Antarctica had first been sighted in 1820 by a Russian team of explorers led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev. In 1821 an American sealer, Captain John Davis, claimed to have set foot on the continent. There is no evidence to back this claim and some historians dispute its happening.
Throughout the nineteenth century other teams of explorers reached Antarctica and explored the costal regions.
From 1901-1904 Robert Falcon Scott, sailing on the Discovery, led the British Antarctic Expedition which carried out scientific research and geographical exploration of the continent.
In 1903 a Scottish expedition established the first meteorological station.
From 1907-1909 Ernest Shackleton, sailing on the Nimrod led the British Imperial Antarctic Expedition in a bid to reach the South Pole. They failed being forced by bad weather to turn back.
On 14th December 1911 a Norwegian group led by Roald Amundsen became the first people to reach the South Pole. Amundsen had been challenged by a British team led by Robert Falcon Scott. Scott’s party sailing on the Terra Nova reached the South Pole a month later but died on the return journey.
In 1914 Ernest Shackleton returned to Antarctica in the Endurance leading a party whose mission was to cross the Antarctic continent via the South Pole. The party had to abandon ship after the ship was crushed by pack ice and walk across ice to Elephant island.
The South Pole was not reached again until 1956 when an American pilot landed a plane in the area. In 1958 Sir Edmund Hillary led a team of motor vehicles to the South Pole.