Christopher Columbus discovered the New World when trying to reach the Spice Islands of the East Indies.
Vasco Da Gama sailed south from Europe down the Western coast of Africa & rounded the Cape of Good Hope.
Dutchman, Dirk Gerritsz reported seeing snow-covered mountains some 500 kilometers from South America after being blown off course while rounding Cape Horn. These were undoubtedly the South Shetland Islands.
The British Captain, James Cook isolated New Zealand as simply a pair of Islands, and finally removed Terra Australis from tropical & temperate latitudes.
During the course of this, his second, voyage, Cook in the Resolution with Tobias Furneaux in the Adventure became the first to circumnavigate the globe at high southern latitude and cross the Antarctic Circle; Cook achieved a new farthest south record of 71° 10' S and proved that no previous land sightings constituted an Antarctic continent. During this voyage he discovered the South Sandwich Islands and South Georgia Island, but it was his reports of huge populations of fur seals which led directly to the next era of exploration in the Antarctic.
From bases in New Zealand, American, European and Russian sealers discovered and started exploiting the fur seals of the Antipodes Islands.
Sealers discovered the Auckland Islands, where fur seal colonies were wiped out within a few years.
William Smith aboard the Williams discovered the South Shetland Islands on 19 February 1819.
The Antarctic Continent was finally discovered. However, the honor of who first sighted the continent is still disputed. In January, the Royal Navy sends Edward Bransfield, with Smith as pilot, to search the waters southeast of the newly claimed South Shetlands. As a result, it is claimed that he is the first to see the Antarctic Peninsula.The same month, Russian Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen becomes the first person to see the Antarctic continent (January 27). In November, American Nathaniel Palmer, on the Hero, claims to see the Antarctic Peninsula. Palmer was a member of a sealing fleet from New England. Only 19 years old, he was dispatched from the sealing grounds in the South Shetlands by his commanding officer to search for land to the south.
American sealer, John Davis, became the first person to actually set foot upon the Antarctic Continent when he landed at Hughes Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula.
British sealer, James Weddell, reached 74º15's in the Weddell Sea, the farthest south that any man had ever been.
In a search for new sealing grounds, John Balleny discovered the islands that bear his name & the Sabrina Coast of Antarctica.
Jules Dumont d'Urville discovered a bare, rocky shore directly south from Australia and named it Adélie Land after his wife. He also made important measurements of the earth's magnetic field in these southern waters, and he remapped the South Shetland Islands and some sections of the Antarctic Peninsula.
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Charles Wilkes led the first American scientific expedition to the Antarctic, and was the first important investigator to prove beyond any doubt that Antarctica was a continent rather than endless ice packs & scattered islands.
James Clark Ross was appointed to lead an official British expedition to Antarctica. Originally aiming to find the South Magnetic Pole, Ross ended up finding the Ross Ice Shelf and Mount Erebus, the most active volcano in Antarctica.
The first International Polar Year was held, when 12 nations established 14 bases in polar regions to observe and study the earth's climate and magnetism.
Carston Borchgrevink & his small party became the first men to winter over on the Antarctic Continent. They built a small hut at Cape Adare for their base, and made the first sledge journey on the Ross Ice Shelf.
Robert Falcon Scott, an officer in the Royal Navy, led the Discovery expedition to Victoria Land. With companions, Edward Wilson and Ernest Shackleton, he made a trek towards the South Pole, reaching 82ºS before having to turn back. In the same year, Otto von Nordenskjold led a Swedish expedition to the Weddell Sea, but his ship, the Antarctic, was crushed in the ice and sank.
Jean-Baptiste Charcot organised a French national expedition which charted large parts of the Antarctic Peninsula region. This work was to be of great importance to navigators in the years to come.
Ernest Shackleton returned to Antarctica in quest of reaching the Geographic South Pole & Magnetic South Pole but failed in his attempt.
Roald Amundsen set out in direct competition with Captain Robert Scott, to reach the South Pole.
Amundsen reached the South Pole on 14 December ahead of Scott.
Scott & four companions reached the South Pole 33 days after Amundsen. Their return journey was plagued by ferociously bad weather and by 29 March 1912, all five men were dead.
Douglas Mawson landed a party at Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay at about the same time that Scott reached the South Pole in January 1912.
In early December, Shackletons' ill-fated Endurance entered the Weddell Sea only to be trapped in pack ice by 19 January 1915. Their ship finally sank in November of that year, with pack ice so thick they were unable to drag the 3 lifeboats and supplies to either water or land. In April 1916 they finally launched three boats and reached Elephant Island 6 days later. Shackleton set off in the largest boat with 5 companions on 24 April, reaching South Georgia 16 days later. All of Shackleton's men left on Elephant Island survived and were rescued by Shackleton onboard the Chilean vessel Yelcho on 30 August 1916.
A marine biological station was set up by the British on South Georgia primarily to collect information on the Antarctic whale populations.
On Christmas day, Richard Evelyn Byrd arrived at the Bay of Whales with 3 aircraft, 95 dogs and more than 50 men, determined to cross the South Pole by air.
Australian adventurer, Sir Hubert Wilkins, organised two expeditions and succeeded in exploring 2,100 kilometers of the Antarctic Peninsula by air.
In November 1929, a geological party made the startling discovery that the interior mountains consisted of sandstone with coal deposits, and were therefore part of the Earth's buckled crust rather than volcanic extrusions. In the same month, four men with Richard Evelyn Byrd took off from Little America in a Ford Trimmotor and flew non-stop to a position over the South Pole.
The second International Polar Year was held.
Byrd returned to the Antarctic twice to continue with scientific work, accomplishing further extensive exploration & important mapping work.
The first flight across the Antarctic continent was made by American millionaire, Lincoln Ellsworth.
The United States Navy mounted Operation Highjump, the largest Antarctic expedition ever attempted, using 13 ships (including an aircraft carrier and a submarine), 23 aircraft, and more than 4,700 men. Icebreakers and helicopters were used for the first time in Antarctica.
Finn Ronne led a privately financed expedition to Marguerite Bay, reoccupying Admiral Byrd's 1939 Base. During this expedition, Ronne showed that the Antarctic Peninsula was connected to the rest of Antarctica, solving one of the last great mysteries of the continent.
The Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, led by Vivian Fuchs and Sir Edmund Hillary, was the first overland trans-continental expedition.