March of Two Penguins
Antarctica was the last continent reached by human beings. American explorer Charles Wilkes was the first person to identify the land, in 1838.
Photograph by Chris Bray, MyShot
Save to My Library
On January 19, 1840, Charles Wilkes, in command of the United States Exploring Expedition, discovered the continent of Antarctica. A fleet of six American ships carrying scientists and explorers left from the state of Virginia in 1838. The fleet made its way down the coast of South America, into the Pacific Ocean, throughout the islands of Polynesia, and Australia before sighting Antarctica. (The expedition went on to circumnavigate the globe by sailing through the islands of Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, and the Cape of Good Hope, before finally docking in New York City in June 1842.)
Heading south from Sydney, Australia, Wilkes sighted a wall of ice, beyond which lay the headlands and mountains of a previously unknown continent. The expedition charted more than 2,414 kilometers (1,500 miles) of this new coastline. This was the southwestern corner of Antarctica, now known as Wilkes’ Land in honor of its discoverer.
Earth's fifth-largest continental landmass.
to go completely around something (usually the Earth).
edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.
one of the seven main land masses on Earth.
journey with a specific purpose, such as exploration.
person who studies unknown areas.
group of ships, usually organized for military purposes.
point of land, usually a steep cliff, that descends into a body of water.
water in its solid form.
island group in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand, Hawaii, and Easter Island.