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The first Russian Antarctic expedition

One hundred ninety-seven years ago F. F. Bellingshausen wrote in his diary:

“It is impossible to express in words the joy that appeared on the faces of all when exclaiming the shore! Coast!”

On January 22 (10), 1821, on the sloops “Vostok” and “Mirny”, “Hurray” thundered three times.The Russian Antarctic expedition discovered the southernmost island, calling it by the name of Peter I. By that time, Russian sailors already had some experience of Antarctic navigation.

The year before, on January 28 (16), 1820, they first saw the Antarctic coast and thereby discovered the unknown southern mainland. Having discovered the island of Peter I, they rightly assumed that there should be other shores nearby. Indeed, on January 29 (17), 1821, the Coast of Alexander I was discovered. This convinced them even more that they had discovered the southern mainland, in search of which they had been sent.

“The Russians were privileged to lift the corner of the veil for the first time, hiding the remote mysterious south, and to prove that islands and lands lurk behind the icy wall, encircling it.”

So estimated the results of the first Russian Antarctic expedition, one of its members Midshipman P, M. Novosilsky.

The riddle posed by the ancient Greeks and for many centuries worried the minds of geographers and seafarers of all nations, was finally solved. The discovery by Bellingshausen and Lazarev of the Antarctic continent, as well as the islands of Peter I and the Coast of Alexander I, was the result of the development of Russian science and practice of navigation.

Island of Peter I

Therefore, they cannot be placed in line with other, accidental discoveries made in the southern polar waters by whale and seal hunters, as was the case, for example, with the American whaler Palmer, who accidentally discovered in November 1820 south of the island of Deception, in the area of ​​which hunted, unknown land.

Land of Alexander I

“Southern land” appeared on geographical maps long before its discovery. Even the ancient Greeks portrayed the opposite Arctic – the northern region of Antarctica – the southern region, in which, in their opinion, there should be vast land masses balancing the lands they know in the north. For the unknown southern land (Terra Incognita Australis), sailors took the shores of many islands that they discovered in the southern hemisphere. But later studies have discovered errors. In contrast to the hypothesis of the existence of the southern continent, a new one arose that it does not exist at all in nature.

The theory of the great Russian scientist M.V. Lomonosov stands out clearly against the background of various fantastic ideas and poorly substantiated assumptions about the southern continent. 59 years before the discovery of Antarctica, M.V. Lomonosov scientifically proved the existence of the southern continent and explained its nature. He built his conclusions primarily on the basis of the theory of the origin of icebergs. In a treatise presented by the Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1761, “Thoughts on the Origin of the Ice Mountains in the Northern Seas,” MV Lomonosov for the first time in science established a classification of sea ice and gave an explanation of their origin.

He distinguished three types of ice:

saline ice formed in the sea itself;
stamukhs – fresh large ice floes and ice fields originating in river conditions, and
padons are huge icy mountains that form along steep shores, break away from them and swim in the ocean for many years.
The formation of padons in the description of Lomonosov quite accurately corresponds to the formation of glacial icebergs. A meeting with such icy mountains in the sea not only portends danger, but, as Lomonosov shows, indicates the proximity of the shores from which they have come off. In the treatise, undertaking to set forth the theory of the origin of ice mountains floating in the northern seas, Lomonosov also adds to them the ice mountains “also probably found in the latitudes of the southern hemisphere.”

Based on the correct conclusion that icebergs are formed off steep coasts, M.V. Lomonosov comes to an important conclusion. The abundance of found icy mountains should indicate the proximity of the land from which they came off. In the southern ocean, a significantly larger number of floating ice mountains was observed than in the north. This gives the right to conclude that in the area of ​​the South Pole there is large land covered with glaciers and generating floating ice mountains.

In the book “The First Foundations of Metallurgy or Ore Affairs”, published in St. Petersburg in 1763, in the second addition, “On the Layers of the Earth,” in § 29, Lomonosov wrote that behind the polar belts (that is, behind the Northern and Southern polar circles)

“… the narrow valleys and gorges of the stone mountains are covered with eternal snows.”

A little lower directly indicates the existence of the southern mainland:

“In the vicinity of the Strait of Magellan and against the Cape of Good Hope, about 53 degrees of noon latitude, great ice rises, why there should be no doubt that the islands and the sweeping land are covered by many and dissimilar snow and that the vast vastness of the earth’s surface near the south pole is occupied by them, rather than in the north. “

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