These two maps show how little was known about Antarctica as late as
1825. Weddell managed to sail just over 200 miles farther south than Cook
before fleeing the impending winter, and his record was not bettered until
1911. His book was revised and enlarged in 1827, following another voyage
to Antarctica, and his legacy remains in the names of the Weddell Sea
and the Weddell Seal.
This essay, from one of the most established and widely-read magazines
of its day, reveals the level of public interest in polar voyages. The
author of this piece speaks with the pride of his age in claiming that
the sciences 'were scarcely ever, perhaps, at any former period, prosecuted
with more ardour or with more success. Geography and Navigation may especially
be said to be favourite pursuits in the scientific learning of the age,
and to have engaged a considerable share of the thoughts and energies
of the public talent' (210).
Smollett's collection ranged as widely as possible in all directions,
and this account of Laplanders provides a nice comparison with the Webber
Charles Wilkes's expedition proved the existence of an Antarctic continent,
though he shares the honour with Dumont d'Urville's crew on the Astrolabe.
The United States government sponsored the expedition primarily to support
the expansion of sealing and whaling interests, but allowed for the possibility
that the voyage might 'extend the bounds of science'. During the winter
months, the expedition also explored many of the known Pacific islands,
improving the charts and collecting specimens of plants, animals and minerals.
Few readers have ever read the full account, in five volumes, because
Congress only authorised the printing of 100 copies.
Conquest of the North Pole
Robert Peary and Matthew Henson's conquest of the North Pole for America
was as much a political as a geographical achievement, as witnessed by
the US President's introduction. Of course, Roosevelt may have been swayed
by the fact that Peary's custom-built ship had been named in his honour.
Nonetheless, Americans were proud to claim precedence at the Pole, and
readers in the US (in a New York edition) and Europe (in this edition)
were eager to obtain Peary's account of the top of the world.