About 350 BC, the ancient Greeks came up with the idea of
Antarctica. They knew about the Arctic and thought that there
had to be a balancing southern landmass. The name Antarctica
is derived from "ant" which means opposite and
arctic which comes from "arktos" or Greek for arctic.
Some believe that this was a "lucky guess" on the
part of the Greeks.
The Golden Age of Exploration
The “Golden Age of Exploration”
took place from 1492 (when Columbus discovered America)
During that time, several trips were made in the area of
Antarctica but no one actually arrived at the continent.
In 1599, Dirk Gerritsz (Dutch) was rounding Cape Horn and
was blown off course. He reported seeing ice-covered mountains
about 500 km (300 miles) south of South America. It is
thought that these were the South Shetland Islands. In
explorers believed they found this southern continent,
but it was later proven to be Australia. In 1642, Abel
(Dutch) proved that Australia was what was found. He also
discovered New Zealand and thought that this was the southern
continent. Tasmania, off the southeast coast of Australia,
was named for this explorer.
In 1773 (about the time America
was declaring independence from England), James Cook crossed
the Antarctic circle and
circumnavigated Antarctica. While he didn't actually sight
land, he did sight rock particles in the icebergs, which
led him to believe the southern continent exists. He is often
quoted as saying, “I make bold to declare that the world
will derive no benefit from it.” Cook did report huge
populations of fur-bearing seals and sea lions in the region.
The Age of Discovery
The years 1800 to 1900 were called
“The Age of Discovery.” It
was the ever increasing hunt for fur that brought other adventurers
who finally discovered Antarctica. Between 1800 and 1822
more than 150 ships harvested seals and their oil. In 1820
British naval officers William Smith and Edward Bransfield
were the first to sight the continent. In 1821, John Davis,
an American sealer, became the first person to set foot upon
the Antarctic continent. In 1822, the continent of Antarctica
was officially discovered. Thaddeus von Bellingshausen (sometimes
called Fabian von Bellingshausen), a Russian naval officer,
was the second to circumnavigate Antarctica, going farther
south than Cook. He also discovered offshore islands. In
1823, British whaler James Wendell discovered the sea that
would be named after him and reached the most southerly point.
No one traveled as far south as he did for the next 80 years.
In the 1840s separate British, French and American expeditions
established the status of Antarctica as a continent. In 1840
British naval officer and scientist James Clark Ross traveled
to within 80 miles of the coast and was stopped by massive
ice barriers (now called the Ross Ice Shelf). He also discovered
the active volcano and named it Erebus after one of his ships.
In 1848 Adrien de Gerlache and his crew became trapped in
pack ice off the Antarctic Peninsula and became the first
scientific expedition to survive an Antarctic winter.
The Heroic Age
The years 1900-1916 became known as “The
Heroic Age.” In 1902 Captain Scott (British) led the
first Antarctic expedition to get very close to the South
They reached 82 degrees south but were forced to turn back
because of snow blindness and scurvy (a disease marked by
spongy gums and loosening teeth caused by lack of vitamin
C found in citrus fruit). In 1907-09, Ernest Shackleton returned
to lead an expedition to within 97 miles of the South Pole.
He turned back because his supplies were depleted. In 1909,
Australian Douglas Mawson reached the magnetic South Pole.
In 1911, Norwegian Roald Amundsen, along with his five-man
team, were the first expedition to reach the South Pole,
on December 14, 1911. Amundsen returned to Norway to a triumphant
welcome. A team led by Robert Falcon Scott all perished on
the return trip. They were only 11 miles from a supply station.
In 1915, Shackleton returned to Antarctica to complete the
first crossing of the continent. What resulted was an incredible
The Age of Science
“The Age of Science” is
considered to have begun in 1917. In 1928, Richard Bird
and three others flew
over the South Pole. In 1935, Caroline Mikkelsen of Norway
was the first woman to set foot on Antarctica. She was part
of a whaling expedition with her husband.
In 1947, Operation Highjump was undertaken by the United
States. It was the largest expedition ever with 13 ships,
23 airplanes and 4,700 men. Their goal was to photograph
the coast for map making. In 1956, the US landed an aircraft
at the South Pole.
The 18-month period from July 1, 1957 to December 31,
1958 is named the International Geophysical Year. Twelve
nations established over 60 stations in Antarctica. Also,
British geologist Vivian Fuchs and New Zealander Edmund
Hillary made the first successful land crossing.
In 1961 the Antarctic Treaty went into effect. Boerge Ousland
(Norway) became the first person to cross Antarctica unsupported.
It took him 64 days, towing a 400-pound sled and using skis
and a sail.
Make a timeline showing the exploration of Antarctica. You
can do this by hand, use a Timeliner program or use this
site on the Web: http://www.teach-nology.com/web_tools/materials/timeline