Two Sámi among penguins in the Antarctic


A Sámi makes his way through a colony of penguins. To make sense of this strange juxtaposition we must go back more than a century, to 1899, when Per Savio and Ole Must spent the winter on the least explored continent on the planet: Antarctica.

Photo: Carsten Borchgrevink.
Per Savio (left) and Ole Must.

By: Ann Kristin Balto // Norwegian Polar Institute

Their adventurous journey into the unknown started in May of 1898. Two childhood friends, Per Savio and Ole Must, said farewell to family and friends in Sør-Varanger and boarded a waiting British ship. The Southern Cross sailed south, via London and Hobart, ultimately arriving at Cape Adare in the Antarctic on 17 February 1899.

A violent storm blew in just days after their arrival and the ship hastily had to put out to open sea to avoid being crushed by huge waves. Savio and Must, who remained ashore with the dogs, survived the storm in a lavvu, a large teepee-like structure commonly used by the Sámi people, which they had set up as a temporary shelter. After the storm, they managed to set up two prefabricated huts where ten men would overwinter on a barren rocky beach inhabited by Adélie penguins.

Per Savio and Ole Must were hired by the leader of the expedition, Carsten Borchgrevink, to tend the dogs. Borchgrevink’s objective was to find the magnetic South Pole and attempt to reach the pole itself, if possible.

The expedition collected scientific data and made the first magnetic observations on the Antarctic mainland.

On the return voyage, Southern Cross sailed south into the Ross Sea until they reached the edge of the ice and discovered the Bay of Whales. Borchgrevink wanted to climb up and explore the ice shelf. Savio and William Colbeck (the expedition’s magnetic observer) accompanied him on the trip across the barrier by dog sledge. Borchgrevink, Savio and Colbeck reached 78° 50¢ on 17 February 1900, farther south than anyone had ever been before. This record would stand until Scott and Shackleton surpassed it in 1902.

The Southern Cross returned to Norway in the autumn of 1900, but the expedition received little attention. Norwegians considered it an English expedition, and in England, all eyes were turned to Robert Falcon Scott and his planned expedition to Antarctica the following year.


Ann Kristin Balto // Norwegian Polar Institute

About the expedition

British Antarctic Expedition 1898-1900. The first British voyage of discovery during the heroic golden age of Antarctic exploration. Carsten Borchgrevink led an expedition funded by the English publisher George Newnes. The Southern Cross was originally a Norwegian ship. Only three of the 29 participants were British. The rest – with the exception of one Swede – were Norwegian.