245 years ago, on 17 January 1773 HMS Resolution became the first ship to cross the Antarctic Circle.
Within a year of returning from his first voyage, Captain James Cook was commissioned by the Royal Society to lead another scientific exploration in search of the Terra Australis - an enormous land mass that was presumed to exist in the southern-most extremities of the Southern Hemisphere. Having already chartered almost the entire eastern coastline of Australia and circumnavigated New Zealand on his first voyage, Cook and his crew set out in July 1772 travelling as far south as possible to determine whether this great southern continent existed or not.
Ultimately Cook’s voyage did not succeed in the aim of discovering this landmass, nor did it reach Antarctica. But on 17 January 1773, the ship and its crew became the first in recorded history to cross the Antarctic Circle and travel further south than anyone else in the world.
“At about a quarter past 11 o’clock we cross’d the Antarctic Circle, for at Noon we were by observation four miles and a half south of it and are undoubtedly the first and only ship that ever cross’d that line.”Captain James Cook in the HMS Resolution journal, 17 January 1773