IELTS READING TEST SET 8 AC
South Pole Adventurer
In the race to the South Pole, there was a Japanese team attempting to be first,led by heroic explorer Nobu Shirase
FOR a few weeks in January 1912, Antarctica was full of explorers. Norwegian Roald Amundsen had reached the South Pole on 14 December and was speeding back to the coast. On 17 January, Robert Scott and the men of the British Antarctic expedition had arrived at the pole to find they had been beaten to it. Just then, a third man arrived; Japanese explorer Nobu Shirase. However, his part in one of the greatest adventure stories of the 20th century is hardly known outside his own country, even by fellow explorers. Yet as Scott was nearing the pole and with the rest of the world still unaware of Amundsen’s triumph, Shirase and his team sailed into Antarctica’s Bay of Whales in the smallest ship ever to try its luck in these dangerous waters.
Since boyhood Shirase had dreamed of becoming a polar explorer. Like Amundsen, he initially set his sights on the North Pole. But after the American Robert Peary claimed to have reached it in 1909, both men hastily altered their plans. Instead they would aim for the last big prize: the South Pole. In January 1910, Shirase put his plans before Japanese government officials, promising to raise the flag at the South Pole within three years. For many of them, the question wasn’t could he do it but why would it be worth doing? 15 years earlier the International Geographical Congress had said that as the last unknown continent the Antarctic offered the chance to add to knowledge in almost every branch of science. So, like the British, Shirase presented his expedition as a search for knowledge: he would bring back fossils, make meteorological measurements and explore unknown parts of the continent.
The response from the government was cool, however, and Shirase struggled to raise funds. Fortunately, a few months later, Japan’s former prime minister Shigenobu kuma came to Shirase’s rescue. With kuma’s backing, Shirase got together just enough money to buy and equip a small ship. He eventually acquired a scientist, too, called Terutaro Takeda. At the end of November 1910, his ship the Kainan Maru finally left Tokyo with 27 men and 28 Siberian dogs on board. Before leaving, Shirase confidently outlined his plans to the media. He would sail to New Zealand, then reach Antarctica in February, during the southern summer, and then proceed to the pole the following spring….