[FOUNTAIN]The last unexplored continentMany still question when men started to explore the frozen continent, Antarctica. As far as recorded modern-day exploration is concerned, the first man to try was an Englishman, Captain James Cook from 1772 to 1775.
Cook was the first man to go beyond the Antarctic Circle, reaching the shores of what is known today as Prince Olaf Beach. The era of Antarctic whaling and seal hunting started.
Intimidated by the vigor of the English, Russians started their exploration of the frozen south in 1810. Fabian von Bellinghausen led crews on the ships Vostok and Mirny to circumnavigate the southerly seas. The trip from 1819 to 1821 provided insights of the region well described in his book.
The greatest exploration achievements cannot be told without mentioning the Norwegian contribution. Christiansen set foot on the coast of the Ross Sea and began the exploration of the terra nova.
The race for the South Pole by the Englishman Robert Falcon Scott and the Norwegian Roald Amundsen drew international attention. Amundsen reached the pole on Dec. 14, 1911. Scott and his men got there the next month on Jan. 17, but were not fortunate enough to escape the island, and perished.
With the advent of airplanes and nuclear powered ships, explorations to unveil the secrets of the ice land continue to this day. Along with many nations, Korea started exploration in 1985. The Korean team explored King George Island and Vissen Massif Mountain. Korea has established its South Pole station, King Sejong, on King George Island. On Jan. 11, 1994, Huh Young-ho became the fourth man to reach the pole on foot, a journey that took 44 days.
So what is happening today? The South Pole, which used to be barren and free of human activity, is now a construction site. The United States is building a 1,600-kilometer (almost 1,000 miles) highway connecting McMurdo to the Scott/Amundsen Base close to the pole. The Americans predict that within five years, roads will be open for tracked vehicles to reach the pole in just 10 days!
Environmentalists oppose the construction. Some say the road will lead to new exploration opportunities, while others fear catastrophe.
One fact is for sure. The Antarctic will soon no longer be the dark continent.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.