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Antarctica History

Antarctica Explanation :: --Antarctica History||Antarctica Geography||Antarctica Administration||

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The history of Antarctica emerges from early Western theories of a vast continent, known as Terra Australis, believed to exist in the far south of the globe. The term Antarctic, referring to the opposite of the Arctic Circle, was coined by Marinus of Tyre in the 2nd century AD.
The rounding of the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn in the 15th and 16th centuries proved that Terra Australis Incognita ("Unknown Southern Land"), if it existed, was a continent in its own right. In 1773 James Cook crossed the Antarctic Circle for the first time but although he discovered nearby islands, he did not catch sight of Antarctica itself. It is believed he was as close as 150 miles from the mainland.
In 1820, several expeditions claimed to have been the first to have sighted Antarctica, with the very first being the Russian expedition led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev. The first landing was probably just over a year later when American Captain John Davis, a sealer, set foot on the ice.
The first Norwegian expedition to Antarctica was led by Captain Carl Anton Larsen aboard the barque Jason in 1892. During the expedition he was the first to discover fossils in Antarctica, for which he received the Back Grant from the Royal Geographical Society. In December 1893 he also became the first person to ski in Antarctica where the Larsen Ice Shelf was named after him. Larsen is also considered the founder of the Antarctic whaling industry and the settlement at Grytviken, South Georgia.
Once the North Pole had been reached in 1909, several expeditions attempted to reach the South Pole. Many resulted in injury and death. Norwegian Roald Amundsen finally reached the Pole on December 14, 1911, following a dramatic race with the Englishman Robert Falcon Scott.

History of Antarctica

It has been only 100 years since humans first occupied the continent of Antarctica (1899), and a mere 180 years since seafarers first saw the islands of the Antarctic Peninsula (1819). Yet even before they laid eyes on it, most early explorers were convinced a large, southern continent existed. They called it Terra Australis Incognita--the Unknown Southern Land.

The idea went back to the ancient Greeks, who had a fondness for symmetry and balance. There must be a great continent to the south, they postulated, to balance the great land masses in the northern hemisphere. Two thousand years later, the great age of exploration brought Europeans far enough south to test the hypothesis.
In 1520, after he had sailed through the Strait that now bears his name, Magellan speculated that the land to his south, Tierra del Fuego, might mark the northern edge of a great continent. Fifty-eight years later, in 1578, Sir Francis Drake sailed his Golden Hind through Magellan's Strait. He encountered severe weather on the Pacific side and was blown to the south of Tierra del Fuego, then east around Cape Horn. It became obvious that Magellan's "continent" was merely a series of islands at the tip of South America. If there was indeed a southern continent, it had to be further south.
It seems ironic that the severe weather that makes the southern ocean so dangerous, particularly in the south Atlantic, was a key factor in the discovery of Antarctica. Time and time again, sailors blown off course by a storm discovered new land. Often, this new land was further south than any previously known. While attempting to navigate around Cape Horn in 1619, the Spaniards Bartoleme and Gonzalo Garcia de Nodal were blown off course, only to discover the tiny islands they named Islas Diego Ramirez. This would be the most southerly recorded land for another 156 years.

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In 1622, the Dutch pilot Dirck Gerritsz reported being driven south to 64°S, where he supposedly discovered a land with snow-covered mountains, a land similar in appearance to Norway. The accuracy of his latitude calculation is suspect, but it is possible that he sighted the South Shetland Islands. In 1675, the British merchant Anthony de la Roch was blown far to the east and south of the Straits of Magellan, to a latitude of 55°S, where he found shelter in an unnamed bay. During his stay at what was almost certainly South Georgia Island, he also sighted what he thought to be the southern continent to the south and east. In fact, what he saw was most probably the Clerke Rocks, which lie 48 kilometers southeast of South Georgia. Their location corresponds to where the shore of Terra Australis Incognita was placed on the Dutch East India Company map of the time, which de la Roche had studied.



Antarctica - History & culture

The Antarctic Continent was first discovered in 1820. The honour of who first sighted the continent is however still disputed.


In 1901 Robert Falcon Scott, an officer in the Royal Navy, led the Discovery expedition to Victoria Land. With companions Edward Wilson and Ernest Shackleton, he made a trek towards the South Pole, reaching 82°S before having to turn back.


In 1910, Roald Amundsen set out in direct competition with Captain Robert Scott to reach the South Pole. On 14 December 1911 Amundsen first reached the South Pole, 33 days ahead of Scott's expedition. Scott's return journey was plagued by ferociously bad weather and by 29 March 1912, all five men were dead.

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In early December 1914, Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated Enduranceentered the Weddell Sea only to be trapped in pack ice by 19 January 1915. The ship finally sank in November of that year, with pack ice so thick they were unable to drag the 3 lifeboats and supplies to either water or land. In April 1916 they finally launched three boats and reached Elephant Island 6 days later. Shackleton set off in the largest boat with 5 companions on 24 April, reaching South Georgia 16 days later. All of Shackleton's men left on Elephant Island survived and were rescued by Shackleton onboard the Chilean vesselYelcho on 30 August 1916.

In 1958 the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, led by Vivian Fuchs and Sir Edmund Hillary, was the first overland trans-continental expedition.

British National Antarctic Expedition (Discovery)

The British National Antarctic Expedition (1901–1904), led by Robert Falcon Scott, came to within 857 km (463 nautical miles) of the South Pole from its base at McMurdo Sound.

Scottish National Antarctic Expedition (Scotia)

In 1903, the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition established Osmond House, a meteorological observatory on Laurie Island in the South Orkneys. A year later, ownership of the base was passed to Argentina and it was renamed to Orcadas Base. It is the continent's oldest permanent base, and, until World War II, the only one present.

British Imperial Antarctic Expedition (Nimrod)

Ernest Shackleton, who had been a member of Scott's expedition, organized and led the British Imperial Antarctic Expedition (1907–09), again with the primary objective of reaching the South Pole. It came within 180 km (97 nautical miles) before having to turn back. During the expedition, Shackleton discovered the Beardmore Glacier and was the first to reach the polar plateau. Parties led by T. W. Edgeworth David also became the first to climb Mount Erebus and to reach the South Magnetic Pole.

Race to the Pole (Fram and Terra Nova)

On 14 December 1911, a party led by Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen from the ship Fram became the first to reach the South Pole, using a route from the Bay of Whales (his camp Polheim and up the Axel Heiberg Glacier. Amundsen was followed by Robert Falcon Scott from the Terra Nova over a month later, using the route pioneered by Shackleton. Scott's party later died on the return journey after being delayed by a series of accidents, bad weather, and the declining physical condition of the men. The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station was later named after these two men.

Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (Endurance)

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914, led by Ernest Shackleton, set out to cross the continent via the pole, but their ship, the Endurance, was trapped and crushed by pack ice before they even landed. The expedition members survived after an epic journey on sledges over pack ice to Elephant Island. Then Shackleton and five others crossed the Southern Ocean, in an open boat called James Caird, and then trekked over South Georgia to raise the alarm at the whaling station Grytviken.

Exploration by air: 1930s to 1950s

US Navy Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd led five expeditions to Antarctica during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. He overflew the South Pole with pilot Bernt Balchen on November 28 and 29, 1929, to match his overflight of the North Pole in 1926. Byrd's explorations had science as a major objective and pioneered the use of aircraft on the continent. Byrd is credited with doing more for Antarctic exploration than any other explorer. His expeditions set the scene for modern Antarctic exploration and research.
In 1946, Admiral Byrd and more than 4,700 military personnel returned to Antarctica in an expedition called Operation Highjump. Reported to the public as a scientific mission, the details were kept secret and it may have actually been a training or testing mission for the military. The expedition was, in both military or scientific planning terms, put together very quickly. The group contained an unusually high amount of military equipment, including an aircraft carrier, submarines, military support ships, assault troops and military vehicles. The expedition was planned to last for eight months but was unexpectedly terminated after only two months. With the exception of some eccentric entries in Admiral Byrd's diaries, no real explanation for the early termination has ever been officially given.
Captain Finn Ronne, Byrd's executive officer, returned to Antarctica with his own expedition in 1947-1948, with Navy support, three planes, and dogs. Ronne disproved the notion that the continent was divided in two and established that East and West Antarctica was one single continent, i.e. that the Weddell Sea and the Ross Sea are not connected. The expedition explored and mapped large parts of Palmer Land and the Weddell Sea coastline, and identified the Ronne Ice Shelf, named by Ronne after his wife Edith Ronne. Ronne covered 3,600 miles by ski and dog sled—more than any other explorer in history. The Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition discovered and mapped the last unknown coastline in the world and was the first Antarctic expedition to ever include women.It was not until 31 October 1956 that anyone reached the South Pole again; on that day US Navy Rear Admiral George J. Dufek and others successfully landed a R4D Skytrain (Douglas DC-3) aircraft.
During the International Geophysical Year of 1957, a large number of expeditions to the Antarctic were mounted.