The term Antarctic, referring to the opposite of the Arctic Circle, was coined by Marinus of Tyre in the 2nd century AD.
The rounding of the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn in the 15th and 16th centuries proved that Terra Australis Incognita ("Unknown Southern Land"), if it existed, was a continent in its own right. In 1773 James Cook and his crew crossed the Antarctic Circle for the first time but although they discovered nearby islands, they did not catch sight of Antarctica itself. It is believed he was as close as 150 miles from the mainland.
In 1820, several expeditions claimed to have been the first to have sighted the ice shelf or the continent. A Russian expedition was led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev, a British expedition was captained by Edward Bransfield and an American sealer Nathaniel Palmer participated. The first landing was probably just over a year later when American Captain John Davis, a sealer, set foot on the ice.
Captain John Davis (born 1784 in Surrey, England) was a seal hunter from Connecticut, United States, who captained men who may have been the first to have set foot on Antarctica on 7 February 1821 shortly after the first sightings of the new continent, all in 1820, by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev (28 January), Edward Bransfield (30 January) and Nathaniel Palmer (November).