Australian Geographic

The discovery and exploration of Antarctica: a timeline

ANCIENT TIMES

Greek philosophers Pythagoras and Aristotle both deduce the planet is a sphere. The ancient Greeks also theorise the existence of the landmass Terra Australis Incognita, presuming it balanced land in the north.

16TH AND 17TH CENTURIES

European explorers probe ever southwards.

1520 Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan finds the strait between Tierra del Fuego and continental South America that now bears his name.

1578 Englishman Francis Drake is blown off course and discovers the Drake Passage.

1592 Englishman John Davis discovers the Falkland Islands.

1616 Dutchman Willem Schouten discovers Cape Horn and is the first to round the southern extremity of South America.

1675 London merchant Antoine de la Roche shelters in the lee of an island–probably South Georgia.

“Islands of ice” are noted by mariners; they are later more generally known as icebergs–from the Dutch ijs (ice) + berg (hill).

18TH CENTURY

Island discoveries continue and commercial exploitation begins.

Frenchmen Jean-Baptiste Bouvet de Lozier (1739), Marion du Fresne (1772) and Yves Joseph de Kerguélen-Trémarec (1772) discover islands in the South Atlantic and Southern oceans respectively: Bouvet Island; Prince Edward and the Crozet islands; and the Kerguelen Islands.

1772–75 James Cook circumnavigates Antarctica with the ships the Resolution and the Adventure on his second great voyage of discovery. He becomes the first navigator to venture inside the Antarctic Circle. He lands on South Georgia (1775) and discovers the South Sandwich Islands.

1788 Sealing commences on South Georgia. By 1820 up to 1.2 million seals have been killed on the island.

19TH CENTURY

Sealing intensifies, the continent is sighted, and landings are made.

1806 Englishman Abraham Bristow discovers the Auckland Islands south of New Zealand.

1810 Australian

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