The Southern Continent - 1694

Nova Orbis Tabula Ad Usum Serenissimi Burgundae Ducis

This map reflects something Europeans did not know in terms of the world: the shape of Antarctica. By the date of this mapís publication, 1694, sections of Antarcticaís coastline were often featured on maps. Such information, however, was inaccurate because it was based on speculation or sailorsí errant sightings.

For hundreds of years, people had speculated that a southern continent existed to balance the earth. This belief dates as far back as the second century when Ptolemy suggested it in Geographia. In the 1500s, sailors blown off course by storms while rounding South Americaís Cape Horn recorded sighting land, which they supposed was the southern continent (or Terra Australis or Australe as it was often referred to on maps). More likely than not, these sailors actually saw one of the islands east of Cape Horn.

Because of the scarcity of reliable information about this region, it was represented in various sizes and shapes throughout the Age of Exploration. Antarctica, as we know the southern continent today, was officially sighted in 1820, and it was then that accurate mapping of it began.