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By David Day

For hundreds of years it used to be suspected that there needs to be an undiscovered continent within the southern hemisphere, yet explorers did not locate one. On his moment voyage to the Pacific, Captain cook dinner sailed additional south than any of his opponents yet nonetheless did not sight land. He needed to be content material with claiming sub-Antarctic islands for England's King George. It used to be now not till 1820 that the continent's frozen coast used to be eventually sighted. Territorial contention intensified within the 1840s whilst British, American, and French expeditions sailed south to chart additional parts of the continent that had become referred to as Antarctica. For the subsequent centuries, the race to say particular ownership of Antarctica has gripped the mind's eye of the area. Antarctica: A Biography is the 1st ever significant overseas background of this forbidding continent--from the eighteenth century voyages of discovery to the explorers of the early 20th century, all the way down to the fierce rivalries of this present day, as governments, scientists, environmentalists, and oil businesses compete for regulate. On one point it's the tale of explorers scuffling with the weather within the so much opposed position in the world as they try for private triumph, advertisement achieve, and nationwide glory. On a deeper point, it's the tale of countries looking to comprise the antarctic into their very own nationwide stories--and to assert its frozen wastes as their very own.

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Promising to have his American ships there by October 1820, Byers again petitioned the United States government to send a naval vessel to support the sealers and help establish an American claim to the islands. With Byers warning that there was ‘not the least doubt . . the British will attempt to Drive our Vessels from the Islands’, and with the American sealing vessels being ‘armed for their own defence’, there was every possibility of a serious conflict developing. Secretary of State Adams was alive to the threat, again urging the secretary for the navy to send an armed vessel ‘to protect the Sealing and Whaling Settlement on the Newly discovered land south of Cape Horn’.

Had it been part of a continent, noted Bellingshausen, he would ‘certainly have surveyed it in greater detail’. Instead, with the crews of both vessels giving three cheers, the sailors were given glasses of punch to toast the health of the tsar. Because of the encircling ice and the lack of an obvious landing place on the steep volcanic island, Bellingshausen made no attempt to send men ashore to raise the Russian flag and claim the place for the tsar. 28 Unbeknown to Bellingshausen, however, the Antarctic continent actually lay about 400 kilometres to the south, through the impenetrable sea ice.

While the Russian was proving that Cook’s Sandwich Land was actually a group of islands and not part of a southern continent, Bransfield and Smith were trying to determine the nature of New South Britain. Sailing north-east along the northern coasts of the island chain until no more land could be seen, Bransfield carefully charted the coast as best he could, in the face of frequent fogs and often contrary winds and currents. Rounding the land’s easterly point, still unsure whether he had been sailing along a continental shore, he came across an extensive bay on 22 January.

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