Antarctic Peninsula: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Antarctic Peninsula map
Location of Antarctic Peninsula within Antarctica

The Antarctic Peninsula is the northernmost part of the mainland of Antarctica. It extends from a line between Cape Adams (Weddell Sea) and a point on the mainland south of Eklund Islands.

The Antarctic Peninsula is important because research has revealed that the forces of climate change are having a great effect on the region. The remote polar position has resulted in the area being dotted with numerous research stations and multiple claims of sovereignty. The peninsula forms part of disputed and overlapping claims by Argentina, Chile and the United Kingdom. None of these claims have international recognition and the respective countries do not currently actively pursue enforcement.



Booth Island and Mount Scott flank the narrow Lemaire Channel on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Discovery and naming

The first sighting of Antarctic Peninsula is contested but apparently occurred in 1820. The most likely first sighting of the Antarctic mainland, which was also the Antarctic Peninsula, was probably during an expedition of the Russian Imperial Navy that was captained by Thaddeus von Bellinghausen. The party did not recognise what they thought was an icefield covered by small hillocks as the mainland on 27 January 1820.[1] Edward Bransfield and William Smith were the first to chart a part of the Antarctic Peninsula just three days later on the 30 January 1820. The location was later to be called Trinity Peninsula, the extreme northeast portion of the peninsula. The next confirmed sighting was by John Biscoe who named the northern part of the Antarctic Peninsula, Graham Land, in 1832.

The first to make landing on the continent is also disputed. A 19th century seal hunter called John Davis was almost certainly the first, however sealers were secretive about their movements and their ship logs were deliberately unreliable, in order to protect any new sealing grounds from competition.[1]

Between 1901 and 1904, Otto Nordenskiöld led the Swedish Antarctic Expedition, one of the first expeditions that was to explore parts of Antarctica.[1] They landed on the Antarctic Peninsula in February 1902, aboard the Antarctica which later sunk not far from the peninsula with all crew saved. They were later rescued by an Argentinian ship.[1]

Agreement on the name Antarctic Peninsula by the US-ACAN and UK-APC in 1964 resolved a long-standing difference over the use of the American name "Palmer Peninsula" or the British name "Graham Land" for this feature.[2] (Graham Land is now that part of the Antarctic Peninsula northward of a line between Cape Jeremy and Cape Agassiz, whilst Palmer Land is the part southward of that line. Palmer Land is named for the American seal hunter, Nathaniel Palmer.) In Chile, the peninsula is officially referred as O'Higgins Land, after the Chilean patriot and Antarctic visionary. Other Spanish countries call it "Península Antártica", among them Argentina (while also calling it "Tierra de San Martín"), which has more bases and personnel there than any other nation.

Other portions of the peninsula that were named after various expeditions made their discovery include Bowman Coast, Black Coast, Danco Coast, Davis Coast, English Coast, Fallieres Coast, Loubet Land, Nordenskjold Coast and the Wilkins Coast.


The RRS Bransfield was the name of the ship that transported the secret British expedition to Antarctica during World War Two, during which the first permanent British bases on the Antarctic Peninsula were established. Tourism to the Antarctic Peninsula begin in the 1950s. Most ship-based tourists depart for the peninsula from Puerto Williams in Chile.

Argentina's Esperanza Base was the birthplace of Emilio Marcos Palma, the first person to be born in Antarctica. The dinosaur species Antarctopelta was the first dinosaur fossil to be found on the continent, in January 1986 on James Ross Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula.[3]

The grounding of the Argentine ship Bahía Paraíso and subsequent 170,000 gallon oil spill occurred near the Antarctic Peninsula in 1989.[4] In 2005, Lewis Gordon Pugh broke the farthest-south long distance swim record by undertaking a 1 km (0.62 mile) swim at Petermann Island off the Antarctic Peninsula. In November 2007, the MS Explorer rammed submerged sea ice and then sunk after water from a fist sized hole could not be pumped out quick enough. All passengers and crew were safely evacuated and rescued.[5]


Satellite image of Antarctic Peninsula

The peninsula is highly mountainous, its highest peaks rising to approximately 2,800 metres (9,186 ft). Notable peaks on the peninsula include Mount Castro, Mount Coman, Mount Gilbert, Mount Jackson, Mount William, Mount Owen and Mount Scott. These mountains are considered to be a continuation of the Andes of South America, with a submarine spine connecting the two. That is an argument advanced by Chile and Argentina for their territorial claims.

The landscape of the peninsula is typical Antarctic tundra. The peninsula has a sharp elevation gradient, with glaciers flowing into the Larsen Ice Shelf, which experienced significant breakup in 2002. Other ice shelves on the peninsular include George VI Ice Shelf, Wilkins Ice Shelf, Wordie Ice Shelf and the Bach Ice Shelf. The Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf lies to the east of the peninsula.

Islands along the peninsula are mostly ice covered and connected to the land by pack ice.[6] Separating the peninsula from nearby islands is the Antarctic Sound, Erebus and Terror Gulf, George VI Sound, Gerlache Strait and the Lemaire Channel. The Lemaire Channel is a popular destination for tourist cruise ships that visit Antactica. Further to the west lies the Bellingshausen Sea and in the north is the Scotia Sea. The Antarctic Peninsula and Cape Horn create a funneling effect, which channels the winds into the relatively narrow Drake Passage.

Hope Bay, at 63°23′S 057°00′W / 63.383°S 57°W / -63.383; -57, is near to the northernmost extremity of the peninsula, which is Prime Head, at 63º13'S. Near the tip at Hope Bay is Sheppard Point. The part of the Antarctic Peninsula extending northeastwards from a line connecting Cape Kater to Cape Longing is called the Trinity Peninsula. Brown Bluff is a rare tuya and Sheppard Nunatak are found here also. The Airy Glacier, Seller Glacier, Fleming Glacier and Prospect Glaciers form the Forster Ice Piedmont along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Charlotte Bay, Hughes Bay and Marguerite Bay are located on the west coast as well.

On the east coast is the Athene Glacier while the Arctowski Nunatak and Akerlundh Nunatak are both located just off the east coast. A number of smaller peninsulas extend from the main Antarctic Peninsula including Hollick-Kenyon Peninsula and Prehn Peninsula at the base of the Antarctic Peninsula. Also located here are the Scaife Mountains. The Eternity Range is found in the middle of the peninsula. Other geographical features include Avery Plateau, the twin towers of Una's Tits.

Climate change

An iceberg adrift off the coast of the peninsula.

The Antarctic Peninsula is a part of the world that is experiencing extraordinary warming.[7] Each decade for the last five, average temperatures in the Antarctic Peninsula have risen by half a degree Celsius.[8] Ice mass loss on the peninsula occurred at a rate of 60 billion tonnes in 2006,[9] with the greatest change occurring in the northern tip of the peninsula.[10] Seven ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated or disintegrated in the last two decades.[7] According to a study by the British Antarctic Survey, glaciers on the peninsula are not only retreating but also increasing their flow rate as a result of increased buoyancy in the lower parts of the glaciers.[11] Professor David Vaughan has described the disintegration of the Wilkins Ice Shelf as the latest evidence of rapid warming in the area.[12] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been unable to determine the greatest potential effect on sea level rise that glaciers in the region may cause.[11]

Research vessel at the wharf of Rothera Research Station.

Research stations

Since the peninsula has the mildest climate in Antarctica, the highest concentration of research stations on the continent can be found there, or on the many nearby islands, and is the part of Antarctica most often visited by tour vessels and yachts. Occupied bases include Base General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme, Bellingshausen Station, Comandante Ferraz Brazilian Antarctic Base, Rothera Research Station and San Martín Base. Today, on the Antarctic Peninsula there are many abandoned scientific and military bases. Ice core and sediment samples from the peninsula are valuable because events such as the Little Ice Age can be verified with samples from other continents.

The Antarctic Fur Seal, once reduced to a small population on South Georgia after being hunted towards extinction, has returned to the waters around the Antarctic Peninsula.

Flora and fauna

Antarctica is not just snow and ice, indeed fossil evidence of ancient plants shows that it was once joined to the other continents as part of the supercontinent, Gondwana. The coasts of the peninsula have the mildest climate in Antarctica and moss and lichen-covered rocks are free of snow during the summer months, although the weather is still intensely cold and the growing season very short. The plant life today is mainly mosses, lichens and algae adapted to this harsh environment, with lichens preferring the wetter areas of the rocky landscape. The most common lichens are Usnea and Bryoria species. Antarctica's two flowering plant species, the Antarctic hair grass (Deschampsia antarctica) and Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis) are found on the northern and western parts of the Antarctic Peninsula, including offshore islands, where the climate is relatively mild.[13] Lagotellerie Island in Marguerite Bay is an example of this habitat.

Antarctic krill are found in the seas surrounding the peninsula and the rest of the continent. The Crabeater Seal spends most of its life in the same waters feeding on krill. Bald notothen is a cryopelagic fish that lives in sub-zero water temperatures around the peninsula. Vocalizations of the Sei Whale can be heard emanating from the waters surrounding the Antarctic Peninsula.

The animals of Antarctica live on food they find in the sea not on land and include seabirds, seals and penguins. The seals include: Leopard Seal (Hydrurga leptonyx), Weddell Seal (Leptonychotes weddellii), the huge Southern Elephant Seal (Mirounga leonina), and Crabeater Seal (Lobodon carcinophagus). In 2003 the Great spider crab was discovered on the peninsula after being introduced to the area by humans.

Penguin species found on the peninsula, especially near the tip and surrounding islands, include the Chinstrap Penguin, Emperor Penguin, Gentoo penguin and the Adelie Penguin. Petermann Island is the world's southernmost colony of Gentoo Penguins. The exposed rocks on the island is one of many locations on the peninsula that provides a good habitat for rookeries. The penguins return each year and may reach populations of more than ten thousand. Of these the most common on the Antarctic Peninsula are the chinstrap and gentoo, with the only breeding colony of Emperor Penguins in West Antarctica an isolated population on the Dion Islands, in Marguerite Bay on the west coast of the peninsula. Most emperor penguins breed in East Antarctica. [14]

Seabirds of the Southern Ocean and West Antarctica found on the peninsula include: Southern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialoides), the scavenging Southern Giant Petrel (Macronectes giganteus), Cape Petrel (Daption capense), Snow Petrel (Pagodroma nivea), the small Wilson's Storm-petrel (Oceanites oceanicus), Imperial Shag (Phalacrocorax atriceps), Snowy Sheathbill (Chionis alba), the large South Polar Skua (Catharacta maccormicki), Brown Skua (Catharacta lonnbergi), Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus), and Antarctic Tern (Sterna vittata). The Imperial Shag is a cormorant which is native to many sub-Antarctic islands, the Antarctic Peninsula and southern South America.

Threats and preservation

Although this very remote part of the world has never been inhabited and is protected by the Antarctic Treaty System, which bans industrial development, waste disposal and nuclear testing there is still a threat to these fragile ecosystems from increasing tourism, primarily on cruises across the Southern Ocean from the port of Ushuaia, Argentina.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Scott, Keith (1993). The Australian Geographic book of Antarctica. Terrey Hills, New South Wales: Australian Geographic. pp. 114—118. ISBN 1862760101.  
  2. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographical Names Information System: Antarctic Peninsula
  3. ^ "Fossils found in Antarctica". The Ledger. Lakeland Ledger Publishing Company. 1986-11-20. Retrieved 2009-07-24.  
  4. ^ "The world's frozen clean room". Business Week. January 22, 1990.  
  5. ^ "Stricken Antarctic ship evacuated". British Broadcasting Corporation. 24 November 2007-11-24. Retrieved 2009-07-22.  
  6. ^ Tulloch, Coral (2003). Antarctica: Heart of the World. Sydney: ABC Books. pp. 40. ISBN 0733309127.  
  7. ^ a b "Even The Antarctic Winter Cannot Protect Wilkins Ice Shelf". Retrieved 2008-06-18.  
  8. ^ "Satellites Shed Light On Global Warming". Retrieved 2008-03-29.  
  9. ^ "Antarctic Ice Loss". Retrieved 2008-03-29.  
  10. ^ "Antarctic Heating and Cooling Trends". NASA. Retrieved 2008-03-29.  
  11. ^ a b "Hundreds Of Antarctic Peninsula Glaciers Accelerating As Climate Warms". Science Daily. 2007-06-06. Retrieved 2008-07-09.  
  12. ^ "Wilkins Ice Shelf hanging by its last thread". European Space Agency. 2008-07-10. Retrieved 2008-08-08.  
  13. ^ Scott, Keith (1993). The Australian Geographic book of Antarctica. Terrey Hills, New South Wales: Australian Geographic. pp. 107. ISBN 1862760101.  
  14. ^

External links

Coordinates: 69°30′S 065°00′W / 69.5°S 65°W / -69.5; -65

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Antarctica : Antarctic Peninsula
Ruins of the whaling station in Whaler's Bay on Deception Island
Ruins of the whaling station in Whaler's Bay on Deception Island

The Antarctic Peninsula is the most-visited region of Antarctica. This northward-reaching extension of the polar continent reaches within 1000 miles of the southernmost tips of Chile and Argentina. It includes both the landmass of the actual continent of Antarctica, numerous islands, and the ice sheets that extend and connect many of these bodies of land.

  • South Shetland Islands
Leopard seal lounging on an ice flow in Cierva Cove
Leopard seal lounging on an ice flow in Cierva Cove
  • Brown Bluff.
  • Cierva Cove. While no landings are possible due to land areas being designated areas of special scientific interest, the cove is home to dozens of leopard seals which lounge on the ice flows.
  • Cuverville.
  • Deception Island.
    • Baily Head. Home to the world's second-largest colony of chinstrap penguins, set amidst an incredible natural amphitheatre. The penguins come and go from the colony through a narrow passage, with thousands of penguins following American driving rules by always walking on the right.
    • Whaler's Bay. Hot springs, the remains of an old whaling station, and the remains of a British Antarctic Survey base destroyed by eruptions that lasted from 1967 through 1970 are the highlights of this stop.
    • Pendulum Cove. A popular spot for visitors wanting to take a swim in the hot springs and thus claim the distinction of having swum in Antarctic waters.
  • Gerlache Straits. A body of water that stretches along much of the western side of the peninsula and offers amazing opportunities for whale watching.
  • Hannah Point.
  • Palmer Station.
  • Paradise Harbour.
  • Paulet Island. A volcanic island that is home to the largest adelie penguin colony in the world. The strenuous hike to the top of the island takes about three hours round trip and offers incredible views of the surrounding area. In addition, the remains of a hut used by the Nordenskjold expedition can be found on the island.
  • Peterman Island.
  • Port Lockroy. Since 1996 the historic base at Port Lockroy on Goudier Island has been staffed by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust during the Antarctic summer. Receiving about 10,000 visitors a year, it is one of the most visited sites on the continent. Visitors can tour the museum, buy souvenirs, post mail, and view the large gentoo penguin colony.


The Antarctic Peninsula is almost a mirror image of southern South America. In fact, it's a geologic extension of the Andes mountain range; an underwater ridge looping through South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands connects the two features. It is claimed by Chile, Argentina, and the United Kingdom, with the United States and Russia both reserving the right to stake a claim should the Antarctic Treaty ever fall out of force. Under the provisions of the treaty, international access to the territory is permitted.

Zodiac cruising in Paradise Harbour
Zodiac cruising in Paradise Harbour
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Proper noun

Antarctic Peninsula

  1. The northernmost part of the mainland of Antarctica.


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