The Polar Regions

For hundreds of years the icy areas at each end of the Earth have challenged explorers. Many brave individuals have risked their lives and some have lost them investigating the frigid regions of the Arctic and Antarctic.

Some of these heroes were driven by the explorer's longing to make the first footprints in an unknown land. Others were seeking short sailing routes from Europe. Still others were searching for good sealing and whaling grounds. For many years, reaching the North Pole, and then the South Pole, was the supreme challenge to daring explorers.


Places To Go    People To See    Things To Do    Teacher Resources    Bibliography

Places To Go

All About Glaciers
A comprehensive glacier guide, including fascinating facts, answers to common questions, a gallery of historic photos, an extensive glossary, lists of books and articles, plus links to other glacier information on the Web.
Antarctic Journal of the United States
Antarctic Journal of the United States, established in 1966, reports on U.S. activities in Antarctica, related activities elsewhere, and trends in the U.S. Antarctic Program. This is a comprehensive journal describing sponsored research efforts in Antarctica. 
Antarctic Philately
This comprehensive site, best suited for middle and high school students, provides an awesome combination of stamp collecting and the history of the exploration of the South Pole. The site includes maps, biographies, and lots of fascinating information.
Arctic Circle
The overall goal of Arctic Circle is to stimulate among viewers a greater interest in the peoples and environment of the Arctic and Subarctic region as it relates to our three themes: natural resources, history and culture, social equity and environmental justice.
Arctic Studies Center
Visit the Smithsonian Institute's Arctic Studies Center, which is dedicated to the study of northern peoples, their history and environment.
Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
The American Museum of Natural History's handsome companion site to Sir Ernest Shackleton's Endurance expedition. Exhibition curated by Caroline Alexander.

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People To See

The Fate of Franklin
This site is a detailed and comprehensive presentation of materials about Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, who commanded an expedition to discover the Northwest Passage. When his ships got stuck in thick ice, Franklin and his crew died. Their remains, and a record of the expedition, were found several years later.
Frederick Albert Cook
Frederick Cook claimed to have made the first ascent of Mount McKinley (1906) and to have reached the North Pole on April 21, 1908 (one year before Robert E. Peary). However, an investigative committee discredited both of these claims.
Matthew Henson: Arctic Explorer
African-American Matthew Henson was the personal assistant to Lt. Robert E. Peary and accompanied Peary and four Eskimos to the North Pole on April 6, 1909. Henson, publicly shunned by Peary, never received credit for his achievement until the final years of his life.
Robert Peary
Read about the U.S. Arctic explorer usually credited with leading the first expedition to reach the North Pole in 1909. Peary's claim to have reached the North Pole was almost universally accepted, but in the 1980s the examination of his 1908-09 expedition diary and other newly released documents cast doubt on whether he had actually reached the pole.
Shackleton's Antarctic Odyssey
Anglo-Irishman, who in 1914 headed an ill-fated expedition to Antarctica. Shackleton led his 27-man crew through a harrowing two-year trip to safety after being stranded on ice floes when their ship, HMS Endurance, sank in the icy Weddell Sea 1,200 miles from the fringes of civilization.
Where None Have Gone Before: The Life of Roald Amundsen
In 1910 Roald Amundsen set sail in an attempt to reach the North Pole, but hearing that Peary had apparently beaten him to it, he switched to the Antarctic and reached the South Pole in December 1911, one month ahead of Captain Scott.

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Things To Do

Antarctica: Research Stations and Territorial Claims
View a detailed map showing location of Antarctic research stations and the land claims made by various nations to slices of the Antarctic pie.
Arctic Theme Page
This comprehensive web page created by NOAA includes essays on key Arctic issues by respected Arctic scientists, Frequently Asked Questions About the Arctic, a North Pole web cam, educational links, and more.

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Teacher Resources

Building an Igloo
Build, explore, and experience an igloo as part of the Inuit and Eskimo heritage.
Polar Connections
Helping your students discover the many answers to these questions is the mission of this web site and the 15 activities it presents. 

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  • Alexander, Caroline. The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition. Knopf, 1998.
  • Arms, Myron. Riddle of the Ice: A Scientific Adventure into the Arctic. Anchor Books, 1999.
  • Arthur, Elizabeth. Antarctic Navigation. A. A. Knopf, 1995.
  • Bainbridge, Beryl. The Birthday Boys. Carroll & Graf, 1995.
  • Barrett, Andrea. The Voyage of the Narwhal. W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.
  • Baughman, T.H. Before the Heroes Came: Antarctica in the 1890s. University of Nebraska Press, 1999.
  • Beattie, Owen et al. Frozen in Time. Greystone Publishing, 2000.
  • Berton, Pierre. Arctic Grail. The Lyons Press, 2000.
  • Cherry-Garrard, Apsley. The Worst Journey in the World: Antarctic, 1910-13. Carroll & Graf, 1997.
  • Cole, Joanna. The Magic School Bus in the Arctic: A Book About Heat. Scholastic, 1998.
  • Cookman, Scott. Ice Blink: The Tragic Fate of Sir John Franklin's Lost Polar Expedition. John Wiley & Sons, 2000.
  • Crossley, Louise. Explore Antarctica. Cambridge University Press, 1995.
  • Elmore, Larry et al. Ice Continent: A Story of Antarctica. Soundprints Corp. Audio, 1997.
  • Heacox, Kim. Antarctica: The Last Continent (National Geographic Destinations). National Geographic Society, 1999.
  • Huntford, Roland. The Last Place on Earth (Modern Library Exploration). Modern Library, 1999.
  • Huntford, Roland. Shackleton. Atheneum, 1986.
  • Huxley, Elspeth Josceline. Scott of the Antarctic. Brompton Books Corp, 1990.
  • Lansing, Alfred. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage. Avon, 1960.
  • Lopez, Barry. Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape. Bantam Books, 1996.
  • Mawson, Douglas and Ranulph Fiennes. The Home of the Blizzard: A True Story of Antarctic Survival. St Martins Press, 1999.
  • May, John. The Greenpeace Book of Antarctica. Macmillan of Canada, 1988.
  • Nansen, Fridtjof and Roald E. Amundsen, Roland Huntford. The South Pole. Cooper Square Press, 2000.
  • Pielou, E.C. A Naturalist's Guide to the Arctic. University of Chicago Press, 1994.
  • Preston, Diana. A First Rate Tragedy: Robert Falcon Scott and the Race to the South Pole. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.
  • Rubin, Jeff. Antarctica. Lonely Planet Publications, 1996.
  • Scott, Robert Falcon and Beryl Bainbridge. Scott's Last Expedition: The Journals. Carroll & Graf, 1996.
  • Shackleton, Ernest Henry.The Heart of the Antarctic: Being the Story of the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907-1909. Carroll & Graf, 1999.
  • Shackleton, Ernest. South. Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1998.
  • Steger, Will. And Jon Bowermaster. Crossing Antarctica. Dell Publishing Company, 1993.
  • Wheeler, Sara. Antarctica: The Falklands & South Georgia. Globe Pequot Press, 1997.
  • Wheeler, Sara. Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica. Random House, 1998.
  • Worsley, F.A. Shackleton's Boat Journey. Norton, 1998.