The End of the Heroic Era – Conference

A conference, organised by the NZ Antarctic Society and the Royal NZ Navy, was held in Auckland. Friday, 24 March 2017, was the cocktail party at the Naval Museum in Devonport where the participants came together in a relaxed atmosphere.

IMG_9871The picture shows me, Philippa Ross and Myra Walton in the Naval Museum.

On Saturday, 25 March, were the presentations of different speakers. I have been invited to this conference to present the international perspective of the Heroic Era. My focus was on the German, Swedish, Japanese and French expeditions which took place at this time. I also provided a context of why these expeditions undertook science in the Antarctic and how it was linked to the economic and political circumstances at the time. Some of these links are still in place and are regulated by the Antarctic Treaty System.  It turned out during the conference that the Heroic Era is mainly a British Edwardian concept. This time of Antarctic explorations is stated usually from 1897 – 1917; however, sometimes it is also pointed out that the end was at 1922 when Ernest Shackleton died at Grytviken on a heart attack. This is a matter of debate but much more logical to end it in 1917.

A service was held on Sunday at the chapel of St Christopher. After the service a guided tour took place around the Naval Base.


“Nathanial Palmer” in the dry dock for repair and participants of the conference at the tour.

After lunch the presentations continued until 4 pm in the afternoon. The conference was concluded with drinks and lots of lively discussions until 5:30pm.

The conference was very well prepared by Brett Fotheringham, CDR, Roger McGarry and Mike Wing from the Auckland Branch of the NZAS. Of course many people helped in the background for the the conference run smoothly.

More photos can be found on the NZAS Facebook page:


New Publication

A new publication of mine is out!

Von der Antarktis nach Sibirien. Biographische Stationen eines oesterreichischen Polarforschers; in : Oesterreich in Geschichte, Literatur  und Geographie, 1/2015, pp56-69. The article is based on a talk I gave in June 2014 at the Institut fuer Oesterreichkunde. The article is accessible  as a scanned version:  OEGL_Artikel_2015

I submitted the article few days before I left to the Antarctic. It is a strange feeling that I have been to this fantastic place where all these people were before me and now I write about them.

Mt. Erebus December 2015

Mt. Erebus December 2014

The talk was on biographical snapshots of Felix Koenig – and this is now published. Unfortunately it is only available in German. Other publications on Koenig, with a different focus are available under: Koenig_article_PolarJournal and  Koenig_ant.mag_2014

Felix Koenig in his igloo (1912)

Felix Koenig in his igloo (1912)

Antarctic Magazine Article


A new article is published in the Antarctic Magazine, vol 32, No. 3, 2014 about Felix Koenig and his encounter with Ernest Shackleton in 1914.

A mutiny ended the German Antarctic expedition led by Wilhelm Filchner in December 1912. Their survey area has been the Weddell Sea. On his return from the failed expedition, Felix König had already developed a plan to continue where Filchner had given up. However, Ernest Shackleton had plans of his own. Thus a dispute arose between these two great explorers, and suddenly the Weddell Sea did not seem like a big enough place.

To read the article written by Dr. Ursula Rack, click this link below.



Polar Journal Publication June 2014

Click here for a new publication on Felix Koenig, the Austrian Antarctic explorer

This paper explores the process of international cooperation within a scientific community in wartime, focusing on Felix König. He was an Austrian participant in the “Second German Antarctic Expedition” (1911–1912) led by Wilhelm Filchner. Later, he organised his own Antarctic expedition which had much support from leading polar explorers of his time including Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Nordenskjöld and Roald Amundsen. Because of the war, however, König was not allowed to begin his expedition. Instead, he joined the Austro-Hungarian Army, serving in Galicia (Poland). As a result, König became a prisoner of war in Siberia, prompting his mother to contact many of the polar explorers to help her free him. Her attempts, which failed, were not random futile pleadings from a worried mother since she was aware that the science community assisted in attempting to free prisoners. Transnational support of scientists across enemy boundaries was a further example of a civilised attempt to maintain contact despite the war. Members of the international scientific community sent books and other material into camps so that the officers could organise lectures and improve their studies. This became a welcome sign of civilisation for the prisoners who were often surrounded by circumstances of barbarism, food shortages and inadequate medical care. The sources for this study are the original letters, which are now in a private collection, written by the science community and Felix König himself.