Japanese Antarctic Expedition

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Lt Nobu Shirase, leader of the Japanese Antarctic Expedition

The Japanese Antarctic Expedition of 1910–12 was the first exploration of Antarctic territory by an expedition from Japan. Led by Army Lieutenant Nobu Shirase, its ship Kainan Maru left Tokyo in December 1910, reached the ice on 26 February 1911 and sailed on into the Ross Sea. As it was very late in the Antarctic season, the ship was not able to get beyond Coulman Island, and returned to Sydney, Australia to winter there.[1][2]

During the following season a third attempt was made to reach an Antarctic landfall, with the specific objective of exploring King Edward VII Land. At the Great Ice Barrier, the Kainan Maru encountered Roald Amundsen's ship Fram, which was waiting in the Bay of Whales for the return of Amundsen's South Pole party.[3] A "Dash Patrol" of seven men from the Kainan Maru then landed on the Barrier and journeyed southward to 80°05'S, at which point adverse weather forced their return. Meanwhile, the ship landed another party on the coast of King Edward VII Land, where an exploration of the lower slopes of the Alexandra Range was carried out. Kainan Maru returned to Japan; it reached Yokohama on 20 June 1912.[4]

Planning the Expedition[edit]

Choku Shirase, a lieutenant in the Japanese Army, was able to organize the expedition after gaining the support of Ōkuma Shigenobu founder of Waseda University.[5] The Tokugawa dynasty had prohibited Japanese from leaving the island under penalty of death. Although this was no longer the case by 1910 Shirase had to rely on private rather than public support to fund the expedition.[6] A three-masted, 204-ton schooner the Hoko Maru was purchased and renamed the Kainan Maru at the advice of Admiral Togo. As it was originally a sailing vessel the expedition also overhauled the ship and fitted it with an 18-horsepower auxiliary steam engine.[7] When the ship arrived in Sydney it was converted into a fore-and-aft schooner with triangular sails.[8]

Expedition[edit]

The ship left Tokyo on 29 November 1910 after having called in at Tateyama Bay for trimming her cargo and left Japan on the 1 December. The ship's captain Nomura steered her across the equator on 29 December and arrived at Wellington, New Zealand on 7 February 1911.[9] After re-supplying the ship they left Wellington on 11 February and made their way into the Ross Sea.[10] On 1 March they sighted their first iceberg and on 6 March sighted the Admiralty Range of Victoria Land. Two days later the ship passed the Possession Islands and on 11-12 March encountered heavy ice as the temperature dropped. While negotiating the ice the ship suffered some damage and as a result, the expedition turned northward arriving at Sydney on 1 May, 1911.[11]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Memorial plaque to the Japanese Antarctic Expedition visit to Parsley Bay, Sydney in 1911". www.australiaforvisitors.com. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  2. ^ Sue Myatt, Professor Edgeworth David and the Shirase Expedition, australianmuseum.net.au, Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  3. ^ Amundsen, Vol II, pp. 271–72
  4. ^ "Nobu Shirase, 1861–1946". www.south-pole.com. Retrieved 24 September 2008.
  5. ^ ANTARCTIC RESEARCH. (1911, February 14). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 8.
  6. ^ Hamre, I. (1933). The Japanese South Polar expedition of 1911-1912: A little-known episode in Antarctic exploration, Ivar Hamre. London: S.n. 989.8/13
  7. ^ Hamre, I. (1933). The Japanese South Polar expedition of 1911-1912: A little-known episode in Antarctic exploration, Ivar Hamre. London: S.n. 989.8/13
  8. ^ Hamre, I. (1933). The Japanese South Polar expedition of 1911-1912: A little-known episode in Antarctic exploration, Ivar Hamre. London: S.n. 989.8/13
  9. ^ Hamre, I. (1933). The Japanese South Polar expedition of 1911-1912: A little-known episode in Antarctic exploration, Ivar Hamre. London: S.n. 989.8/13
  10. ^ Hamre, I. (1933). The Japanese South Polar expedition of 1911-1912: A little-known episode in Antarctic exploration, Ivar Hamre. London: S.n. 989.8/13
  11. ^ Hamre, I. (1933). The Japanese South Polar expedition of 1911-1912: A little-known episode in Antarctic exploration, Ivar Hamre. London: S.n. 989.8/13

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Shirase Antarctic Expedition Supporters' Association (2011). The Japanese South Polar expedition, 1910-12 : a record of Antarctica. Norwich: Bluntisham Books. ISBN 9781852971090.

External links[edit]