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6 Historical Adventures that Went Terribly Wrong

If you’ve lost your bags, had your wallet stolen, or become lost in a city where you don’t speak the language, your travel experience can quickly turn from dream to nightmare. However inconvenient these instances may be you can at least rest assured that your bank will come through, the airline will find your bag, or you’ll find you were looking at the wrong map. For other, more extreme expeditions these flub-ups can be fatal. The following list is comprised of epic adventures that went terribly wrong. Some have become the stuff of legend while others are more obscure, either way they’ll make you grateful for GPS a satellite phones.

1. The Shackleton Expedition
Although Ernest Shackleton lived to tell the tale, his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914, became known as one of the most disastrous expeditions in modern history. His plan was to cross the entire Antarctic, from sea to sea, but his plans quickly changed when their ship, the Endurance, was crushed in pack ice. Shackleton ordered a permanent camp be set up on an ice floe in hopes that it would carry them to land. However, once the floe broke apart, the men of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition rowed 346 miles to land and were eventually rescued by the Chilean navy.

2. Terra Nova Expedition
At the turn of the 20th century there was a push to search all unexplored territory. And the last, most elusive place, was the South Pole. Beginning in 1910, Robert Falcon Scott and his expedition team raced to the southern end of the world, hoping to become the first humans to step foot on the world’s end. While the trek had a promising start, the team did not succeed. When they reached the South Pole they found a note from the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen whose team had reached their goal 33 days before the British explorers. Scott’s team soon realized that their long haul was not over and with the combination of weather conditions, injury, and poor preparation the entire team was lost to the icy wilderness.

3. Amelia Earhart’s Flight Around the World
On July 2, 1937 Amelia Earhart was on her way to becoming the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. On the morning of July 2nd she and her navigator Fred Noonan took off from Lae towards a Howland Island, a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific. Somewhere close to their destination Earhart and Noonan lost their way and according to their last radio signal, were running low on fuel. Earhart’s plane, Electra was never seen or heard from again. There are many theories surrounding her disappearance. Some claim she was ship wrecked just miles off the coast of Howland Island, still others claim she survived and died somewhere in New Jersey. However, the most likely scenario is that she and Noonan perished midsummer 1937.

4. 1924 Everest Summit Attempt
Almost 20 years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first documented summiters of Mount Everest, British explorers, George Mallory and Sandy Irvine made their attempt at reaching the top of the world. The two were never seen or heard from again and their last known location was merely 800 feet from the looming mountain’s summit. However, in 1999 an expedition set out specifically to recover Mallory and Irvine’s remains. Mallory’s body was found incredibly well-preserved. And some evidence suggests the duo may have made a successful summit.

5. Franklin Expedition
Most of us have seen the haunting images that resulted in this infamous 19th century arctic expedition. During the 20th century, archaeologists discovered the bodies of Franklin’s expedition almost perfectly preserved under the Arctic’s icy planes. In may of 1845 John Franklin and 129 men took off into Canada’s northernmost reaches in order to find the Northwest Passage. After 18 months, however, there was no sign of the HMS Erebus or the HMS Terror. The entire crew were thought to have succumb to hypothermia, starvation, and tuberculosis. If that is not disturbing enough, modern archaeologists have revealed that the crew eventually resorted to cannibalism.

6. The Search for “Z”
In 1925 a British man named Percy Fawcett delved into the deepest parts of the Amazon in search of the “Lost City of Z”, or as it is more popularly known, El Dorado. Fawcett spend much of his adult life exploring and through his journeys developed a theory of a lost European city, stashed with thousands of pounds of gold, somewhere in western Brazil. He was last heard from on May 29, 1925. Fawcett specifically asked that no one be sent to find him if he were lost and despite ample searching no evidence has been recovered from him or his party.

By Caroline Kellough


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