23. Dumont d'Urville, Jules Sébastien César (1790-1842) 

Voyage au pole sud et dans l’océanie sur les corvettes l’Astrolabe et la Zélée, exécuté par ordre du roi pendant les années 1837-1838-1839-1840. Paris: Gide, Éditeur, 1842-1854.


Elephant Island in the South Shetlands, from Jules Dumont d’Urville, Voyage au pole sud, 1842-54.


Adélie penguins near the coast of Antarctica, from Jules Dumont d’Urville, Voyage au pole sud, 1842-54.

While the British were debating whether to take their “magnetic crusade” to the southern hemisphere, the French beat them to the punch.  Dumont d’Urville, a veteran of a previous circumnavigation in the Astrolabe, was commissioned to take the same ship, along with the Zélée, and attempt to discover the south magnetic pole.  He was also asked to try to surpass the 74° 15’ south latitude record set by Weddell in 1823 (see item 22). 

The expedition left in 1837, sailed to South America,  and in 1838 attempted to follow Weddell’s path down into the Weddell Sea.  They spent months at it but were continually blocked by ice. They then headed into the South Shetland Islands, where they recorded a chilling view of Elephant Island. Sailing across to Tasmania, and after spending some time there to recover from scurvy, the ships in 1839 headed south, looking for the magnetic pole. 

On Jan 21, 1840, they landed on an island and sighted mainland Antarctica beyond.  Dumont D’Urville claimed the region for France and named it Adélie Land (after his wife Adéle).  The penguins that they saw and sketched are now known as Adélie penguins.  Dumont d’Urville also claimed to have found the South Magnetic Pole, but he had not, since the pole stood quite a ways inland on the Antarctic continent, on which he never set foot.

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