The “occupation” of Antarctica can be broadly described as having three phases: (1) A reconnaisance phase beginning with Captain Cook and continuing in the explorations of whalers and sealers to the turn of the century; (2) an expedition (heroic age) phase climaxed by the Scott, Shackleton, and Amundsen sorties; and (3) the scientific occupation phase of today which was pioneered in the “heroic age”. Modern methods, developed to meet the requirements of the IGY programme, rely more and more on established bases, some permanent, which serve as scientific laboratories or as centres for summer field parties. By using aircraft, tracked vehicles or dog teams, these parties have furthered the primary exploration by survey, geological, and glaciological investigation.
Work in Antarctica today has three aspects: (1) The static, represented by scientific instruments and laboratories in the various bases (auroral, ionospheric, meteorological, seismic, etc.). (2) The mobile, which is field work concerned with penguins, seals, fish, birds, insects, and plants (algae, lichen, mosses, and plants of the sea) and the more spectacular field traverses during which surveyors, geologists, and glaciologists on long summer journeys explore the 5 million sq. miles of the continent. (3) The support, which is the annual maintenance, reprovisioning, and restaffing of the bases both by ship and by aircraft. This fundamental task has precedence over all other activities excepting that of rescue. Despite the growing reliability of voyages by sea and aircraft flights, there are always such hazards to be faced as storm, pack ice, radio blackout, early or late breakout of sea ice and barrier ice, and mechanical failure.