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European geographers in the 14th century were convinced that a great southern landmass must exist in order to balance the continents of the northern hemisphere. Through this European vision of the great southern land, Antarctica became spiced with legends of ease, riches and fair climates; a vast difference to the Ancient Greek hypothesis of uninhabitable lands. From the 15th to 17th centuries, in the Great Age of Exploration and discovery of the New World, many European exploration parties went in search of the mythically-rich southern continent. While they did not find it, their expeditions revealed important information that the great southland was further south than previously imagined.
In 1772, the British Admiralty commissioned Cook to find, and circumnavigate, the great southern continent, should it exist. In January 1773, he pushed his ship through waters studded with broken pack ice and crossed the Antarctic Circle. Between January 1773 and December 1774 Cook crossed the Antarctic Circle three times before reaching latitude 71°10’ south, the most southerly point yet reached. Although Cook never saw that which he might firmly call land, he was sure that the continent did exist. Having led the National Antarctic Expedition (NAE) in 1901–04, Scott was keen to return to Antarctica and reach the South Pole.
Coupled with an ambitious scientific programme, the quest for the South Pole became the objectives of the British Antarctic Expedition (BAE). The 25-men expedition left England aboard the Terra Nova in June 1910. In Melbourne, he received news of the Norwegian Roald Amundsen’s expedition to try for the South Pole. The race for the South Pole had begun. A base and hut, prefabricated in London, was established at Cape Evans in the Ross Sea in January 1911.
In a search for the Pole, Scott and four other expeditioners set out on November 1, 1911 and reached it on 17 January, only to find that Amundsen had arrived there earlier, on December 14. Demoralised, the BAE party began the 1,300-km return journey to the base camp. In conditions of minus 45°C and having run short of coal and crucial food, all members of the party perished. Their frozen bodies were found by a search party in November 1912.

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