Paleontologist De Deckker spoke at museum

Hurleyville, NY – The Frederick Cook Society presented a talk on October 13 by Professor Patrick De Deckker on the long-ignored scientific achievements of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition 1897–1899.Patrick De Deckker is a paleontologist who has led teams of research scientists on ships all over the world, studied the nature of the sea floor, collected sediment cores from the bottom of the ocean, and surveyed huge underwater canyons taller than the Grand Canyon, off Kangaroo Island. He also worked to expose patterns of climate change on land and in the oceans. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, and an Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University.

Professor De Deckker spoke at the Sullivan County Museum in Hurleyville on the extraordinary achievements of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition. His talk  discussed both the scientific discoveries as well as the courage and endurance of the crew, who became the first men to survive an entire sunless Antarctic winter.

Hortonville native and explorer Frederick Cook was the physician, photographer and ethnologist on the expedition. He is credited with saving the ship, which spent 13 months frozen in ice. Dr. Cook’s ingenious use of dietary changes, exercise, and light therapy saved the men from certain death from scurvy.

The Belgica was an exploratory expedition, but more importantly it was an exceptional and successful scientific voyage. A vast array of data was processed, and eventually 92 scientific papers in some nine volumes were published by the Belgica Commission.

Yet those significant results have been mostly ignored in scientific literature. Professor De Deckker has translated and cataloged much of this research, and his talk informed scientists about where to obtain the information. The climatological and oceanographic data obtained on the Belgica can now be examined in line with the changes occurring today in the Antarctic Peninsula region as a result of global warming. Parts of theBelgica data form an important resource for assessing environmental changes over the past 120 years.

The talk coincided with the opening of an exhibition of Dr. Cook’s iceberg photographs, taken in Antarctica and Greenland between 1896-1898.

The Sullivan County Museum is located at 265 Main Street, Hurleyville. For more information, call 845-434-8044, or visit

The Frederick Cook Society presented a talk by Prof. Patrick De Deckker on Friday, Oct. 13.
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