Antarctica 6

History of Antarctica Exploration

  • 350 BCE

    A Lucky Guess

    It was the Ancient Greeks who first thought of a Southern Land. The Ancients believed that the earth was round. They liked symmetry and believed that, to balance the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere and therefore stop the world from rolling over, there had to be another southern land mass. They never went there or sighted it, it was just a great guess!
  • The First Crossing of the Antarctic Circle

    On Jan 17, 1773, Captain James Cook became he first person in history to navigate through the Antarctic Circle. He began his trip in late 1772 and saw his first iceberg in early December. He never sighted the land, but the parts of rock in icebergs that he saw was proof that a southern land existed.
  • The First Sightings of Antarctica

    A Russian naval officer, Captain Thaddeus Bellingshausen, crosses the Antarctic Circle, the second to do so. He sights the continent for the first time in history on Jan 27th 1820, just beating out British naval officers William Smith and Edward Bransfield, who sighted the continent on Jan 30th. American Sealer, Nathaniel Palmer, was next to see Antarctica on the 16th November. All of these sightings were of the Antarctic Penninsula.
  • A Winter Experience

    On Jan 17, 1773, Captain James Cook became he first person in history to navigate through the Antarctic Circle. He began his trip in late 1772 and saw his first iceberg in early December. He never sighted the land, but the parts of rock in icebergs that he saw was proof that a southern land existed.
  • The First Landing on Antarctica

    The first known landing on Antarctica by Captain John Davis, American Sealer, and his group. Although they were only on the land fro less than an hour, this is the first time anybody set foot on this new land.
  • The Discovery of the Weddell Sea

    British sealer, James Weddell, discovers the sea which will come to be named after him. He reached a point further south than anyone else ever had - 74° 15' S.
  • The Establishment of the Continent

    Seperate British, French, and American expeditions establish the status of the southern land as a continent.
    British naval officer and scientist James Clark Ross travels towards the coast with two ships, Erebus and Terror, until he is stopped by a large ice shelf, now the Ross Ice Shelf. He discovers an active volcano which he names Erebus, after his ship, and, along with his other scientists, discovers 145 new species of fish.
  • Belgian Antarctic Expedition

    The Belgian Antarctic Expedition, the first scientific expedition and soon to be the first time anyone had overwintered in Antarctica, left Antwerp, Belgium at the end of August 1897, led by Adrian de Gerlache. Before being close to Antarctic waters, problems began to occur. The ships crew were inadequately chosen by de Gerlache and often did not fulfil their duties. Some had to be put off the ship or swapped. Two aboard the ship that knew what to do were Roald Amundsen and Frederick A. Cook.
  • Belgian Antarctic Expedition Part 2

    On the 3rd of March 1898, the ship became trapped in the sea ice. The ship wasn't equipped with sufficient supplies for the winter and it all worsened on the 19th of May when the sun set for the last time, heading into the midnight winter and would not be seen again for another 63 days. During the long winter they endured freezing cold temperatures, and the struggle to keep their spirits high after the death of Lieutenant Danco. Most people became sick and some even lost their sanity.
  • Belgian Antarctic Expedition Part 3

    When Captain Lecointe and de Gerlache got sick, Amundsen and Cook took over. Cook was a surgeon and helped bring many of the mens health back. By spring, all the mens health returned, but the ice was now 2.1m thick around the ship. Trenches were dug to help speed up the melting of the ice, and on Feb 14, 1899, the ship was freed from its frozen-in position after she being stuck for over 12 months, however it wasn't till March 28 when the ice split and the ship had a path to the open ocean.
  • First Attempt to reach the South Pole

    Headed for the South Pole along with Ernest Shackleton and Edward Wilson, Captain Scott attempted to reach the South Pole but had to turn back after suffering from snow blindness and scurvy.
  • Second Attempt to reach the South Pole

    Ernest Shackleton led an expedition to the South Pole but had to turn back after running out of supplies. They reached within 156km of the South Pole!
  • Aussie reaches the South Magnetic Pole

    Australian, Douglas Mawson, along with two other men, reached the South Magnetic Pole for the first time in history.
    NOTE: The South Magnetic Pole is different to the South Pole. The South Magnetic Pole is not a set destination and is always changing due to the Earth's magnetic field. It is 'the point on the Earth's surface where the direction of the Earth's magnetic field is vertically upwards' (
  • Successful Attempt to reach the South Pole

    Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian, led a five man party to the South Pole. They were the first people ever to reach the South Pole, and when they arrived, they raised the Norwegian flag.
  • Scott Comes Second

    Captain Robert Falcon Scott, a British, and his group reach the South Pole to find that they have been beaten by the Norwegians. On the return trip, all 5 men die.
  • The First Woman on Antarctica

    Caroline Mikkelsen, arrives on the land in Antarctica, accompanying her whaler husband. She is the first woman, of many more to come, to set foot in Antarctica.
  • Operation Highjump

    Consisting of 4700 men, 13 ships, and 33 aircraft, the US sends the largest ever expedition to Antarctica to map the continent, and to determine how hard it would be to set up base in Antarctica.
  • International Geophysical Year

    This marks the beginning of co-operation in Antarctica, and the instigation that Antarctica is not owned by one particular nation, with 12 nations establishing over 60 research stations in Antarctica.
  • The Signing of the Antarctic Treaty

    Signed by the 12 nations that had been researching in Antarctica in the International Geophysical Year. 'Some important provisions of the Treaty:
    Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only (Art. I) Freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation toward that end … shall continue (Art. II). Scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available (Art. III).' ( Today, 53 nations have signed the treaty.
  • The Treaty comes into Force

    The Antarctic Treaty entered into force.