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Mapping Terra Incognita
J. Dezauche, Chart of southern projection of Cook's discoveries (1773-75)
Cook map

Ostensibly dispatched for astronomical observations in 1768, fabled explorer Captain James Cook sailed south on a secret quest to find Terra australis incognita, now ensconced in the popular imagination as a flourishing civilization of some 50 million people. Skeptical of this utopian vision yet faithful to his mission, Cook believed the polar seas harbored nothingness or at best a barren wasteland. He embarked again in 1772, circling the globe on a breathtaking three-year, 65,000-mile odyssey through uncharted expanses of the Southern Ocean. Crossing the Antarctic Circle three times and travelling farther south than anyone to date, he never saw the continent, but his discoveries changed the world atlas more than any explorer in history. His polar sightings, of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, only lessened his zeal for the quest: "The disappointment I now met with did not affect me much; for to judge of the bulk by the sample it would not be worth the discovery."
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