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Antarctic pioneers

The Voyage of the Belgica 1897-99

In July 1895, the Sixth International Geographical Congress was held in London. One of the objectives was to rekindle interest in Antarctic exploration. Little of consequence had been achieved in the past 50 years, and the Congress passed a resolution, stating that “further exploration of the Antarctic regions should be undertaken before the close of the century”.

Those who attended the congress were probably unaware that preparations for just such an expedition were already under way. The man who intended to lead this voyage of discovery was a 29-year-old lieutenant in the Belgian Navy, Adrien Victor Joseph de Gerlache.

Three years earlier he had volunteered to join a Swedish expedition that was being formed, but the expedition was abandoned before it set sail.