Frozen in Time

At the close of the nineteenth century, Antarctica remained the only continent on Earth that had yet to feel the imprint of humankind. Until that time, only the heartiest of men had even spied her frozen wastes at a distance as they combed Antarctica’s ice-choaked waters in pursuit of whale and seal. That all changed in July 1895, when, at the Sixth International Geographical Congress in London, Antarctica was declared the greatest unclaimed geographical prize of the day. Their proclamation ushered in what would come to be known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. Over the course of two decades, dozens of expeditions set off for the land at the bottom of the world, hoping to be the first to set foot not only on Antarctica, but at the South Pole, one of the last great “undones.”

In pursuit of a dream, men such as Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton, and Roald Amundsen endured almost inconceivable hardships to one day become luminaries in the annals of exploration. Beyond some of the greatest stories of discovery and survival ever told, these explorers left physical reminders of their feats. Some 4,800 kilometers due south of New Zealand, four expedition huts built by these intrepid adventurers still stand, each a repository of hopes and dreams, heroism and tragedy. Dotted around the shores of the Ross Shackleton’s Hut at Cape Royds © Corbis 18 winter 2003/2004 Sea, the huts are doubly significant in that they make Antarctica the only continent on Earth where humankind’s first dwellings still exist. Each is a poignant monument to the human passion for discovery; each faces destruction wrought by the most hostile climate on the planet

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