Quest for the South Magnetic Pole

Media release: Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Quest for the South Magnetic Pole, a new exhibition at the National Archives of Australia, traces one of the longest and most elusive searches in exploration history.

While English scientist William Gilbert discovered in 1600 that the earth was a giant magnet, the South Magnetic Pole was discovered only ten years ago – by Australian scientist Dr Charlie Barton. It was the culmination of a quest that, for 150 years, had seen explorers risk their lives in a hostile environment to plant their nation's flag at an ever-shifting spot on the Earth's surface.

The race to the South Geographic Pole has been well documented, but it was the race to the other pole – the South Magnetic Pole – that was once an obsession of polar exploration. It lured explorers long before the Geographic Pole – from a desire to improve navigation and to understand changes in the Earths magnetic field.

However, despite the efforts of experienced teams, such as those directed by Ernest Shackleton and Douglas Mawson, all efforts were frustrated – until recent years. In a world where little is left to discover, the South Magnetic Pole was finally located in December 2000 by Dr Charlie Barton. The equipment he developed to chase down the Pole is on display in Quest, together with items from earlier British and Australian expeditions and a rich collection of images, some in stereoscopic 3D.

Quest has been jointly produced by the South Australian Maritime Museum and South Australian Museum. It is on display at the National Archives of Australia in Canberra until 6 March.

What Quest for the South Magnetic Pole – media preview
When Friday, 10 December 10.30 am
Where National Archives of Australia, Queen Victoria Terrace, Parkes ACT

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0427 853 664 e elizabeth.masters@naa.gov.au
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017