195 years since the discovery of Antarctica

Engraving made by L. Bykov. F. Bellinsgauzen & M. Lazarev off the Antarctica shores

July 1819, two Russian military sloops – “Vostok” (East) and “Mirny” (Peaceful) left Kronstadt for the first Antarctic expedition. Main task of the voyage was to prove or belie existence of the continent of Antarctica. Faddey Bellinsgauzen led the expedition and captained “Vostok”. Mikhail Lazarev was the captain of “Mirny”.

In early XIX century ships of the Russian navy accomplished a number of circumnavigations. These expeditions enriched world science with geographical discoveries, especially in the Pacific Ocean. But vast spaces of Southern Hemisphere still remained “blank” on the World maps. Existence of southern continent was only theoretical until 1820.

27 January 1820, ships passed the South Polar Circle and next day Bellinsgauzen made a record in his diary: “While continuing our way southwards, at noon, 69°21'28"S and 2°14'50"W we encountered ice which appeared to us through falling snow as white clouds”. Lazarev was seeing the picture more clearly from his sloop: “We encountered hardened ice of great height…it stretches as far as one’s vision could reach”. These lines became the first description of Antarctica.

Results of Bellinsgauzen and Lazarev circumnavigation considered to be of the most important in the history of geographic explorations. During the expedition its members circuited the whole continent of Antarctica, discovered and put on map many new islands and lands, collected unique ethnographic collection that nowadays deposited in the University of Kazan, draw number of fascination views of Antarctica and animals inhabiting it.

Marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean near Antarctica shores was named after Bellinsgauzen. The first Russian polar station on the King George Island near the shores of Western Antarctica also bears the name of famous navigator.