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European maps continued to show this hypothesised land until Captain James Cook's ships, HMS Resolution and Adventure, crossed the Antarctic Circle on 17 January 1773, in December 1773 and again in January 1774.ships captained by three men sighted Antarctica or its ice shelf in 1820: von Bellingshausen (a captain in the Imperial Russian Navy), Edward Bransfield (a captain in the Royal Navy), and Nathaniel Palmer (a sealer out of Stonington, Connecticut).The first documented landing on Antarctica was by the American sealer John Davis, apparently at Hughes Bay, near Cape Charles, in West Antarctica on 7 February 1821, although some historians dispute this claim.On 22 January 1840, two days after the discovery of the coast west of the Balleny Islands, some members of the crew of the 1837–40 expedition of Jules Dumont d'Urville disembarked on the highest islet In December 1839, as part of the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838–42 conducted by the United States Navy (sometimes called the "Ex.

One month later, the doomed Scott Expedition reached the pole. Byrd led several voyages to the Antarctic by plane in the 1930s and 1940s.Antarctica has no indigenous population and there is no evidence that it was seen by humans until the 19th century.However, belief in the existence of a Terra Australis—a vast continent in the far south of the globe to "balance" the northern lands of Europe, Asia and North Africa—had existed since the times of Ptolemy (1st century AD), who suggested the idea to preserve the symmetry of all known landmasses in the world.Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents.), though the average for the third quarter (the coldest part of the year) is −63 °C (−81 °F).

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Anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at research stations scattered across the continent.

Ex.", or "the Wilkes Expedition"), an expedition sailed from Sydney, Australia, into the Antarctic Ocean, as it was then known, and reported the discovery "of an Antarctic continent west of the Balleny Islands" on 25 January 1840.