The residents of a small village in Co Cork have launched a campaign to honour the Irishman who discovered a continent, but who died in obscurity.

The people of Ballinacurra have asked An Post to commission a stamp to commemorate polar explorer Edward Bransfield, who is credited with discovering Antarctica almost 200 years ago.

Bransfield, a largely forgotten seafaring navigator, was born in Ballinacurra in east Cork in 1785.

He joined the British Navy at the age of 18, having been press-ganged into military service during the Napoleonic wars.

After spending much of his life at sea, he sailed from Chile in December 1819 to investigate reports that there may be land further south than was ever reported before.

The following month he became the first person to see and chart the Antarctic coastline.

However his achievement was never fully acknowledged.

Controversially, the discovery is disputed by Russia, which claims one of its sailors, Fabian Von Bellingshausen, discovered the southern continent two days before the Corkman.

The Russian claim has in turn been challenged by prominent polar historians, including Michael Smith, the author of books on Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week programme, Mr Smith said the Russian sailor Von Bellingshausen "never claimed to have found the continent, he talked about ice mountains, but he never distinguished between land and sea. He also gave an interview when he came back and he said 'there is no southern continent'."

"Most certainly Edward Bransfield should be recognised as an extraordinary navigator who made the epic discovery of the Antarctic," he said.

However the Russian Ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov said that while Bransfield and the Russian sailor Von Bellingshaused reached Antarctica at more or less the same time, it was the Russian who "was the first to record the discovery officially".

He added: "In my opinion, what is really important in this case is not the question of who turns out to be the first. Both Bellingshausen and Bransfield were brave, courageous pioneers, who made important contribution to the world geography and science. Their story should be more about achievement rather than rivalry."

This month marks the 200th anniversary of Bransfield's voyage, and a committee in Ballinacurra has been formed to erect a monument to the Corkman who discovered a continent.

They have also called on An Post to commission a stamp to commemorate the Irish sailor.

Jim Wilson, and Irish polar expert, said "we truly feel this is someone who definitely deserves a stamp, it would get people thinking and show people what is come from humble origins, and end up discovering the Antarctic".

An Post said it has no plans to commission a stamp for Bransfield in 2020, but the company did not rule out such a move in the future.

Next month, 200 years after the discovery of Antarctica, a monument will be erected in Ballinacurra to commemorate Edward Bransfield, the Corkman whose contribution to world geography and science was almost forgotten.