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6.30pm drinks (cash bar) and book sales, 7.30pm lecture
For his second lecture Professor Edward Larson's subject is "The Quest for the South Magnetic Pole: from Sir James Clark Ross to Sir Ernest Shackleton ". He examines this other polar quest, the quest for the South Magnetic Pole, which was considered during the Victorian era more important than the South Pole itself.
Often lost in the stories and legends about reaching the Geographical South Pole, Victorianera Britons were actually more interested in reaching the Magnetic South Pole. At a time when ships sailed by magnetic compasses and physicists sought to unravel the mysteries of terrestrial magnetism at the dawn of the electronic age, the magnetic poles were thought to hold potential value. Certainly their precise location was important to know and, during the nineteenth century, no one knew the location of the Magnetic South Pole.
It was the quest for this pole, not the geographical one, that first sent a British naval expedition south to the Antarctic waters in the 1840s. Professor Larson first tells of the expedition of Captain Sir James Clark Ross, which discovered a sea south of the ice pack that had been found by Captain James Cook a halfcentury earlier and a land of high mountains, active volcanoes and an ice barrier beyond that sea. It was one of the great discoveries of geography of that era, but the mountains and ice barrier prevented the expedition from reaching its destination, the Magnetic South Pole.
Professor Larson then takes the story forward through the Royal Geographical Society's Discovery Expedition of 1900 and a parallel German expedition aboard a ship named for the great magnetic scientist Friedrich Gauss. The story culminates with the ultimate success of Oxford geologist Sir Edgeworth David and Australian mineralogist Sir Douglas Mawson reaching the South Magnetic Pole as part of perhaps the greatest of all Antarctic expeditions, Sir Ernest Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition of 190607.