Speculation of Antarctica, the “southern land,” dogged human mythologies for hundreds of years before a Russian explorer finally discovered this southernmost continent in 1820. Despite Antarctica’s initial discovery, this continental desert remained largely unexplored throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century due to its isolation and hostile climate.
Antarctica is the coldest, driest, and, on average, windiest continent on Earth. These harsh conditions prevented exploration and colonization until 1895, when Norwegian explorers launched the first confirmed expedition exploring the land.
The international Antarctic Treaty System has governed Antarctica since 1959, preventing exploitation of the land for military purposes, mining, and nuclear testing or waste disposal. The treaty encourages scientific research and protects the continent’s ecosystem.