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Explorers Find Historic Camp Site on Antarctica

Dec 14, 2012 05:13 AM EST

A team of researchers have discovered what looks like the remains of a campsite used by one group of the earliest explorers to reach Antarctica.

The research team, funded by National Science Foundation (NSF), found the campsite known as "the highest camp," while working on the slopes of Mt. Erebus. The mountain is the world's southernmost active volcano. The camp is believed to belong to the explorers led by Royal Navy Captain Robert F. Scott, as part of the Terra Nova expedition.

More than 100 years ago, two groups of explorers were on a race to reach the South Pole first. One group was led by Norwegian Roald Amundsen and the other group by Englishman Robert F. Scott.

Amundsen and his team won the race, reaching the pole Dec. 12, 1911. Scott and his team arrived at the South Pole a few weeks later on Jan. 17, 1912. Unfortunately, Scott and his men could not survive their return trip, when they were just a few miles away from safety.

Clive Oppenheimer, a volcanologist at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, is the first to locate the site ever since Scott and his men left the place. It has a ring of stones, where a tent is said to have once stood.

Oppenheimer is working on Mt. Erebus as part of the NFS team. Using written documents and comparing photos of the site with the historic images from the Scott Polar Research Institute in Great Britain, Oppenheimer suggests that the campsite was used by Scott and his team. The research institute was founded by one of the party that climbed the volcano in 1912.

"Clive Oppenheimer's location of the original 'highest camp' is a wonderful addition to all the activity which has taken place throughout 2012 to mark the centenary of Captain Scott's expedition. It is a reminder of both the dangers and thrills of Antarctic science and a fitting tribute to the great legacies of exploration and discovery left to us by all the brave men of that party," Philippe Foster Back, chair of the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust, said in a statement from NSF.

The area will be surveyed and searched for items that were left by Scott's team. Researchers have already found and preserved a number of artifacts, including scientific equipments and expedition supplies.

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