Antarctica: A Biography
For centuries it was suspected that there must be an undiscovered continent in the southern hemisphere. But explorers failed to find one. On his second voyage to the Pacific, Captain James Cook sailed further south than any of his rivals but still failed to sight land. However, the icebergs that he encountered provided proof of the existence of land. Nevertheless, it was not until whaling crews ventured south from Cape Magellan in the early nineteenth century that the frozen continent was finally sighted and parts of its coast began to be claimed by nations that were intent on having it as their own. That rivalry intensified in the 1840s when British, American and French expeditions sailed south to chart further portions of the continent that had come to be known as Antarctica. On and off for nearly two centuries, the competition to claim exclusive possession of parts of Antarctica has gripped the imagination of the world, whether it was the race to the South Pole by Scott and Amundsen or the attempts by American and Nazi German aviators to claim great swathes of the continent by simply dropping their nation's flags upon it. Science was enlisted to buttress the rival claims as nations developed new ways of asserting territorial claims over land that was too forbidding to occupy. More recently, with the continent remaining without recognized owners, there have been calls to make it the common property of the world. ANTARCTICA: A biography draws upon libraries and archives from around the world, from Britain to Argentina and Norway to New Zealand, to provide the first, large-scale history of Antarctica. On one level, it is the story of explorers battling the elements in the most hostile place on earth as they strive for personal triumph, commercial gain and national glory. On another level, it is the story of nations seeking to incorporate the Antarctic into their national narratives and to claim its frozen wastes as their own. The book will blend these stories into a groundbreaking history of human interaction with the last continent on earth.
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