Commissioned by the British government with advice from the Royal Society, the second voyage of Captain James Cook 1772- 1775 was designed to circumnavigate the globe as far south as possible to finally determine whether there was any great southern landmass, or Terra Australis. On his first voyage, Cook had circumnavigated New Zealand, proving that it was not attached to a larger landmass to the south and charted most of the eastern coastline of Australia, but Terra Australis was believed to be further south and members of the Royal Society still thought the massive southern continent should exist. The ships Resolution and Adventure were fitted for the voyage and set sail in July 1772 headed for the Antarctic.
On 17 January, Resolution was the first ship to cross the Antarctic Circle (which she crossed twice more during the voyage). Reaching latitude 71°10’ South at longitude 106°54’ West, the third crossing on 3 February 1774 was the most southerly penetration. Sailing over most of its predicted location, Cook finally proved there was no Terra Australis.
“At about a ¼ past 11 o’Clock we cross’d the Antarctic Circle…and are undoubtedly the first and only Ship that ever cross’d that line.”Captain Cook, 17 January 1773