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In Search of the Last Continent: Melbourne and early Antarctic exploration

July 23 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm


In 1886 gentlemen from Victoria’s Royal Society and Geographical Society formed a joint Australian Antarctic Exploration Committee. With the ear of the Premier and his Agent General in London, they energetically pursued a joint whaling and scientific expedition. They came tantalising close to their goal and helped inspire the first landing and the first overwintering on the Antarctic continent. Through both published and unpublished items from the RHSV, join librarian and author Andrew McConville to explore this and other stories of early Antarctic exploration.

For 70 years powerful countries despatched expeditions to explore the south polar regions. By 1843 they had seen enough to realise that this most remote and impenetrable place offered considerable danger and no strategic or economic benefit. The great nations turned away. In the 1880s Melbourne’s men of science formed a committee to revive interest in Antarctic exploration. They canvassed the colonies and the world in attempts to raise an expedition. Ultimately unsuccessful, they did though inspire the first publicly recorded landing on the Antarctic continent by Henrik Bull and the crew of his whaling expedition. This created a sensation and led to the first overwintering on the Antarctic continent by crewman C.E. Borchgrevink’s expedition. Andrew McConville’s book, In Search of the Last Continent: Australia and Early Antarctic Exploration, outlines early Antarctic exploration and concentrates on Melbourne’s Antarctic Exploration Committee and the voyages of Bull and Borchgrevink.

Andrew McConville is a reference and research librarian at the State Library of Victoria. Andrew has a particular interest in the history of 19th century Antarctic exploration.

This event is part of the 2024 Rare Book Week program together with the Ephemera Society of Australia’s event on Antarctic ephemera which is held at the RHSV on the same day at 11am.

Morning tea will be served to those attending both events at 12 noon. Audience members are more than welcome to bring lunch and drinks into the gallery whilst attending these events.



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July 23
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Event Category:


RHSV Gallery Downstairs
239 A'Beckett St
Melbourne, Victoria 3000 Australia
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03 9326 9288