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Ferns in Antarctica


In the far south, December is a good time to travel. The Norwegian Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole today in 1911. Robert Scott's party had less luck, and Scott's melancholy end in a blizzard with "Birdie" Bowers and "Uncle Bill" Wilson overshadowed their sheer exuberance and bloody-mindedness on previous adventures. Extreme Journeys describes them and Aussie Douglas Mawson's incredible return from death and the "lost men" of Shackleton's expedition.

I had not realized how keen Brits were to make advances for science while trekking across the harrowing wastes of Antarctica. On his last journey, Wilson dragged an extra 35 pounds of rock specimens for hundreds of miles. Among them was the first known Antarctic fossil of Glossopteris, an ancient and extinct tree fern that would help to prove Antarctica had once been temperate.