What does the name Antarctica mean: myths and reality


The two most mysterious continents of our planet - the Arctic and Antarctic - continue to bring surprises to scientists and researchers. Beginning with paleontological remains and ending with traces of meteoric impacts in the distant past. But what the name of Antarctica means and where it came from is not all they know.

A little mythology

What does the name Antarctica mean, a brief answer will not work. The name is mythologized by ancient Greek navigators. The myth tells how the main god of ancient Greek mythology fell in love with the nymph Callisto. Other gods, envious of their love, turned the nymph into a bear. But before that, she gave birth to a son - Arcade. The son grew up and took aim at the bear, which was his mother. Zeus saved them both, turning them into constellations - Big and Little Bear. These constellations today are the main guiding signs for travelers.


Some philology

The word literally translates from ancient Greek as "opposite the bear." Ancient Greek cartographers called the icy northern continent "Arcticos" in honor of the Big Bear constellation, which was the main landmark in sea trips. The opposite northern mainland received the prefix "ant" - "opposite". Thus, what the name of Antarctica means becomes clear to everyone.

A bit of history

As early as 350 BC, the ancient Greek naturalist and philosopher Aristotle referred to the existence of an “Antarctic region” in his work “Meteorology”. A geographer and cartographer of Ancient Greece of the II century AD Martin Tirsky already marked this region on the maps. The writers of Ancient Greece of the I-II centuries AD Guy Julius Gigin and Apulei put into practice the mythologized name of the South Pole Pólus antarcticus, in the sense of the opposite of the North. This designation of the southern continent and became the basis of the modern name of pôle antarctique, recorded in the old French documents of 1270 and transferred to the treatises of the Englishman Jeffrey Chaucer in 1391.

Antarctic Variations

"Opposite of the North" for a long time called the most diverse regions. So, in the XVI century in Brazil, the French colony was called Antarctic France. Under the lands, which meant the name of the mainland Antarctica, they understood all the island territories of the extreme south. The term "Antarctica" was used in the cartography of the Middle Ages and denoted the southern part of the planet.


How Antarctica was called Antarctica

Officially it is believed that the name stuck to the mainland thanks to the cartographer from Scotland, John George Bartholomew. It was he who in the 90s of the XIX century. so called the lands of the south of the planet, which were designated as Antarctica.

By the way, its discoverers F. F. Bellingshausen and M. P. Lazarev in 1820 called the open lands "the icy continent". And in 1840, Charles Wilkes, navigator and leader of many expeditions of the naval forces of America, called these lands the Antarctic continent.


But no matter how we call the southernmost continent of the planet and no matter how you explain what the name Antarctica means, its riddles do not end. New research methods, space imagery and radiation typing lead us to new clues about the secrets of the amazing ice continent.

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