The hunters

The connections grew after James Cook’s great southern journeys, through the century of European expansion that saw Australia settled and Antarctica discovered. The main motivation was wealth, in the form of seal pelts and oil from the marine mammals that abounded in south polar waters.

Starting in the waters near the Antarctic Peninsula, the hunters ranged across the Southern Ocean in search of bounty. They discovered tiny dots of sub-Antarctic land — and often immense riches from slaughtered seals and whales.

Occasionally they sailed into Antarctic waters, mapping and recording as they went. For the likes of John Biscoe, who circumnavigated Antarctica around 1830, and John Balleny, who discovered the Balleny Islands and Sabrina Coast a few years later, Australia and New Zealand were launching pads for sealer-explorers venturing south.