In 1820 a captain in the Imperial Russian Navy, named Fabian Gottlieb von Bellinghausen, was the first to glimpse Antarctica and confirm the existence of the earth’s last terra incognita. But because of Antactica’s great distance from the other continents (2,237 miles [3,600 kilometers] from Africa ; 590 miles [950 kilometers] from South America), its exploration did not begin in earnest until the late nineteenth century–when all the great world powers fitted out expeditions to share in the adventure. Today, the continent’s topographical names bear witness to the explorers of that era ; Taylor Valley, for example, is named after Griffith Taylor, a companion of Captain Robert Scott, who discovered it by chance in 1903. Sent by Great Britains to find the south magnetic pole, Scott and his men set out across the Transantarctic Mountains in the southeast of the continent. On their way back to their base on Ross Island, they discovered and followed this glacier, which ended in a lake, amid a network of dry valleys. They noted with surprise the area’s complete absence of snow aand ice, which obliged them–since they were traveling with dog sleighs–to retrace their steps.
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