L’exploration de l’Antartique

nekoharbour11.jpgC’est à Londres, en 1895, que renaît l’intérêt pour l’exploration de l’Antarctique avec le sixième congrès international de géographie. Il est décidé à cette époque de se consacrer aux découvertes scientifiques sur ce continent qui depuis cinquante ans a été délaissé au profit de l’arctique. 

Le premier hivernage en Antarctique.

C’est le baron belge Adrien de Gerlache alors âgé de vingt neuf ans qui prend le relais des grands aventuriers de l’Antarctique.

Il part du port d’Anvers en août 1897 à bord d’un ancien baleinier qu’il baptise le  » Belgica « .
Il a à son bord Frédéric Cook qui vient de traverser le Groenland et le jeune norvégien Roald Amundsen. Malgré un long trajet et la fuite de certains membres de l’équipage en escale en Argentine du Sud, le Belgica arrive le 20 janvier sur le côte de
la Péninsule Antarctique. Quelques jours après l’arrivée la mort d’un des marins arrive. La navigation continue et c’est pour l’équipage la découverte de zones non explorées comme le détroit de Gerlache et
la Terre de Graham. La  » Belgica  » se fait prendre par les glaces début mars 1898. L’équipage commence un hivernage à bord du navire qui dérive le long des côtes.

L’équipage qui subit le scorbut connaît des signes de dépression psychologique. Cook qui fait office de médecin de bord va sauver les hommes en les obligeant à manger de la viande de phoque et de manchot pour se procurer ainsi des vitamines C.
Au retour du printemps la glace est toujours présente, ils vont creuser un chenal pendant un mois et demi afin d’atteindre l’eau libre. Finalement, ils réussissent à se frayer un passage et sont de retour à Punta Arenas le 28 mars 1899.


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