skip to primary navigation skip to content


Concise chronology of approach to the poles

The following Antarctic and Arctic lists give explorations, in chronological order, towards the South Pole and North Pole, their attainment (air and surface, and by sea in the Arctic), and the first crossings of the regions. There are several claims included which are unverified and extremely doubtful, although some of these pretensions have been well publicised.


1603 Gabriel de Castilla (Spain), aboard Nuestra Señora de la Mercedes, probably penetrated to 64°S in the Southern Ocean south of Drake Passage

Subsequently several merchant vessels reported being blown south of 60°S [66¨67gS] rounding Cabo de Hornos in severe weather

1773 James Cook (Britain), with companies aboard HMS Resolution and HMS Adventure, crossed the Antarctic Circle (66¨53°S [73¨92gS]) off Enderby land, 17 January

1774 James Cook (Britain) on the same expedition reached 71¨17°S [79¨08gS] off Marie Byrd Land, 30January

1820 Fabian von Bellingshausen (Russia), with companies aboard Vostok and Mirnyy, sighted the Antarctic continent at about 69¨35°S [77¨06gS] off Dronning Maud Land, 27 January

1823 James Weddell (Britain), with company aboard Jane, reached 74¨25°S [82¨50gS] in the Weddell Sea, 20February

1842 James Ross (Britain), with companies aboard HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, reached 78¨17°S [86¨86gS] in the Ross Sea, 23 February

1900 Hugh Evans (Britain) and 3 others sledged to 78¨83°S [87¨59gS] on the Ross Ice Shelf, 23 February

1902 Robert Scott (Britain) and 2 others sledged to 82¨28°S [91¨42gS] on the Ross Ice Shelf, 30 December

1909 Ernest Shackleton (Britain) and 3 others sledged to 88¨38°S [98¨20gS], 9 January

1911 Roald Amundsen (Norway) and 4 others dog-sledged to 90°S [100gS], 14 December

1912 Robert Scott (Britain) and 4 others sledged to 90°S [100gS], 17 January (all perished during the return journey)

1929 Richard Byrd (United States), with an aircraft crew, claimed to have flown over the South Pole from the Ross Ice Shelf, 29November

1947 Richard Byrd (United States), with crew aboard two aircraft, flew over the South Pole from the Ross Ice Shelf, 15 February

1956 John Torbert (United States) and 6 others flew across Antarctica over the South Pole (Ross Island to Weddell Sea and returned without landing), 13 January

1956 Conrad Shinn (United States), with crew of an aircraft, landed at the South Pole, 31 October, a permanent station was then established sustained by aircraft

Subsequently many aircraft have landed at the South Pole

1958 Vivian Fuchs (British Commonwealth) and an expeditionary party reached the South Pole with motor vehicles and sledge dogs, 20 January and continued to cross Antarctica (Weddell Sea to Ross Sea)

Subsequently several expeditions have crossed the Antarctic through the South Pole by surface and many have made one-way surface journeys leaving by aircraft


1553 Sir Hugh Willoughby (England), with companies aboard Bona Esperanza and Bona Confidentia, reached 72°N [80¨00gN] on the Novaya Zemlya coast, 14 August

1587 John Davis (England), with companies aboard Elizabeth, Ellen, and Sunshine, reached 72¨20°N [80¨22gN] off Greenland, July

1594 Willem Barentsz (Netherlands), with a ship's company, reached 77°N [85¨56gN] rounding Novaya Zemlya, July

1596 Jacob van Heemskerck (Netherlands), with companies aboard 2 vessels, reached 80¨18°N [89¨09gN] off Svalbard, 17 June

1607 Henry Hudson (Britain), with company aboard Hopewell, reached 80¨38°N [89¨31gN] off Svalbard, 16 July

1766 Vasiliy Chichagov (Russia), with companies aboard Chichagov, Panov and Babayev, reached 80¨47° [89¨41gN] off Svalbard, 16 July

1773 Constantine Phipps (Britain), with companies aboard Racehorse and Carcass, reached 80¨80°N [89¨78gN] off Svalbard, 27 July

Subsequently many whaling vessels reached high latitudes

1806 William Scoresby (Britain), with company aboard Resolution, reached 81¨50°N [90¨56gN] , off Svalbard

1827 William Parry (Britain) and party, with two sledge boats from Hecla, reached 82¨75°N [91¨94gN] off Svalbard, 25 July

This position is farther north than the area inhabited by the Polar Eskimo of Greenland

1876 Albert Markham (Britain) and 2 sledge parties reached 83¨34°N [92¨60gN] off Ellesmere Island, 12 May

1882 James Lockwood (United States) and 2 others dog-sledged to 83¨40°N [92¨67gN] off Greenland from Fort Conger, 13 May

1895 Fridtjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen (Norway) dog-sledged to 86¨22°N [95¨80gN] from Fram in the Arctic Ocean, 8 April

1900 Umberto Cagni (Italy) and 3 others claimed to have dog-sledged to 86¨57°N [96¨19gN] from Zemlya Frantsa-Iosefa, 24 April

1908 Frederick Cook (United States), with a sledge party, purported to have reached 90°N, [100gN] 21 April

1909 Robert Peary (United States) and an expeditionary party, dog-sledged to 87¨75°N [97¨50gN] from Ellesmere Island, 31 March, Peary and 5 others continued north and possibly passed 88°N [97¨78gN]

1909 Robert Peary (United States), with a sledge party, purported to have reached 90°N, [100gN] 6 April

1925 Roald Amundsen (Norway), Lincoln Ellsworth (United States) and 4 others flew north from Svalbard in 2 aircraft, crash landed and drifted to 87¨83°N [97¨59gN], 21 May

1926 Richard Byrd (United States), with an aircraft crew, purported to have reached 90°N [100gN] by air from Svalbard, 9 May

1926 Roald Amundsen (Norway), Lincoln Ellsworth (United States), Umberto Nobile (Italy) and 11 others, crossed 90°N [100gN] by airship Norge (flying Svalbard to Alaska), 12 May

Subsequently one dirigible balloon and many other aircraft have flown over the North Pole

1937 Ivan Papanin (Soviet Union) and party landed at 89¨43°N [99¨37gN] by aircraft from Zemlya Frantsa-Iosefa, established the first Arctic Ocean drift station, 21 May

1948 Aleksandr Kuznetsov (Soviet Union) and 23 others, landed from aircraft near and walked to 90°N [100gN], 23 April

Subsequently many aircraft have landed at the North Pole

1958 William Anderson (United States), with crew aboard nuclear powered submarine USS Nautilus, reached the North Pole while submerged, 3 August, on voyage from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean

1959 James Calvert (United States), with crew aboard nuclear powered submarine USS Skate, surfaced at the North Pole, 17 March

Subsequently many submarines reached the North Pole and some surfaced there

1968 Ralph Plaisted (United States) and 3 others reached 90°N [100gN] by surface (snow scooter) and aircraft from Canada, and returned by air, 19 April

1969 Wally Herbert (Britain) and 3 others dog-sledged to 90°N entirely by surface [100gN], while crossing the Arctic Ocean (Alaska to Svalbard), 6 April

Subsequently several expeditions have crossed the Arctic on the pack-ice through the North Pole and many have made one-way surface journeys leaving by air

1977 Yuriy Kuchiyev (Soviet Union), with crew aboard nuclear powered icebreaker Arktika, reached 90°N [100gN] by sea from near the Novosibirskiye Ostrova, 17 August

Subsequently many surface vessels have reached the North Pole

1991 Anatoly Gorshkovskiy (Soviet Union), with crew and passengers aboard the nuclear powered icebreaker Sovetskiy Soyuz, reached the North Pole by sea while crossing the Arctic Ocean (Murmansk to Provideniya), 4 August

February 2001