Compared to the rest of the world, Antartica’s history is relatively brief. Humans have only occupied the continent of Antarctica since 1899—just under 120 years—and it’s been just under 200 years since the first sailors spotted the islands of the Antarctic Peninsula in 1819. Despite Antarctica’s rather cursory appearance on the world’s map of history, it’s lived much longer in mankind’s imagination and exploration ambitions. Before they knew it existed, they called it Terra Australis Incognita: the Unknown Southern Land.
The ancient Greeks first conceived of the probability of the Antarctic continent, seeing the massive southern land as the symmetrical point of balance to the lands dotting the northern hemisphere. It took over 2,000 years for the first European explorers to delve into the southern hemisphere to test out this theory.