James Cook, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

Image plate of Possessions Bay, South Georgia (Add_ms_23920_f022r)

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What were the consequences of James Cook's crossings of the Antarctic Circle?

Bob Headland, researcher at the Scott Polar Research Institute, reflects on James Cook's second voyage, which took him to the remote sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and its consequences.

James Cook made extensive voyages in the Southern Ocean, including the earliest crossings of the Antarctic Circle, though the only Antarctic lands he discovered were South Georgia and the southern parts of the South Sandwich Islands. He regarded these discoveries made during the ‘Little Ice Age’ unfavourably: 'Lands doomed by nature to perpetual frigidness never to feel the warmth of the Sun’s rays...' Cook's accurate charts and reports, including descriptions of abundant seals, had unexpected repercussions, leading to the beginning of the Antarctic sealing industries, a major, although frequently neglected, aspect of the history of the Southern Ocean. 

Presented in association with the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust

Image: Possession Bay in the Island of South Georgia (Add_ms_23920_f022r)


Name: James Cook, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
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