The history of Antarctica emerges from early Western theories of a vast continent, known as Terra Australis, believed to exist in the southern reaches of the planet. Whilst the word ‘Antarctica’, means the “opposite of the Arctic”!
The rounding of the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn in the 15th and 16th centuries showed that Terra Australis Incognita (“Unknown Southern Land”) was a continent in its own right. The Antarctic Circle was crossed for the first time in 1773 by James Cook and his crew but although they discovered nearby islands, they did not catch sight of Antarctica itself. It is believed he was as close as 150 miles from the mainland.
In the 19th century several expeditions claimed to have been the first to have sighted the ice shelf of the continent. The first landing was probably just over a year later when American Captain John Davis, a sealer, claimed to set foot on the ice.
Several expeditions attempted to reach the South Pole in the early 20th century. Many resulted in injury and death. Carl Anton Larsen was the first person to ski in Antarctica where the Larsen ice Shelf was named after him. Norwegian Roald Amundsen finally reached the Pole on December 14, 1911, following a dramatic race with Englishman Robert Falcon Scott who reached the South Pole just one month after.
In 1956 was established the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
The Transglobe expedition led by Ranulph Fiennes become the first team of explorers to travel around the earth along its polar axis.
The Antarctic region had no Indigenous population when it was discovered, and its present inhabitants comprise a few thousand transient scientific and other personnel working on tours of duty at several dozen research stations maintained by various countries. The Region is visited by more than 40.000 tourists annually, the most popular destination is the Antarctic Peninsula area and South Georgia Island.
The Antarctic hosts the world largest protected area comprising 1.07 million km2, the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Island Marine Protection Area created in 2012 after the growth of tourism, with consequences for the ecology and the safety of the travellers. Come and discover this incredible, untouched continent with an unforgettable cruise from South America.