The first sighting of Antarctica is widely acknowledged to have taken place on January 27, 1820, during the voyage of two Russian ships, the Vostok and Mirny. This expedition was under the command of Captain Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen. Bellingshausen and his crewmate Mikhail Lazarev are credited as the first explorers to see and officially discover the land of the continent of Antarctica.
However, it’s worth noting that three days later, on January 30, 1820, a British expedition captained by Edward Bransfield sighted the Trinity Peninsula. And ten months later, an American sealer, Nathaniel Palmer, also sighted Antarctica. The first landing is believed to have occurred just over a year later when American Captain John Davis, a sealer, set foot on the ice.
So, while Bellingshausen and Lazarev are officially recognized as the first to discover Antarctica, the exploration and understanding of the continent is the result of efforts from multiple expeditions.
The Somnath Temple located in Prabhas Patan near Veraval in Saurashtra on the western coast of Gujarat, India. There is a pillar known as the Baan Stambha in the temple premises, which is believed to have been there since at least the 7th century CE. An inscription on this pillar states that a straight line can be drawn from the Somnath Temple to the South Pole with no land in between. This has led to the interpretation that ancient Indians might have known about the existence of the South Pole, and by extension, Antarctica.
However, it’s important to note that while this interpretation is fascinating, it’s not universally accepted as definitive proof of the discovery of Antarctica. The concept of Antarctica as a continent wasn’t understood until much later in human history. The first confirmed sighting of mainland Antarctica didn’t occur until 1820, as I mentioned earlier.
The pillar and its inscription at the Somnath Temple certainly add an intriguing dimension to the history of geographical knowledge. But as with many historical interpretations, it’s always good to approach them with a critical and open mind.
The discovery and exploration of Antarctica, as we understand it today, is well-documented from the 19th century onwards. But who knows? Future discoveries or advancements in understanding historical texts might shed new light on this topic. Until then, we can only speculate based on the information and evidence we currently have. 😊