The first confirmed sighting of Antarctica, less than 200 years ago, was on 27 January 1820, by Von Bellingshausen, a captain in Russian Imperial navy.
The first confirmed landing was by American sealer John Davis on 7 February 1821.
The heroic age of polar exploration was at the beginning of 20th century. Robert Falcon Scott’s British National Antarctic Expedition 1901-04 aboard the Discovery achieved a ‘furthest south’ record across the Ross Ice Shelf and recorded a mass of scientific observation.
Ernest Shackleton’s expedition in 1907-09 was the first to set foot on the Polar Plateau. Shackleton came within 97 miles of the South Pole. Scott reached the South Pole in January 1912, a month after Norwegian Amundsen, but died, with his team, on the return journey. Again, Scott had taken significant scientific measurements on his expedition.
Shackleton’s plan from 1914 to cross the Antarctic continent became the stuff of legend when his ship Endurance was crushed by ice. He and a small crew managed to reach South Georgia across 600 miles of rough seas, then cross the mountainous island to seek help from a whaling station. Shackleton did not achieve his first aim of Antarctic exploration, but he and all his crew survived and his heroic status was forged.
Sir Edmund Hillary achieved the first motorised arrival at the South Pole in 1958, in converted farm tractors. In 1980 Sir Ranulph Fiennes reached the Pole with tracked vehicles similar to modern Skidoos.
The Moon Regan ‘Ice Challenger’ expedition of 2005 smashed the time taken to drive from Patriot Hills to the South Pole – a journey of some 2500 kms achieved in 69 hours and 30 minutes.