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Simultaneous to the Wilkes expedition were expeditions from two of the dominant players in Antarctic exploration, Great Britain and France. The French expedition, commanded by Dumont d'Urville, explored the Antarctic Peninsula from January to March 1838, and landed on the Adélie Coast, on the other side of Antarctica, in January 1840. The British Expedition under Sir James Clark Ross explored the Ross Sea in 1840-41 and returned there again the following year. The 1842-43 season was spent on the edge of the Weddell Sea.

During the early 1800's American sealing and whaling ships were reaping huge rewards for their efforts. Demand for furs and whale bone, oil for lamps and ambergris for use in perfumes was rapidly growing. Unfortunately, the hunting grounds off Chile and Peru were quickly diminishing and by the 1820's the New England sailors were forced more and more to the south in search of new game. As a result, penetration into Antarctic seas created diverse problems for the sailors as captains were reluctant to proclaim to other expeditions where their new hunting grounds were located. Ships suddenly found themselves in raging weather among unreported islets. A number of vessels foundered or wrecked on these islets and submerged reefs. Demands grew from the New England whalers and sealers for the US Government to sponsor exploring expeditions to the Antarctic in hopes of finding, and subsequently charting, new hunting grounds. The indifferent success of the private expedition led by Benjamin Pendleton and Nathaniel Palmer in 1829-31 could not fulfill their hopes. Upon their return, Pendleton actually asked Congress to reimburse him for his losses!

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