Thursday, August 27, 2009

Real Events: "South Latitude 67, East Longitude 175"

Could Lovecraft had read this? (Or similar).

As we left the inhabited world behind, the sun sank lower and lower in the north, and stayed longer and longer above the horizon each day. At about 62° South Latitude we sighted our first icebergs - table-like objects with vertical sides - and just before reaching the antarctic circle, which we crossed on October 20th with appropriately quaint ceremonies, we were considerably troubled with field ice. The falling temperature bothered me considerably after our long voyage through the tropics, but I tried to brace up for the worse rigors to come. On many occasions the curious atmospheric effects enchanted me vastly; these including a strikingly vivid mirage - the first I had ever seen - in which distant bergs became the battlements of unimaginable cosmic castles.

Pushing through the ice, which was fortunately neither extensive nor thickly packed, we regained open water at South Latitude 67°, East Longitude 175°. On the morning of October 26th a strong land blink appeared on the south, and before noon we all felt a thrill of excitement at beholding a vast, lofty, and snow-clad mountain chain which opened out and covered the whole vista ahead. At last we had encountered an outpost of the great unknown continent and its cryptic world of frozen death. These peaks were obviously the Admiralty Range discovered by Ross, and it would now be our task to round Cape Adare and sail down the east coast of Victoria Land to our contemplated base on the shore of McMurdo Sound, at the foot of the volcano Erebus in South Latitude 77° 9'.


I've highlighted some very interesting passages that seemed capable of inspiring HPL's flight of imagination. Note the October 26 passages in HPL and the historic text.


From Journal of the American Geographical Society of New York
Volume 27 - 1895

Mr. C. E. Borchgrevink, a young Norwegian, read a paper on the Voyage of the Antarctic to Victoria Land. In order to join the Antarctie, which was a whaling vessel, he had been obliged to ship as a common sailor, and had been able, therefore, to take with him only a few instruments. The vessel left Melbourne September 20, 1894, and the story of her voyage is as follows:

On October 18, while steering for Royal Company Islands, they had snow on board for the first time. At night it was moonlight, and at 12 0'clock the aurora australis was visible for the first time, with white shining clouds rolling from west towards east.

It formed into a shining ellipse, with an altitude above the southern horizon of 35 degrees. The Antarctic was at that time in the vicinity of Macquarie Island, and thus in latitude about 34 degrees south. The aurora seemed constantly to obtain its light force from the west, and the intensity of its light cloud culminated every five minutes, after which it suddenly died out, to regain its former magnificence and beauty during the succeeding five minutes.

The phenomenon lasted till 2 0'clock, when it was gradually lost in an increasing mist. They set out for Campbell Island on the 22d, and dropped anchor in North Harbour on the eve of October 25, shifting the following day to Perseverance Harbour, where they filled their water tanks and made their final preparations before proceeding south.

On October 31 they weighed anchor, and during the next few days, proceeding further into the fifties, the air and the water kept an equal temperature at 44° F.

On the 6th of the following month, in latitude 58° 14' and longitude 162' 35', they sighted an immense barrier of ice, or chain of icebergs, extending no less than from forty to sixty miles from east to northwest. The top was quite level and absolutely white.

The highest point was 600 feet high. The perpendicular sides were dark ashy gray, with large worn green caves, in which the furious waves were raging and tearing, bursting forth in brilliant foam hundreds of feet up in the air. Numerous icebergs were floating about in all directions, and were undoubtedly children of this enormous monster.

It was here they discovered that their propeller was out of order, and the Antarctic was again headed northward, anchoring in Port Chalmers on the 18th, where the damage was soon repaired. They again stood southwards on November 28.

By the time they reached 55" the albatross had left them and likewise the Cape pigeon, but the white- bellied storm petrel still followed in their track.

On December 7 they sighted the edge of the pack ice and shot their first seal, which was of the white kind. On December 8, in latitude 68' 45 , longitude 171° 30', large streams of ice were drifting around them. A strong ice-blink appeared towards the south, and the presence of the elegant white petrel gave unmistakable evidence that now they had before them those vast ice-fields into which the gallant Briton, Sir James Ross, on January 5, 1841, successfully entered with his famous ships Erebus and Terror.
In the evening the Antarctic slowly worked its way through the edge of the pack ice, which consisted of large and heavy hummocky ice. Of marine animals they saw multitudes. The large-finned whale, known in Norway as the blue whale, were spouting about in all directions. The white petrel were numerous here. The white-bellied petrel departed at the edge of the pack, leaving the icy regions to its darker, hardier brethren.

They shot several seal, but seldom saw more than one or two together and never more than seven, most having scars and scratches in their skin. When the ship entered the pack the temperature of the air was 25°, that of the water 28°, which latter held all through the pack.

On the 14th they sighted Balleney Island, and found it, as according to Ross, in latitude 66° 44', longitude 164". The icefloes grew gradually larger as they approached land, and it was evident that the icepack then around them was for a great part discharged from the glaciers of the Balleney. They got a good view of the lofty peak of the Balleney, which rose to a height of 12,000 feet above the sea level.

On December 16 they moored the Antarctic to a large floe of pancake-like ice, which told its tale of the previous long calm. On December 24 they were in latitude 66° 3, longitude 167" 37' east. During the day they had stormy weather, but the evening was beautiful and the sun just touched the horizon on its lowest descent.

They were probably the only people who ever saw the midnight sun on Christmas Eve. On Wednesday, the 26th, they crossed the Antarctic Circle.

On New Year's Eve they were in latitude 66° 47', longitude 147° 8' at 12 o'clock. While the sun was shining bright, they rang the old year out and the new year in, and saluted with their guns in honour of the occasion.

In latitude 67° 5', longitude 175° 45' east, was secured a specimen of ApterodyUs Forsteri, a large penguin.

In all only four of these birds were secured, and it was never seen in company with another of its kind. On the 14th, in latitude 69° 55' and longitude 157° 30' east, they came again into open water, having spent thirty-eight days in working their passage through the pack ice.

They steered straight for Cape Adare, on Victoria Land, which they sighted on January 16. On the 15th, in latitude 71° 45', longitude 176° 3', the temperature of the air was 32° and the temperature of the water 30°, and the sky was completely clear. The Cape, which was in 71° 23' and 169' 56', rose to a height of 3,779 feet, and consisted of a large, square, basaltic rock with perpendicular sides.

From there they saw the coast of Victoria Land to the west and south as far as the eye could reach. It rose from dark, bare rocks into peaks of perpetual ice and snow, 12,000 feet above the level of the sea; Mount Sabine, above the rest, standing out shining in the rays of the midnight sun. Conic tops covered the plateau and ran over in mighty glaciers.

They counted as many as twenty of them in the close vicinity of the Bay of Adare. On the 18th they sighted Possession Island, with its peculiar contours standing out sharply against the bright sky. They effected a successful landing on the North Island, pulling their boat upon the shore, and they were at once furiously attacked by the penguins, which covered the very ground of the island and seemed much annoyed by seeing the foreigners intruding on their domain.

Their hoarse screams filled the air, and it was with a considerable strain of his voice that, on landing, he addressed his countrymen in a few words, informing them that they were the second party who had set foot on that island, and that Sir James Ross had preceded them, having fifty-four years ago landed there and planted the English flag.

They gave three cheers for that great British navigator, and also for Commander Captain Svend Foyn, who so bravely sent out that present Antarctic expedition. The ground on the island was covered with a deep layer of guano, which, in time, might prove very valuable to Australasia.

The island consisted of volcanic, vesicular lava, rising in the south-west into two pointed peaks of 300 feet in height. He scaled the highest of these and called it Peak Archer, after Mr. A. Archer, M.L.A., of Rockhampton, Queensland.

To the west the island rose gently upward, forming a bold and con spicuous cape, which, not being named by Sir James Ross, it was left to him (Mr. Borchgrevink) to christen. He gave it the name of Sir Ferd. von Mueller, whose scientific fame he already as a boy had learnt to value on the Continent. He quite unexpectedly found vegetation on the rocks, about 30 feet above the sea level. Vegetation never was discovered in such southern latitudes before.

Possession Island was situated in latitude 71° 56', longitude 171° 10'. It was remarkably free from snow. He judged it to be from 300 to 350 acres in size, and they gave it the name of Sir James Ross's Island. On February 20 they steamed southwards, and sighted Colman Island on the 21st, at midnight. Finding the eastern cape of this large island unnamed, they called it Cape Oscar, in honour of his Majesty the King of Norway, whose birthday it happened to be on that day. He noticed great irregularities in their compass at Colman Island.

Undoubtedly that island contained secrets of scientific value, which would be well worth the attention of future Antarctic researches. On the 22d they were in 74° south. No whales appearing, it was decided to head northwards again, although they all regretted that circumstances did not permit them to proceed further south. On the 23d they were again at Cape Adare. They landed that night, being the first human creatures who ever put foot on the mainland.

The penguins were, if possible, even more numerous here than on the Possession Island, and they were discovered on the very cape as far up as 1,000 feet. In latitude 66°, longitude 172° 31', they ran into open water again, having this time only spent six days in the ice pack. On the I7th of February the Aurora appeared stronger than he ever saw the Aurora Borealis. It rose from south-west, stretching in a broad stream up towards the zenith, and again towards the eastern horizon. The minimum temperature within the Antarctic Circle which they experienced was 25° F., the maximum being 46° F. The average temperature for January and February kept very much the same. The temperature of the water kept at 28° F. all through the ice pack, always rising one degree where a larger sheet of water broke the ice fields.

In the large bay at South Victoria Land the temperature kept constantly about freezing point. It was evident that a warm, north-running current existed in the bay, which undoubtedly had a constant direction northwards, and broke the ice fields at the very place where first Sir James Ross and then they successfully penetrated to the open bay of Victoria Land. Within the Antarctic Circle the barometer at 29' always indicated calm, beautiful, clear weather, and even down to 28° it kept fine.

This low barometric indication was remarkable where the dryness of the air should help in causing a high pressure. The movement of the ice distinctly pointed to a north-easterly direction, and the scarcity of ice in the Bay of Victoria Land was undoubtedly not alone owing to warm currents, but also to the protection which the bay had against drift ice by the shore from Cape Adare down to the volcanoes, the Erebus and Terror.

A particular specimen of rock which he picked up, composed of quartz, felspar and garnet fragments, held out some hope that minerals of economic value might occur in those regions. He made a thorough investigation of this landing-place, because he believed that here was the very place where a future scientific expedition might stop safely, even during the winter months. Several accessible spurs led up from the place where they were to the top of the cape, from there a gentle slope led on to the great plateau of the South Victorian Continent.

The presence of the penguin colony, their undisturbed old nests, the vegetation on the rocks, and the flat table of the cape above, all indicated that here was a place where the unbound powers of the Antarctic Circle did not display the whole severity of their forces. Neither ice nor volcanoes seemed to have raged on the peninsula at Cape Adare, and he strongly recommended that a future scientific expedition should choose this spot as a centre for operations. At this conspicuous cape there would, in his opinion, be ample opportunities for making meteorological observations, and scarcely any branch of science demanded research more than meteorology within the Antarctic Circle.

He himself was willing to be the leader of a land party to be landed either on the pack or on the mainland near Colman Island, with skier, Canadian snow-shoes, sledges and dogs. From there it was his scheme to work toward the South Magnetic Pole, calculated by Ross to be in 75' 05' and 150' east, and Colman Island lying in 73° 36 south and 170 02TM east, he would have approximately to travel about Ioo miles to reach the South Magnetic Pole. If it were the means of determining the periodical changes in the Pole of terrestrial magnetism alone, a future expedition would, from a scientific point of view, be an entire success. As to the zoological result of future research he expected great discoveries. It would indeed be remarkable if in the unexplored Victoria Continent, which probably extended over an area of 8,000,000 square miles, or about twice the size of Europe, there should not be found animal life hitherto unknown in the Southern Hemisphere. It was true that the scientific results of this expedition had been few, but where already so many important facts demanded further research the arguments plainly proved that the time was ripe and that further delay of a scientific expedition to South Victoria Continent could scarcely be justified.

No comments:


Blog Archive


Google Analytics