers,” said Brad Herried, cartography director at the Polar Geospatial Center. “The logistics were so different for these guys 100 years ago. It’s remarkable to see how they did it. Where they set up base camps, the journey they made, is still well preserved.”
Herried said it’s nearly impossible to reach the sites. Of course, it’s not easy to reach modern scientific installations, either. The South Pole telescope and Cape Royds Adelie Penguin Rookery are among the contemporary sites included in the new World Wonders Project release.
“It’s not just the thrill of going there,” said Herried of his colleagues’ motivations for working in such an extreme, isolated environment. “We’re trying to answer scientific questions. That’s why we go.”