Circle," says Lieutenant Maury, "is included an area equal in extent to one sixth of the entire land-surface of our planet. Most of this immense area is as unknown to the inhabitants of the earth as the interior of one of Jupiter's satellites. . . . For the last two hundred years the Arctic Ocean has been a theatre of exploration; but, as for the Antarctic, no expedition has attempted to make any persistent exploration, or even to winter there." It is noteworthy, too, that in the voyages which have been made not a ship nor a life has been lost south of the circle. "It does not appear," says one writer, "that Antarctic voyages would be attended with any excessive degree of danger. . . . It may even be found that the Antarctic barriers are impenetrable; but this has certainly not as yet been demonstrated."
In consequence of this limited exploration, comparatively little is known of the physical condition of this part of the globe. It has been conjectured that a vast continent exist in it. But, if it is there, only mere outlying parts of it have been seen, and those that are known are of such a character as to preclude their being of any value to the world. "Consider for a moment," says Captain Hogg, in his account of the second voyage of Captain Cook, "what thick fogs, snows, storms, intense cold, and everything dangerous to navigation, must be encountered by every hardy adventurer; behold the horrid aspect of a country impenetrable by the animating heat of the sun's rays; a country doomed to be immersed in everlasting snow! See the islands and floats on the coast, and the continual falls of the ice-cliffs in the ports; these difficulties, which might be heightened by others not less dangerous, are sufficient to deter any one from the rash attempt of proceeding farther to the south than our expert and brave commander has done, in search of unknown countries, which, when discovered, will answer no valuable purpose whatever."
The discoveries of Gheritk, Cook, Weddell, Bisco, D'Urville, Wilkes, and Ross—and, if to these we add the Challenger Expedition, we have the whole number of explorers—have revealed the existence of a certain amount of land within the Antarctic Circle. In the year 1600 Theodoric de Gheritk was driven during a gale as far as 64º south latitude, and reported land in that neighborhood. In his second voyage, Captain Cook penetrated during the summer seasons of 1773-'75 to 71º south without finding land previously reported in certain districts; yet he, as well as most of the earlier geographers and navigators, believed firmly in the existence of a southern continent, of little use, as he supposed it to be, for "the ice that is spread over this vast Southern Ocean must originate," in Cook's opinion, "in a track [tract] of land. . . which lies near the pole, and extends farthest to the north opposite the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; for, ice being found in these farther to the north than anywhere else,. . . land of considerable extent must exist near the south."
This land was largely conjectural until the expeditions sent out by