It just doesn't sound scientific to talk about superstition, curses, doom and the like ... but, really, when you take a look at some expeditions, "doomed" is the best word to describe them. Be it due to human error, divine anger, bad luck or some mix of the three, sometimes everything goes wrong. And when the going gets tough, the tough get going (though not always to their intended destination, if you know what we mean).
No. 01 - Shackleton and The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition
You know things are getting bad when you have to eat the dogs.
Though the crew of the ill-fated Endurance did have to eat their beloved dogs, Ernest Shackleton's famously catastrophic trip to cross Antarctica wasn't a complete disaster.
In fact, it became legendary for its heroic tale of survival and rescue. After the ship became trapped in sea ice and eventually sank, its crew camped on the ice floes and later on a desolate island before Shackleton realized he had to leave his men behind to go get help.
His journey involved an 800-mile ocean crossing in a lifeboat, followed by a treacherous trek through the mountains and glaciers of South Georgia Island to get to the island's remote British fishing station.
Once there, Shackleton turned around for more fun, this time with a rescue team. Though Shackleton's crew never did make an overland crossing of Antarctica, everyone made it back safely – well, everyone except the dogs.
No. 02 - Donner Party
California dreaming was a far more dangerous pastime back in 1846.
Lured by the westward expansion of the time, Illinois farmers George and Jacob Donner set out for California with their families in April 1846. It took them six months via covered wagon to reach the Sierras, partly because they had decided to try a newer, trendier route through Utah and the Wasatch Range.
By the time they got there, it was October and the pass through the mountains was snowed in. Snowbound and lacking in food, the Donner party realized they would not survive the winter without help.
A party of 15 set out for civilization to get help, but half succumbed to the cold and starvation. The other half, fearful of suffering the same fate, resorted to cannibalism.
When they finally returned with help from the western side of the Sierras, the search party found that those left behind had also begun to eat their fallen friends.
No. 03 - Robert Falcon Scott to the South Pole
What a bummer. When Robert Scott's British expedition finally reached the South Pole in January 1912, they realized they had been beaten to the punch: a Norwegian team, led by Roald Amundsen, had passed through nearly four weeks before.
And as if all that wasn't bad enough, Scott and his team of four others still had another 800 miles to go to get home. They never made it.
Overcome by foul weather and bitter cold, the entire party eventually died on the return trip, with Scott making a final journal entry in March 1912.
Their remains were found some eight months later and, despite their deaths, the explorers were heralded in Britain as national heroes.
No. 04 - Amelia Earhart
Where did she go? And how? Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Electra airplane disappeared over the Pacific Ocean nearly three-quarters of the way through her 1937 attempt at an around-the-world trip.
The leg that would prove to be her last took Earhart from Lae, New Guinea, to Howland Island, a small patch of land less than one mile square in area. A Coast Guard ship was standing by to guide Earhart and her trusted navigator, Fred Noonan, onto the island's airstrip, but the plane and the boat were struggling to communicate.
Earhart and Noonan sounded lost, searching for the ship or the island, in their last series of radio transmissions. Whether they survived, ditched in the ocean or found another patch of land has been a matter of debate for decades now.
Some sources reported hearing weak or garbled radio signals from the plane after it went down. The United States government undertook a massive search and rescue effort, spending $4 million as Navy and Coast Guard ships trolled the area, but no evidence of Earhart, Noonan or the plane's wreckage was ever found.
No. 05 - Percy Fawcett in South America
Real archaeologists don't run around like Indiana Jones, looking for lost cities, right?
Well, Percy Fawcett did.
In 1925, the British explorer set out with his son for the Brazilian jungle in search of the ancient Inca city of Z. Fawcett was headed into unexplored territory when...he vanished.
What happened? Since then, rumors and theories have certainly abounded: some said Fawcett was killed by natives, others claimed he became a cannibalistic chief.
Search parties were sent and some researchers even claimed to have found Fawcett's bones. To this day, no one knows for sure what happened to Percy Fawcett -- and what's more, no one has yet found the lost city of Z.
No. 06 - Charles Francis Hall at No Pole
When American explorer Charles Francis Hall set out for the North Pole in June 1871, he probably realized he might die on the expedition; he probably didn't think it would be from arsenic poisoning.
Hall, a newspaper owner and blacksmith, had cut his teeth in the Arctic by helping to search for John Franklin's missing 1845 expedition, but he had little sailing experience himself. He also seems to have been mistrusted and disliked by his crew almost from the start. By early November, he had dropped dead, most likely poisoned by his disgruntled crew.
The expedition never made it to the North Pole, but they did reach a record northern latitude for the time.
The ship was eventually abandoned in Greenland and the crew, minus Hall, dispersed and were rescued in 1873.
No. 07 - John Franklin/Northwest Passage
Back in the day, the Northwest Passage was the trophy every explorer wanted.
They obsessed over it from the 15th to the 20th century. European traders believed the hypothetical passage would speed trade between Europe and Asia. Countries like Britain sent explorers such as John Franklin up to Canada to start looking.
Franklin set out from England in May 1845 with high hopes. Franklin himself was an experienced Arctic explorer, having mapped a good portion of the northern North American coast, and the British were convinced that they had only one last bit of the puzzle to figure out. They got so optimistic they started dreaming of finding an open Arctic sea.
Too bad dreams don't always come true: It turns out that the famed Northwest Passage is obstructed by ice throughout most of the year and Franklin never made it. His ships became ice-bound in 1846 and Franklin and his entire crew died of a mix of starvation, exposure, hypothermia, and perhaps even lead poisoning and botulism from the tins of food they carried as rations.
Nearly 60 years later, Norwegian Roald Amundsen would traverse the passage, but to this day, it's still not a viable shipping route.
No. 08 - Apollo 13
"Houston, we have a problem." You've probably seen the movie and you probably know those words. First uttered by Jim Lovell, captain of Apollo 13, in April 1970, they marked the start of four days of disaster and survival in space.
Apollo 13's mission was the exploration of the Fra Mauro formation, a hilly area on the lunar surface, but the three-man crew never made it there.
After an electrical short led to an oxygen tank explosion on the (unlucky) 13th of April, astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise were left 200,000 miles from Earth with limited power, a damaged ship and an environment that was rapidly growing heavy with carbon dioxide. With some MacGyver-type engineering, a few razor-sharp calculations and tremendous amount of bravery, the crew (with a lot of help from ground control) was able to use what they had left of fuel and the moon's gravity to get themselves back to Earth alive and well.
All in a day's work for a astronaut, right?
No. 09 - Everest 1996
The world's tallest peak doesn't exactly have the best safety record. Over 200 people have died since serious attempts to climb Everest started in the 1920s -- eight of them in one day during the ill-fated spring of 1996.
Overcrowded conditions, inexperienced climbers and some nasty weather conditions combined to cost 12 people - some of them clients on pricey commercial expeditions, others highly experienced professional guides - their lives. The incident, along with 1996 Everest survivor Jon Krakauer's best-selling book about it (Into Thin Air) raised questions about the growing commercialization of climbing and the rise of guided tour-style expeditions.
It didn't stop more climbers and more expeditions from coming, though. These days, roughly 200 climbers scale Mount Everest each year.
No. 10 - Sputnik 2/Laika the Soviet Space Dog
Talk about doomed. Soviet space officials didn't even bother to provide a way to get their first living test subject back alive.
Laika, the stray dog adopted by the Russian space agency and turned into a space hero, blasted off and into orbit in November 1957. She was only alive in space for five to seven hours before dying of overheating and stress, but her body orbited Earth for five more months before her capsule, Sputnik 2, disintegrated during re-entry.
Today, she's commemorated on plaques, postage stamps and in history books as the first living creature to orbit the Earth.