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The Early Sealers in West Antarctica*

Nature volume 143, page 731 (29 April 1939) | Download Citation



PROF. W. M. HOBBS has written a long and elaborately illustrated monograph on the history of the Graham Land area of Antarctica from Smith's discovery of the South Shetlands in 1819 to Ellsworth's flight in 1936. The earlier years of this history have been much discussed by Mill, Balch, Nordenskjold, Bruce and others, but assiduous search from time to time reveals new material, chiefly in the form of forgotten log books. Prof. Hobbs's reproductions of early maps alone give his monograph great interest. Some of his conclusions, however, do not appear to be justified from the available facts. Thus he goes to great pains to prove that the Antarctic continent was first sighted in November 1820, when the American sealer, N. B. Palmer, saw land to the south and south-east of Deception Island of the South Shetlands. This land soon after appeared on maps as Palmer Land and is now regarded as a part of the Trinity Peninsula of Graham Land. Prof. Hobbs, however, is entirely unconvincing in his refutation of the accounts and charts which are available establishing Bransfield's sighting of Trinity Land in January and February 1820. W. S. Bruce, and later R. T. Gould, have shown convincingly that Trinity Land was the original discovery of Antarctic land and preceded Palmer's discovery by at least ten months. The attempt to establish an American discovery of Antarctica fails.

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