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By David Day

For hundreds of years it was once suspected that there needs to be an undiscovered continent within the southern hemisphere, yet explorers didn't locate one. On his moment voyage to the Pacific, Captain prepare dinner sailed extra south than any of his competitors 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 no longer till 1820 that the continent's frozen coast was once ultimately sighted. Territorial contention intensified within the 1840s whilst British, American, and French expeditions sailed south to chart additional parts of the continent that had end up referred to as Antarctica. For the following centuries, the race to say unique ownership of Antarctica has gripped the mind's eye of the realm. Antarctica: A Biography is the 1st ever significant overseas heritage of this forbidding continent--from the eighteenth century voyages of discovery to the explorers of the early 20th century, down to the fierce rivalries of at the present time, as governments, scientists, environmentalists, and oil businesses compete for keep watch over. On one point it's the tale of explorers scuffling with the weather within the so much adversarial position on the earth as they try for private triumph, advertisement achieve, and nationwide glory. On a deeper point, it's the tale of countries trying to contain the antarctic into their very own nationwide stories--and to assert its frozen wastes as their very own.

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Sample text

He also pointed to the more than seven million seal skins that had been taken by American sealing ships. However, seals were now harder to find, and Reynolds suggested that they had retreated to ‘more remote regions’. If an expedition were sent further south, he predicted, seals would be ‘found in great abundance’. There was also the likelihood that the highly profitable sea otters of the North Pacific ‘may yet be found in the southern hemisphere’, along with sandalwood, the tusks of sea elephants, oil from porpoises, feathers from sea birds and much more besides.

6 Although it was probably an ice shelf attached to Antarctica, and although he was only about thirty kilometres away from it, some twentieth-century historians concluded that Bellingshausen was unaware that he was within sight of the continent, supposedly because of the poor visibility caused by the thickly falling snow. As a result of these assumptions, Bellingshausen was long denied the honour of having been the first explorer to see any part of the Antarctic coastline. Due to the poor editing of his journals, and to later errors made during its English translation, it had been easy for historians to make this error.

33 In fact, by the time of Bellingshausen’s arrival, the islands already had multiple names. The reports of Smith’s discovery in 1819 had inspired both an American and an Argentine sealing ship to venture south in his wake. While only a few vessels explored the sealing potential of the islands in the summer of 1819–20, the rich harvest of seal skins that they took back to their home ports had prompted many other merchants and captains to emulate them. A small party of sealers could kill and skin around 10,000 animals in a few weeks, which was sufficient to reap a sizeable fortune.

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