At the beginning of 1939, a Nazi expedition explored a hitherto uncharted area of the Antarctic. By foot and plane, the Nazis surveyed an area between latitudes 69°10’ S and 76°30’ S and longitudes 11°30 W and 20°00’ E, totaling 600.000 sq. km. They called it Neuschwabenland, or New Swabia.
At first glance, Neuschwabenland doesn’t warrant much enthusiasm. Most of it is covered in eternal snow and ice, with only a few places ice-free, mainly around a few hot springs. Yet annexation was an express purpose of the expedition, led by captain Alfred Ritscher, ordered by Hermann Göring himself. Before leaving, the expedition members received practical advice from Richard E. Byrd, an American admiral and experienced polar explorer.
The planes were used for reconnaissance flights over the impassable hinterland of the heretofore unexplored part of Antarctica, and were thus instrumental in the German Antarctic Expedition. Each plane could stay in the air for a maximum of nine hours and no inland airfields were constructed, so this provided the outer limit for the area to be explored.
In total, 350.000 sq. km were overflown and more than 11.000 photographs taken during 15 flights. These pictures were used in drawing up a map of the territory. During the flights and expeditions on foot, hundreds of Nazi German flags were dropped to symbolize Germany’s possession of the territory. Additionally, the expedition established a provisory base camp and reported that around the so-called Schirmacher See there existed some vegetation, due to the hot springs near the lake.