Tag Archives: south pole

Fantasizing about the Earth’s Poles

travel decor map art

Map of the Polar Regions, 1690.

This map shows how people thought the Polar Regions looked before there were explored. The North Pole is marked Pole Septentrional Arctique on this map. Septentrional means “North” and the name is derived from the seven stars of the Big Plough constellation. It is clear from the map that the northern coast of Greenland, Svalbard and other islands in the Arctic Ocean were yet to be explored and mapped. The area around the South Pole on this map is captured as “Terra Magellanique Australis”, with Australis meaning south and Magellanique referring to the Portuguese explorer Fernando Magellan who explored the southern passage between Antarctica and Southern America. It was sometimes also called Terra Australis Incognita (The unknown land of the South), The Cold Land or Megallonica and it was a mythical land. Its existence was not based on any direct exploration, but rather on the theory that the land mass to the north should be balanced by a similar mass to the south. The Antipodes of Paris is marked on the map. This map is beautifully illustrated with pictures from Greek mythology. For example, there is the Horn of Plenty in the bottom left corner.

To touch the spirit of Antarctica, read Sara Wheeler’s “Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica”.

Buy restored reproduction of this map printed on a high quality handmade paper here.

Antarctica Yet To Be Discovered

antarctica vintage map reproduction

Map of the South Pole and the Adjoining Regions, 1803.

Long before Antarctica had been explored as a continent, there was frequent speculation about Terra Australia (Southern Land), a vast landmass located in the very south of the Earth, which balanced the continents in the northern hemisphere.

When circumnavigating the southernmost point of the South American mainland in 1520, Ferdinand Magellan believed that the land he was passing on the left side was actually an extension of the unexplored southern land. In reality, what he actually saw were the islands of Tiera del Fuego, the southernmost part of what is today Argentina. When Australia was discovered at the beginning of the 17th century, it was believed to be part of the Terra Australis. It was Abel Tasman who, about forty years later, proved that Australia was separated from the southern continent by the sea.

Captain James Cook first crossed the Antarctic Circle in 1772. Cook mapped a large part of the Southern Pacific and the Atlantic very well during his voyages and proved that Tiera del Fuego and New Zealand were not one landmass but were separated by the sea — a large ocean. It is now clear that Cook was very close to Antarctica and probably got as close as 240km (150miles) from the continent’s mainland. However, he never landed on its shores nor sighted land, as he was stopped by floating ice on his way further south. This is why this map, printed 30 years after his voyages, still does not depict the continent. Nevertheless, there are four zigzag lines representing Cook’s attempts to discover the southern continent, two of which can be seen within the Antarctic Circle.

Antarctica was finally discovered a couple of years later; the first sighting is documented in 1819 and the first landing documented in 1821.

Buy restored reproduction of this map printed on a high quality handmade paper here.