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Culture

Exhibition: "100 Years in Antarctica"

Mr. Kiyotaka Ishifune
Curator of the Shirase Antarctic Expedition Memorial Museum

100 years ago, on November 29th, 1910, the Shirase Japanese Antarctic Expedition departed from Tokyo's Shibaura harbor in Kainan-Maru, an Antarctic exploratory ship weighing only 204 tons. The expedition consisted of leader Nobu Shirase and 26 crewmembers. Although the expedition was blocked by thick Antarctic ice and suffered numerous setbacks, it succeeded in hoisting the Rising Sun Flag in Antarctica on January 28th, 1912. The expedition gave the name Yamato Yukihara (Yamato Snow Field) to their landing point in Antarctica. Behind this momentous achievement was enthusiastic support from Shigenobu Okuma, the founder of Waseda University, and from Waseda students.

The Antarctica seen 100 years ago by the Shirase Japanese Antarctic Expedition

Lieutenant Nobu Shirase (1861-1946) was born in Nikaho City, Akita Prefecture. During his childhood, he studied the polar region with Sessai Sasaki, his teacher at temple school. In order to realize his dream of fielding a polar region expedition, he followed 5 precepts (no drinking alcohol, no smoking tobacco, no drinking tea, no drinking hot water, no warming by the fire even in the cold) for his entire life. Shirase overcame many hardships in his quest to reach Antarctica.

Kainan-Maru was a wooden sailboat weighing a mere 204 tons and equipped with only an 18-horsepower auxiliary engine. After departing from Tokyo's Shibaura harbor, Kainan-Maru stopped in Wellington, New Zealand on February 8th, 1911 in order to replenish supplies such as water, food and fuel. After spending 3 days in port at Wellington, the ship passed through the stormy and turbulent Antarctic Ocean before entering the Antarctic Circle. On its first attempt, the ship was blocked by sea ice and returned to Sydney, Australia. Kainan-Maru remained in port for 6 months, waiting for summer before embarking on its second attempt.

Kainan-Maru left Sydney on November 19th, 1911. The ship experienced smooth sailing and arrived in Antarctica's Bay of Whales on January 16th, 1912. The expedition then divided into two parties; an exploratory party which departed for the South Pole and a coastal party that surveyed the coastline in Kainan-Maru. On January 28th, the exploratory party fought through temperatures of minus 20尊 Celsius and fierce blizzards to raise the Rising Sun Flag at a spot with a latitude of 80尊05' and a longitude of 156尊37'. The party buried a list containing the names of the Antarctic expedition members at this location and named the surrounding area Yamato Yukihira (Yamato Snow Field). The coastal party sailed east along the coast, turning back on January 26th after reaching latitude of 76尊06' and a longitude of 151尊20', which was a new record at that time.

The Shirase Japanese Antarctic Expedition (hereinafter referred to as the "Shirase Expedition") took a variety of photographs including scenes of the Kainan-Maru sailing through sea ice, as well as seals and penguins. Furthermore, the Shirase Expedition also recorded moving picture technology which was extremely advanced for that time. Images captured including scenes of members practicing with dog sleds which had been prepared at the time of departure, scenes of a New Year's Day meal on January 1st, 1912, and images of moving emperor penguins. These moving pictures provide a precise look at the Antarctica seen 100 years ago by the Shirase Expedition.

Nobu Shirase and the Japanese Antarctic Expedition completed a successful journey without the death of even a single member, despite surprisingly light equipment. The expedition became the 4th party to cross a latitude of 80尊. The records described above show how the Shirase Expedition forged a brilliant page in the history of Antarctica, gaining acclaim together with the explorers Amundsen (Norway), Scott, and Shackleton (England).

A historical achievement supported by Shigenobu Okuma

In January 1910, Shirase submitted a request for funding (100,000 yen) of an Antarctic expedition to the 26th session of the Imperial Diet. The request was made through the recommendation of Shirase's acquaintance Kiyoomi Chikami (1856-1916), the former governor of Miyagi Prefecture. In response to this request, the Imperial Diet voted to provide 30,000 yen of funding. However, no aid money was issued by the government.

Chikami then introduced Shirase to Shigenobu Okuma (1838-1922). It is said that Okuma was extremely interested in Shirase, a man who had survived a difficult expedition to the Kuril Islands and was ranked among the world's top explorers.

Additionally, an oration to announce the Antarctic expedition plan was held on July 5th, 1910 at Kingi Hall in Kanda, Tokyo by Dakuro Murakami (?-1924), President of Seiko Magazine Company and a close acquaintance of Shirase. The oration was an attempt to appeal the Antarctic expedition plan to ordinary citizens and to raise funds for covering expedition costs. The oration featured speeches by Shigenobu Okuma and other prominent individuals with an interest in the Antarctic expedition. The event drew a maximum audience, and the Antarctic Expedition Support Association was founded after the oration.

Shigenobu Okuma assumed the position of chairperson for the association, making a broad call for support through the cooperation of Asahi Shimbun Newspaper and the political and financial sectors. He also organized a charity Waseda-Keio baseball game, with ticket sales being donated to cover expedition costs. The Antarctic expedition started to become a reality thanks to the funding and connections gathered through Okuma's effort.

On November 26th, 1910, Okuma invited all members of the expedition to his residence at Waseda University. A farewell party was held, and Okuma's wife Ayako presented each member with silk vests that contained good-luck charms from Misaki Inari Shrine.

The morning of November 28th was sunny, and all expedition members lined up at 7:00 AM in front of the Imperial Palace's double-arched bridge in order to report their departure to the Emperor. At 1:00 PM, a farewell party was held at Tokyo's Shibaura harbor by the executives of the Antarctic Expedition Support Association and other volunteers. The farewell party was packed with 50 thousand attendees including Waseda University students. One attendee was Minister of Education Kenzo Matsumura (graduate of Waseda University), who approved a subsequent project for surveying Antarctica. Okuma gave a speech at the farewell party, encouraging expedition members by saying that "one hundred blank shots are no equal for one live bullet."

On November 29th, Kainan-Maru departed the harbor at 12:05 PM. The ship stopped in at Yokohama Port to pick up Senior Dean Kitaro Takeda and to drop off association executives such as Kumataro Sakurai. The Kainan-Maru received a signal stating that "we wish you success" from the imperial warship Tsugaru that was anchored outside of the harbor. The expedition party responded "thank you for your wishes" before guiding the Kainan-Maru out of the port and towards Antarctica.

When the Shirase Expedition was forced to retreat to Sydney, Okuma worked to gather further funds. He also sent a telegraph to encourage Shirase. Thanks to this support from Okuma, the expedition successfully reached Antarctica. In order to show his gratitude towards Okuma, Shirase gave the name "Okuma Bay" to an inlet in Antarctica. The name of this inlet was internationally recognized by the American National Geographic Society in 1933.

Expedition members from Waseda University

Genzo Nishikawa was born in Shikano Town, Shimane Prefecture. He entered the Waseda University School of Letters, Arts and Sciences and applied for the Antarctic expedition while he was in university. He was selected as an expedition member on October 25th, 1910 and was placed in charge of food provisions.

On January 23rd, 1912 Nishikawa landed on Antarctica's Edward VII Peninsula together with head cook Kinzaburo Watanabe and Yasunao Taizumi, director of record video and photography. The 3 members took records while exploring the area, encountering a group of imperial penguins. Nishikawa and Watanabe traveled even further inland, arriving at the base of the Queen Alexandra Mountain Range on the 24th. They gathered exposed rocks and set a wooden pillar at that point. The pillar bore the inscription "Erected January 24th, 1912 to commemorate the landing of the coastal party of the Japanese Antarctic Expedition."

Yoshitada Yoshino was a settler who moved from Kagawa Prefecture to Mashike Town, Hokkaido. He applied for the expedition while studying at Waseda University. Yoshino was a member of a political circle name the "Strong Movement Party" and was placed in charge of clothing for the expedition.

When the expedition party arrived at Antarctica's Bay of Whales on January 16th, 1912, Yoshino went onshore together with members Shirase, Takeda, Miisho, Yamabe, Hanamori and Muramatsu. Yoshino and Muramatsu erected their tent at latitude of 78尊33' and a longitude of 164尊22'. The two members took weather measurements including temperature, air pressure, wind direction and wind velocity.

Present-day Antarctica as photographed by wildlife photojournalist Koichi Fujiwara

Fujiwara first set foot in Antarctica in 1995. He found a vast, snow-white world which was ruled by nature, not by humans. Afterwards, Fujiwara continued to visit Antarctica many time. During the course of his visits, Antarctica changed rapidly.

Exactly 100 years ago, thanks to the backing of support association Chairperson Shigenobu Okuma, the Shirase Japanese Antarctica Expedition became the first Japanese team to visit Antarctica. The expedition surveyed and recorded the vast nature and wildlife of Antarctica, brining their findings back to Japan. At that time, Antarctica was thought to be the farthest corner of the earth. However, bases have currently been established in more than 100 locations in Antarctica, and the effect of global warming on the continent is spreading at an alarming rate.

Due to global warming, icebergs, glaciers and permafrost is melting at an alarming rate. Fujiwara's camera captured penguin chicks that were killed when a large fissure ran through a penguin colony and the nesting area fell.

Mankind has destroyed the environment in the name of civilization. The effect of these environmental changes is steadily spreading even to Antarctica, the world's last secret region. Is there a future for a world in which even penguins can no longer live?

Adelie Penguins
A floating iceberg separated from the Antarctic Continent. Tired Adelie penguins Sometimes take a rest on the iceberg.

People have been disposing of their waste behind the bases for more than 50 years, something close to penguin breeding sites.
When the penguins waddle across the mountains of rubbish to get home,
They have to try to avoid broken glass and rusty wire.

2011 Exhibition: 100 Years in Antarctica

Period: March 25th (Fri.) to May 21st (Sat.)
Hours: 10:00 AM to 17:00 PM *Closed on Sundays
Venue: Waseda University Building No. 26 "Okuma Memorial Tower", 10F, Room 125

The start of this exhibition was postponed in consideration for the postponing of the graduation ceremony, the entrance ceremony, and the start of classes, and in consideration to foreseeable inconveniences to visitors such as crowded public transportation due to scheduled blackouts. Thank you for your understanding.

Mr. Kiyotaka Ishifune
Curator of the Shirase Antarctic Expedition Memorial Museum

Director/Curator of the Akita Prefecture Nikaho City Educational Committee Shirase Antarctic Expedition Commemorative Museum; Office of Promotion for the Shirase Japanese Antarctica Expedition 100th Anniversary Project

Koichi Fujiwara

Representative of the Nature's Planet. Representative of the Galapagos Conservation Fund Japan. Supervising Editor of Nippon Television Network Corporation's Tensai! Shimura Dobutsuen (Genius! Shimura Zoo) program, biology teacher on the program Sekai-ichi Uketai Jugyo (The World's Best Class), and navigator on the program Dobutsu Wakusei (Animal Planet). Part-time lecturer at Gakushuin Women's College.
Born in Akita Prefecture. Major in biology at universities and graduate schools in Japan and Australia. Conducted research at the Lizard Island Research Station located in the Great Barrier Reef.
Afterwards, has continued to report as a biology journalist focusing on wildlife ecology and environmental issues. Has reported from locations such as Antarctica, the Arctic, Africa, tropical Asia, Oceania and South America.

His many written works include "The Destruction of Antarctica", "The Destruction of Galapagos", "A Town of Walking Penguins", "The Destruction of Madagascar" (all of the preceding works published by Poplar Publishing), "The Antarctic Ocean: Travel of Penguins & the Suffering Antarctic Ocean" (Sakuranbo Shobo Publishing), "Listen to the Planet's Voice" (Kodansha Publishing), "Galapagos: The Sinking Arc" (Kodansha Publishing + Alpha Bunko Publishing), "Let's go to the Fine Ocean", "A Tale of Penguins", "A Tale of Whales", "A Tale of Dolphins", "Natural History of Galapagos" (DATAHOUSE Publishing), "Happiness of the Earth" (Nihon Shuppansha Publishing), "Who is it?" (Shin-Nihon Shuppansha Publishing), and "Can You Hear the Forest's Voice?" (PHP Research Center).