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Ask Adventure
IS IT TRUE THAT SOME OF HISTORY'S MOST FAMOUS EXPEDITIONS WERE MADE UP OF VOLUNTEERS ANSWERING ADS THAT PROMISED ADVENTURE AND POSSIBLE DEATH?


Illustration: expedition
The ad you are probably thinking of was a call for Ernest Shackleton's famous expedition to Antarctica that is said to have run in a British daily around the turn of the last century. It read something like: "Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success." In the end, some 5,000 adventure seekers applied for the ill-fated journey. The original ad, however, cannot be found. And there is doubt as to whether it ever existed in print. "This is a needle-in-a-haystack situation," says Bob Headland, curator of the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, who's holding a bottle of Madeira as a reward for whoever hunts down a copy of the British paper carrying the ad. "But I'm fairly convinced this haystack doesn't have a needle in it." Headland believes it first appeared in the 1949 pulp paperback The 100 Greatest Advertisements and that the apocryphal blurb was penned by the book's author, Julian Lewis Watkins. Incidentally, public calls for explorers continue to be made today, but mainly in Europe. With 41 wintering stations in Antarctica as of 2003—each housing an average of 16 researchers from many different countries—groups still find the need to solicit interested parties. In the U.S., the Earthwatch Institute in Massachusetts and the University Research Expeditions Program in California accept expedition volunteers—but don't be surprised if you have to foot some of the travel bill.

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Related Web Site

Expedition Advisor
Read explorer-tested tips from adventurer Jon Bowermaster.

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May 2004



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