The first international scientific expedition to Antarctica

The Belgian Antarctic Expedition (1897-1899) is the first international expedition in history to take place during winter in Antarctica.

The Romanian scientist Emil RACOVIŢĂ played a significant role in the success of this expedition and its scientific program represents a cornerstone for the National Antarctic Programmes today.

The Belgian Antarctic Expedition, regarded as one of the most daring scientific expeditions of the nineteenth century, was the first expedition in the world that focused its main objective on research and complex, multidisciplinary scientific observations. The discovery of new territories was a secondary objective that has been reached during the expedition.

The development of the Scientific Research Program, extremely ambitious for that period, involved a thorough organization of the expedition and a rigorous, international selection of the scientist team members.

The irrefutable scientific results of the “Belgica” Expedition represent for contemporary researchers, the first database essential in any field of comparative, evolutionary study.

Here are a few examples:

  • A year of complete meteorological observations, which entailed 13 months of hourly meteorological observations;
  • The discovery of the fauna and flora of the new Antarctic continent;
  • The discovery of a stretched continental plateau, where sampling of flora and fauna took place for the first time in the south of the Arctic Circle;
  • Extensive sampling, the expeditionists having brought back rich scientific material (over 1,200 zoological and 400 botanical samples).

The expedition ended as a success which has been echoing in the scientific world, Emil Racoviţă playing an essential role, from two points of view: scientifically and also as an active member who has contributed to the survival of the crew during the nineteenth century polar winter conditions.

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