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William Smith

1790 – 1847

William Smith discovered Antarctica, although no-one believed him at first. He was a sea captain, born in Northumberland, and he transported coal around the world. In February 1819, he sailed to South America and went further south than usual to catch better winds. In doing so, he came across land at 62° South.

On returning home to Britain, he reported his sighting of land but everyone thought he was making it up. He set off again in October 1819, to gather evidence of the new Continent. He brought home his soundings, and a journal which described penguins and sea lions, ‘the undisputed monsters’ of this new land.


The Navy sailed with William on a third voyage in 1820, and finally confirmed what he had been telling them all along. On his return home from this journey, William was told that he had been made a bankrupt, and that his ship had been broken up. He died a pauper.

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