How Does the Law Work in Antarctica?
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Who Discovered the Bottom of the World?
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Antarctica is the youngest continent in the world according to recorded history. This is because no human is credited with having seen Antarctica until the early 19th century. This means that Antarctica is younger than the United States by more than 200 years. However, the quest for discovery for a continent at the bottom of the world traces it roots all the way back to ancient Greece.

The ancient Greek mathematician and geographer, Ptolemy (1st century AD), believed that there had to be a landmass at the bottom of the Earth in order to preserve the symmetry of the rest of the world’s landmasses. This idea permeated much of the ancient world, but took nearly another 1700 years until any actual attempts were made to prove the theory true.

The English explorer, Captain James Cook, is credited with the first near encounter with of this southernmost continent. Historians agree that Captain Cook came within 75 miles of the Antarctica on his voyages in 1773 and 1774. But Captain Cook never knew how close he really came.

As for the actual first sighting, historians dispute about who the first human was to see Antarctica. Most historians credit the Russians, Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarez, with the first human sightings of Antarctica on January 27, 1820. English Captain Edward Bransfield and American sealer Nathaniel Palmer also claim to have seen the southernmost continent, but most historians agree their sightings came after the Russians. Whichever theory is correct, we are at least fairly certain that no human even saw Antarctica until about 1820 (more than 300 years after Columbus discovered America).

According to many historians, American sealer John Davis made the first documented landing on mainland Antarctica on February 7, 1821. However, the most publicized event, even to our present day, was likely the race to the geographical South Pole in 1911.

Next, we’ll find out who was the first person to reach the most southern geographical point in the world.

The First to Reach the South Pole

Two separate polar expeditions went head-to-head in race to reach the geographic South Pole. Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen and his crew competed against an expedition led by English explorer Robert Scott. Both would eventually make it to the world’s southernmost point, but only one team returned.

On December 14, 1911, Roald Amundsen and his team became the first humans to reach the geographic South Pole. One month later, the expedition led by the Englishman Scott arrived there. However, many misfortunes befell Scott’s crew and they eventually ran out of food and froze to death in the Antarctic wasteland.

The excitement of the race caught the world’s attention. Amundsen became a national hero, and Scott’s name still lives on with certain parts of Antarctica named after him. After the hype of the race to the South Pole was over, the emphasis slowly began to turn into scientific exploration.

Next, we’ll see how science led to cooperation between nations on Antarctica.