Last Updated: 4 February 2010.

Accessed at least many times since 16 April 2007.

Principal Expeditions during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration
An Historical Timeline of Antarctic Exploration
Concise Chronology of Approach to the Poles
An Ernest Shackleton Timeline
A Robert F. Scott Timeline
A Roald Amundsen Timeline
A detailed Antarctic Timeline from the New Zealand Antarctic Veterans Association.


This is 'edited from and extracted from' Bob Headland's A Chronology of Antarctic Exploration which was issued by Bernard Quaritch in 2009. It is included
here with the permission of the author.
One can see a review of this essential volume at elsewhere on this site.
Also an extensive review in the recently published Nimrod, the journal of the 'Shackleton Autumn School.'
—Robert B. Stephenson


I created this Historical Timeline of Antarctic Exploration for use as a handout for talks on Antarctic history. It was done somewhat hurriedly and I haven't got around to correcting a few of the errors that I know exist. Please feel free to comment or point out mistakes.

It was created in Pagemaker at a size of 38 by 25 inches. The largest at which I've printed it out is 17 by 11 inches, just readable. It has been converted into an Adobe Acrobat document which will come up in your browser window when you click here.
—Robert B. Stephenson


This chronology was prepared by Robert K. Headland, Archivist and Curator, Scott Polar Research Institute. It appears here courtesy of Mr Headland and SPRI. Note: Only the Antarctic portion is included here.

The following Antarctic and Arctic lists give explorations, in chronological order, towards the South Pole and North Pole, their attainment (air and surface, and by sea in the Arctic), and the first crossings of the regions. There are several claims included which are unverified and extremely doubtful, although some of these pretensions have been well publicised.
—R. K. Headland


1603. Gabriel de Castilla (Spain), aboard Nuestra Sefiora de la Mercedes, probably penetrated to 64°S in the Southern Ocean south of Drake Passage.
Subsequently several merchant vessels reported being blown south of 60°S [66·67gS] rounding Cabo de Hornos in severe weather.

1773. James Cook (Britain), with companies aboard HMS Resolution and HMS Adventure, crossed the Antarctic Circle (66·53°S [73·92gS]) off Enderby land, 17 January.

1774. James Cook (Britain) on the same expedition reached 71·17°S [79·08gS] off Marie Byrd Land, 30 January.

1820. Fabian von Bellingshausen (Russia), with companies aboard Vostok and Mirnyy, sighted the Antarctic continent at about 69·35°S [77·06gS] off Dronning Maud Land, 27 January.

1823. James Weddell (Britain), with company aboard Jane reached 74·25°S [82.50gS] in the Weddell Sea, 20 February.

1842. James Ross (Britain), with companies aboard HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, reached 78·17°S [86·86gS] in the Ross Sea, 23 February.

1900. Hugh Evans (Britain) and 3 others sledged to 78·83°S [87·59gS] on the Ross Ice Shelf, 23 February.

1902. Robert Scott (Britain) and 2 others sledged to 82·28°S [91·42gS] on the Ross Ice Shelf, 30 December.

1909. Ernest Shackleton (Britain) and 3 others sledged to 88·38°S [98·20gS], 9 January.

1911. Roald Amundsen (Norway) and 4 others dog-sledged to 90°S [100gS], 14 December.

1912. Robert Scott (Britain) and 4 others sledged to 90°S [100gS], 17 January (all perished during the return journey).

1929. Richard Byrd (United States), with an aircraft crew, claimed to have flown over the South Pole from the Ross Ice Shelf, 29 November.

1947. Richard Byrd (United States), with crew aboard two aircraft, flew over the South Pole from the Ross Ice Shelf, 15 February.

1956. John Torbert (United States) and 6 others flew across Antarctica over the South Pole (Ross Island to Weddell Sea and returned without landing), 13 January.

1956. Conrad Shinn (United States), with crew of an aircraft, landed at the South Pole, 31 October, a permanent station was then established sustained by aircraft.
Subsequently many aircraft have landed at the South Pole.

1958. Vivian Fuchs (British Commonwealth) and an expeditionary party reached the South Pole with motor vehicles and sledge dogs, 20 January and continued to cross Antarctica (Weddell Sea to Ross Sea).
Subsequently several expeditions have crossed the Antarctic through the South Pole by surface and many have made one-way surface journeys leaving by aircraft.


[I relied on several sources in preparing this (Fisher, Huntford, Mill, Alexander, and the journals of Orde-Lees, Worsley, Hurley). In some cases the dates don't agree. —Robert B. Stephenson]

FEBRUARY 15, 1874. Ernest Henry Shackleton born at Kilkea House, County Kildare, Ireland, the second child of Henry and Henrietta Shackleton.

JUNE 1885. The Shackleton family moves to 12 West Hill, Sydenham, England. Two years later, Ernest enters nearby Dulwich College. In 1890, Ernest leaves Dulwich and joins the North Western Shipping Company as a "ship's boy."

AUGUST 6, 1901. Ernest departs for the Antarctic aboard the Discovery as a member of the National Antarctic Expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott.

DECEMBER 30, 1902. Ernest, Robert Scott and Edward Wilson reach 82 deg15'S, the Furthest South yet obtained. Ernest later returns to England on the Morning.

JANUARY 11, 1904. Ernest takes up appointment as Secretary/Treasurer of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

APRIL 9, 1904. Ernest marries Emily Dorman at Christ Church, Westminster.

AUGUST 7, 1907. Ernest, leading the British Antarctic Expedition, departs from Torquay on his second Antarctic expedition aboard the Nimrod.

OCTOBER 29, 1908. Polar Party--Shackleton, Adams, Marshall and Wild--set out.

JANUARY 9, 1909. Polar Party reaches Furthest South at 88 deg 51'S, 97 geographical miles from the South Pole. Ernest returns to England as a great hero.

DECEMBER 14, 1909. Ernest invested with a Knighthood at Buckingham Palace.

AUGUST 8, 1914. Sir Ernest, leading the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, departs from Plymouth on his third Antarctic expedition aboard the Endurance.

DECEMBER 5, 1914. The Endurance sails south from South Georgia; next landfall: 497 days.

DECEMBER 7, 1914. The Endurance first encounters pack ice.

JANUARY 19, 1915. The Endurance trapped in ice at 76 deg 34'S.

FEBRUARY 22, 1915. The Endurance reaches its Furthest South, 77 deg S off Luitpold Land.

FEBRUARY 22, 1915. The Endurance reaches its Furthest South, 77 deg S off Luitpold Land.

OCTOBER 27, 1915. The Endurance is abandoned; Ocean Camp established.

NOVEMBER 21, 1915. "She's going, boys!" The Endurance sinks.

JANUARY 26, 1916. Patience Camp established on the ice-floes.

APRIL 9, 1916. The James Caird, Stancomb Wills and Dudley Docker are launched for the voyage to Elephant Island.

APRIL 15, 1916. The three boats land at Cape Valentine, Elephant Island: First dry land in 16 months. Two days later the party removes to Cape Wild.

APRIL 24, 1916. The James Caird departs for South Georgia, Sir Ernest, Frank Worsley, Tom Crean, Harry McNeish, Tim McCarthy and John Vincent aboard.

MAY 10, 1916. The James Caird lands on the south coast of South Georgia. Five days later the six-man party removes to Peggotty Camp at the head of King Haakon Bay.

MAY 19, 1916. Sir Ernest, Worsley and Crean start their journey across South Georgia.

MAY 20, 1916. Sir Ernest, Worsley and Crean arrive at Stromness, on the north coast of South Georgia.

AUGUST 30, 1916. Sir Ernest, aboard the Yelcho, rescues the 22 men on Elephant Island.

SEPTEMBER 3, 1916. The Yelcho arrives at Punta Arenas, Chile.

DECEMBER 20, 1916. Sir Ernest, aboard the Aurora, sails from New Zealand to rescue the members of his Ross Sea Party. Under extreme conditions they had successfully laid supply depots for the Weddell Sea Party that ironically was never to reach land.

JANUARY 10, 1917. The Aurora reaches Cape Royds and collects the Ross Sea Party.

SEPTEMBER 17, 1921. Sir Ernest, leading the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition, departs from St. Katherine's Docks, London, on his fourth Antarctic expedition aboard the Quest.

JANUARY 4, 1922. The Quest arrives at Grytviken, South Georgia.

JANUARY 5, 1922. At 3:30 am Sir Ernest dies in his cabin aboard the Quest in Grytviken.

MARCH 5, 1922. Sir Ernest is buried in the whalers cemetery at Grytviken.


Last Updated: 30 March 2004

JUNE 6, 1868. Robert Falcon Scott born at Outlands, Devonport near Plymouth, England, the first son and third child of John and Hannah Scott.

MARCH 1, 1887. Scott's boat wins a race at St. Kitts. Clements Markham takes note.

1896 - Scott joins HMS Empress of India.

SUMMER 1897. Scott promoted to torpedo lieutenant in Majestic, the Channel Squadron's flagship.

OCTOBER 1897. Scott's father, John Scott, dies of heart disease.

MAY 25, 1900. Scott appointed Commander of the National Antarctic Expedition.

JULY 31, 1901. Discovery sails from London.

AUGUST 6, 1901. Scott departs for the Antarctic aboard the Discovery as leader of the National Antarctic Expedition.

OCTOBER 3, 1901. Discovery arrives at Cape Town.

DECEMBER 21, 1901. Discovery leaves Lyttelton, New Zealand, for Antarctic. Charles Bonner falls from mast and is killed.

JANUARY 3, 1902. Discovery crosses Antarctic Circle.

JANUARY 8, 1902. Scott sights Antarctica for the first time (Victoria Land).

FEBRUARY 4, 1902. Scott makes first Antarctic balloon ascent at Bay of Whales.

MARCH 11, 1902. George Vince slides to his death into the sea while coming back to the Discovery in a blizzard. First and only Antarctic casualty on expedition.

JUNE 22, 1902. Midwinter Day celebration, including performance of Ticket of Leave, a play by Charles Royds.

NOVEMBER 2, 1902. Robert Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Edward Wilson set off on Southern Journey.

DECEMBER 30, 1902. Scott, Wilson and Shackleton reach 82 degress 17'S, the Furthest South yet attained.

MARCH 2, 1903. The Morning, with Shackleton aboard, heads back to New Zealand from Hut Point.

FEBRUARY 17, 1904. Discovery is freed from the ice and heads north to New Zealand.

SEPTEMBER 10, 1904. Discovery arrives at Spithead.

JANUARY 1, 1907. Scott takes command of the battleship Albemarle.

SEPTEMBER 2, 1908. Scott marries Kathleen Bruce in the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace.

SEPTEMBER 13, 1909. Scott officially announces his South Pole aims.

SEPTEMBER 14, 1909. Peter Scott, Robert F. Scott's only child, is born.

JUNE 15, 1910. Scott's Terra Nova leaves Cardiff, Wales, for the south.

SEPTEMBER 9, 1910. Amundsen sends telegram from Madeira to Scott in Melbourne: "Beg leave to inform you Fram proceeding Antarctica, Amundsen."

OCTOBER 29, 1910. Terra Nova arrives at Lyttelton, New Zealand.

NOVEMBER 29, 1910. Terra Nova departs Port Chalmers, New Zealand, for the Antarctic.

JUNE 22, 1911. Midwinter Day celebration. Scott reads from latest issue of The South Polar Times.

JUNE 27, 1911. Wilson, Bowers and Cherry Garrard depart from Cape Evans on the Winter Journey (The Worst Journey) to Cape Crozier.

AUGUST 1, 1911. Wilson, Bowers and Cherry Garrard return from Cape Crozier. CHECK MAY BE 2 AUG

NOVEMBER 1, 1911. Main Southern Party sets out from Cape Evans for the Pole.

JANUARY 3, 1912. Scott names final Polar Party: Scott, Bowers, Wilson, Evans and Oates.

JANUARY 17, 1912. Scott's party reaches South Pole at 6:30 pm.

MARCH 29, 1912. Approximate date of death of Scott, Wilson and Bowers.

NOVEMBER 12, 1912. Bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers found by search party.

JANUARY 11, 1913. News of the death of Scott's Polar Party reaches London.

JANUARY 14, 1913. Memorial service at St. Paul's Cathderal for Scott and his companions, the King in attendance.

NOVEMBER 5, 1915. Statue of Robert Scott, sculpted by his wife, unveiled in Waterloo Place by Mr. Balfour, the Prime Minister.

NOVEMBER 26, 1920. Scott Polar Research Institute founded at the University of Cambridge.

DECEMBER 30, 1948. Premiere, 'Scott of the Antarctic,' Odeon Theatre, Leicester Square, London.

JANUARY 9, 1975. Present Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station dedicated.

NOVEMBER 20, 1998. Shackleton Memorial Library opened at Scott Polar Research Institute by the Hon. Alexandra Shackleton, granddaughter of Sir Ernest.

SEPTEMBER 17, 1999. Relics retrieved from Scott's last camp fetch 313,348 at Christie's auction, London. Sledge flag that flew at Pole goes to the Nation.


JULY 16, 1872. Roald Amundsen born at Borge near Christiana.

JANUARY 26, 1898. Amundsen becomes first person to ski in Antarctica.

JANUARY 31, 1898. Amundsen leads the first sledging expedition in Antarctica.

SEPTEMBER 9, 1910. Amundsen sends telegram from Madeira to Scott in Melbourne that read: "Beg leave inform you proceeding Antarctic, Amundsen."

SEPTEMBER 8, 1911. Amundsen sets out for the Pole. Returns within the week because of severe cold.

OCTOBER 19, 1911. Amundsen sets out for the Pole again.

DECEMBER 14, 1911. Amundsen party reaches South Pole.

DECEMBER 16, 1911. Amundsen party hoists Norwegian flag at the South Pole.

JANUARY 25, 1912. Amundsen returns to Framheim.

MARCH 8, 1912. Amundsen sends a telegram from Hobart, Tasmania, informing the world that he has reached the South Pole.

JUNE 18?, 1928. Amundsen dies somewhere in the Arctic in Nobile rescue.

JANUARY 9, 1975. Present Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station dedicated.