Assumptions about the existence of a southern continent, almost completely covered with ice, were expressed in antiquity. And the first attempts to get to it were made only in the 16th century. However, they all ended in failure. For example, in 1501-1502. the expedition of Amerigo Vespucci reached the island of South Georgia, but was forced to turn back due to the terrible cold.
In 1775, the Englishman James Cook, while traveling around the world, thoroughly surveyed the Southern Hemisphere, but could not find the mainland there either. Like Vespucci, Cook was stopped by the terrible cold and strong winds. And the first to come to the shores of Antarctica were Russian sailors on January 16, 1820. It is interesting that in January in Antarctica it is not winter, as in the Northern Hemisphere, but the "height" of summer.
It all began with the fact that on July 4, 1819, two sloops "Vostok" and "Mirny" left the port of Kronstadt. The ships were commanded by experienced navigators FF Bellingshausen (head of the expedition) and MP Lazarev. They were given the task of getting as close as possible to the South Pole in order to study previously unknown lands. It took Vostok and Mirny four months to reach the Brazilian port of Rio de Janeiro. Here the Russian sailors replenished their stocks of food and fresh water, then continued on their way.
More and more often they came across icebergs on the way. The sailors discovered and mapped several small islands, after which they reached the Sandwich Land, discovered by James Cook in the second half of the 18th century. Moreover, Russian seafarers denied the assumption that the Sandwich land is one large island. In fact, this is a whole group of islands.
The further path to the south was not easy, we had to maneuver between icebergs to avoid collisions with ice blocks. On January 15, 1820, Russian ships crossed the Antarctic Circle, and the next day they saw the coast of Antarctica on the horizon, first mistaking them for clouds. Thus, January 16, 1820 is the date of the discovery of the Ice Continent.
Several times "Vostok" and "Mirny" were able to come close to the coast, but failed to land on the mainland itself. This happened only 75 years later, on January 24, 1895, the Norwegian ship Antarctic approached Cape Ader. Immediately four crew members went ashore, it is officially considered that the first of them was Karsten Borchgrevink.
In February 1820, "Vostok" and "Mirny" moved north, the Antarctic autumn was approaching, therefore, being in the coastal waters of the continent became even more dangerous. Bellingshausen decided to head for Australia to Port Jackson in order to repair the sloops badly battered by ice. After that, the expedition went to New Zealand to explore the tropical islands of the Pacific Ocean.
Now the sailors have new difficulties, instead of the Antarctic cold, the scorching sun began to exhaust them. Having discovered several new islands, the expedition returned to Port Jackson and began preparations for a new assault on the Antarctic coast, which began on October 31, 1821. This time the shores of Antarctica were explored from the opposite side.
On January 10, 1821, the sailors of the Mirny saw a rocky island on the horizon. The head of the expedition, Faddey Faddeevich Bellingshausen, solemnly announced to the team that this island should bear the name of Peter the Great, the ruler who created the Russian fleet. A week later, another land was discovered, called the Shore of Alexander I.
July 24, 1821 "Vostok" and "Mirny" returned to Kronstadt. In total, the expedition of Russian seafarers lasted more than two years - 751 days, during which time the ships covered about 50, 000 miles. The sailors managed to discover not only Antarctica, but also 29 new islands. The tsarist government deservedly appreciated the feat of the Russian discoverers. The officers who took part in the Antarctic expedition were awarded orders and promotions. And to the lower ranks, each year of the expedition was counted for four years of service. The discovery of Antarctica is one of the most difficult voyages in the history of navigation.
FF Bellingshausen, after returning to Russia, received the rank of captain of the 1st rank and the Order of St. George, IV degree. Two months later, the leader of the expedition was elevated to the rank of captain-commander. And MP Lazarev became a captain of the 2nd rank, bypassing the rank of lieutenant commander.
Interestingly, the very name "Antarctica" appeared much earlier than this continent was discovered. The Arctic was developed much earlier, but people assumed that there is the same "ice cap" at the other pole of the planet. Therefore, the word "Antarctica", translated from Greek, means "opposite to the Arctic".