Antarctic ice shelves missing in 1500 AD

The discovery of an old map which includes Antarctica will revolutionize ideas about when the frozen southern continent was first surveyed.

Conventional wisdom is that Captain James Cook was the first to discover Antarctica. However, although he circumnavigated the continent, he did not actually sight it, but deduced its existence when he came up against floating ice barriers. This was in 1773.

The realization that a map published in 1532 showed a detailed coastline of Antarctica throws the Cook idea into complete disarray. The map was produced in France by the cartographer Oronce Fine.

Even more surprising is that on this map, Antarctica’s two main ice shelves, the Ross Ice Shelf and the Ronne Ice Shelf, are completely missing. Most ice shelves exhibit some surface melting each summer, but the melting is usually not widespread, and loss of the Ross and Ronne shelves has never been known in modern times.

With modern concerns about melting of ice, it is confronting to realize that these giant ice shelves had apparently completely melted at some date prior to 1532. It is known that the ‘Medieval Warm Period’, from 950 to 1250 AD, corresponded with warmer temperatures in parts of the Northern Hemisphere. During this time, ice-free seas allowed the Vikings to colonize Greenland.

But proof of massive melting of ice around Antarctica before 1500 AD is a new blow to those who believe that Man is causing global warming through injection of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This increase in CO2 only began when the Industrial Revolution commenced in 1750.

Maps of modern-day and 1532 Antarctica are shown in the web page Innerlandia, the unexplored continent within your body.

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