Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Discussion Paper Series in Economics,
Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics

No 13/2015: Commercial and Economic Aspects of Antarctic Exploration From the Earliest Discoveries into the 19th Century.

Bjørn L. Basberg ()
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Bjørn L. Basberg: Dept. of Economics, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Postal: NHH , Department of Economics, Helleveien 30, N-5045 Bergen, Norway

Abstract: Antarctic exploration always had strong scientific as well as political motives. This paper argues that commercial motivations more often than not, also were an interwoven part of the rationale of the expeditions. The paper analyses the commercial and economic motivation in early Antarctic exploration, by the explorers themselves as well as their sponsors (governments, private businessmen, scientific communities). It reviews the earliest expeditions that searched for the still unknown continent that was hoped to advance commerce and trade. The eventual discoveries did not reveal a prosperous continent in a traditional sense. The exploitable resources – seals and whales were instead found in the ocean, at the islands and around the continent. The paper reviews the earliest discoveries and plans to exploit those resources, and the origins of what was to become the first industries of the Antarctic region. The paper deals primarily with the period before the ‘Heroic Age’ when the focus of the explorers became the penetration of the Antarctic continent itself.

Keywords: Antarctica; Terra Australis; Exploration; whaling; sealing; history.

JEL-codes: N40; N50; N70; N90

26 pages, June 9, 2015

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