Early classical geographic theories believed that a vast continent existed in the extreme southerly latitudes and the term Antarctic was first used by the Ancient Greek geographer, Marinus of Tyre. The term Terra Australis appeared on world maps from the 15th century meaning “Southern Land”. European explorers rounded the tip of Africa and South America in the 15th and 16th centuries respectively, proving that Terra Australis Incognita, if it existed at all, was an isolated landmass. It was not until 27 January 1820 that a Russian expedition, led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellinghausen and Mikhail Lazarev, first set eyes of the continent of Antarctica. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries numerous expeditions gradually mapped the coastline and part of the interior of Antarctica revealing the world’s fifth largest continental landmass, almost twice the area of Australia. Various nations have made claims to Antarctica, some overlapping, which has caused political tensions. To prevent the possibility of military conflict in the region, the United States, United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and nine other countries with significant interests negotiated and signed the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, setting aside Antarctica as a scientific reserve, allowing freedom of scientific research and also banned any military activity on the continent.
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