Glasgow Digital Library Voyage of the Scotia BRUCE PEOPLE SHIP ANTARCTIC INDEX
Scotland and the Antarctic

Section 2: Antarctic Exploration ... Eighteenth Century

Captain James Cook (1728-1779)

Captain Cook was the most famous explorer and surveyor of the eighteenth century. Many Admiralty charts of the Southern Pacific islands, New Zealand and eastern Australia bear his name as the first surveyor. In 1768 Cook sailed south on Endeavour with a party of scientists to observe the transit of Venus across the face of the sun (this was done to help calculate the distance of the Earth from the sun). Cook's second voyage in 1777 (on Resolution with Adventurer) was to search for a southern continent. He sailed around Antarctica at 60S but never saw the continent. His furthest south penetration was to 7110'S. Ice was encountered but no land.

Cook was the first to fix the position of South Georgia and discovered the South Sandwich Islands which were not visited again for 45 years until Thadeus Bellingshausen's circumnavigation.

By the end of the eighteenth century more was known about planet Mars than about the Antarctic. The reports of Cook of this area with its icebergs, rough seas and fog discouraged many others but his reports of rich marine life resulted in sealers and whalers risking the long voyages south. This was a dangerous area for the poorly manoeuverable sailing ships at that time.

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Glasgow Digital Library Voyage of the Scotia BRUCE PEOPLE SHIP ANTARCTIC INDEX