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South Shetland Islands

ANT St South Shetlands Half Moon Island Shutterstock Anton Ivanov

South Shetland Islands

Set parallel to the Antarctic Peninsula, across a stretch of ocean of 540 kilometres, this archipelago is formed of some 20 islands and islets, first discovered in February 1819. This is the first area of landmass that you will reach after crossing the Drake Passage, and the islands teem with wildlife, making them an essential stop on a voyage into Antarctica, with densely populated penguin rookeries and beaches that throng with seals. Beautiful landscapes, brimming with wildlife - this is an excellent stop for photography on your way to the antarctic peninsula.

Quick Facts:

  1. Location: 120km North of the Antarctic Peninsula.
  2. Size: a surface area of almost 4,000km2
  3. There is a total of 16 research stations here
  4. History: the first landing was in 1819.

Wildlife and Variety

Deception Island is arguably one of the most infamous spots in the Shetland Islands and is one of the southernmost islands. An ideal place to make Zodiac boat landings, this island was once a whaling station and due to its shape was a refuge from storms and icebergs. Today it is home to some of the Antarctic’s most vast colonies of chinstrap penguins, but the island itself however is of equally geological interest. A volcanic caldera whose interior is filled with crater lakes and half the island covered in spectacular glaciers, here is also one of the few spots in the Antarctic where you can bathe in naturally warm geothermal waters, and dig your feet into warm black sands, at Pendulum Cove for example.

Livingston Island was a major sealing center in the 19th Century, but today is another wildlife haven. Hannah Point is a popular place for chinstrap and Gentoo, nestling on the rocky outcrops, along with some macaroni penguins. The beaches near here are also popular spots for elephant and fur seals. Researchers also love Walkers Bay for its fossils, skulls and minerals.

On King George Island, a popular landing point is Turret Island on the southern coast, and another good wildlife hotspot with elephant seals, Weddell seals, terns, chinstrap and adelie penguins and giant petrels.

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