Although myths and speculation about a Terra Australis ("Southern Land") date back to antiquity, Antarctica was only first sighted in 1820 by a Russian expedition.
Although myths and speculation about a Terra Australis "Southern Land" date back to antiquity, the Russian expedition of Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev on Vostok and Mirny first sighted a continental ice shelf in 1820.
The continent, however, remained largely neglected for the rest of the 19th century because of its hostile environment, lack of resources, and isolation.
The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 by 12 countries; to date, 49 countries have signed the treaty.
The treaty prohibits military activities and mineral mining, prohibits nuclear explosions and nuclear waste disposal, supports scientific research, and protects the continent's ecozone.
Ongoing experiments are conducted by more than 4,000 scientists from many nations.