King George Island (South Shetland Islands)

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King George Island
King George Island map-en.svg
Map of King George Island, Antarctica
South Shetland Islands location map.svg
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King George Island
Location in the South Shetland Islands
Antarctica location map.svg
Red pog.svg
King George Island
Location in Antarctica
Location Antarctica
Coordinates 62°02′S58°21′W / 62.033°S 58.350°W / -62.033; -58.350
Archipelago South Shetland Islands
Area1,150 km2 (440 sq mi)
Length95 km (59 mi)
Width25 km (15.5 mi)
Administered under the Antarctic Treaty System
Populationaround 500[ citation needed ]

King George Island (Argentina: Isla 25 de Mayo, Chile: Isla Rey Jorge, Russian: Ватерло́о Vaterloo) is the largest of the South Shetland Islands, lying 120 km (75 miles) off the coast of Antarctica in the Southern Ocean. The island was named after King George III.



King George island has three major bays, Maxwell Bay, Admiralty Bay, and King George Bay. Admiralty Bay contains three fjords, and is protected as an Antarctic Specially Managed Area under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. [1]

Admiralty Bay 20160213 152601 Antarktis 4.jpg
Admiralty Bay


The island was first claimed for Britain on 16 October 1819, formally annexed [2] [3] [4] [ clarification needed ] by Britain as part of the Falkland Islands Dependencies in 1908, and now as part of the separate British Antarctic Territory. The Island was claimed by Chile in 1940, as part of the Chilean Antarctic Territory. It was also claimed by Argentina in 1943, now as part of Argentine Antarctica, called by the Argentines Isla Veinticinco de Mayo (25 May) in honour of their National day. The US and Russia do not recognize these claims and have formally reserved their right to claim Antarctic territories.

The island was discovered and named by the British explorer William Smith in 1819, who named it after the then King, George III. [5] It is approximately 95 km (59 mi) long and 25 km (16 mi) wide with a land area of 1,150 square kilometres (444 sq mi). Over 90% of the island's surface is permanently glaciated. [5] In 1821, 11 men of the sealing vessel Lord Melville survived the winter on the island, the first men to do so in Antarctica. [6]

Life on the island

The coastal areas of the island are home to a comparatively diverse selection of vegetation and animal life, including elephant, Weddell, and leopard seals, and Adelie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins. Several other seabirds, including skuas and southern giant petrel, nest on this island during the summer months.

Human activity

King George Island Antarctica, pollution, environment, Russia, Bellingshausen 1.JPG
King George Island

Human habitation of King George Island is limited to research stations belonging to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, South Korea, Peru, Poland, Russia, Uruguay, and the United States. Most of these stations are permanently staffed, carrying out research into areas as diverse as biology, ecology, geology, and palaeontology. Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva, the Chilean Station on the Fildes Peninsula, is operated as a permanent village with an airstrip (with large hangar and control tower along with other buildings), cafeterias for personnel of its several agencies there, a bank, a post office and comfortable ranch-style family homes with children. Chile (like Argentina and Great Britain) regards all of the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands as part of that country's territory; however, the terms of the Antarctic Treaty allow Chile to colonize the Fildes Peninsula without overtly pursuing its territorial claims. [7] The Chinese Great Wall base features an indoor multipurpose room which serves as a full-size basketball court.

In 2004, a Russian Orthodox church, Trinity Church, was opened on the island near Russia's Bellingshausen Station. The church, one of the southernmost in the world and one of the few permanent structures in Antarctica, is permanently manned by a priest.

In October 2013, American heavy metal band Metallica announced that it would perform a concert sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company at Carlini Station heliport. [8] The concert took place on 8 December 2013. [9]

The first attempted murder in Antarctica occurred on the island in 2018 at Russia's Bellingshausen Station. [10]

Chilean base Frei and Russian Bellingshausen (on the right) Villa Las Estrellas.jpg
Chilean base Frei and Russian Bellingshausen (on the right)

A small amount of specialised tourist activity also takes place during summer, including an annual marathon, known as the Antarctic marathon.

The Fildes Peninsula 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) long, forms the SW extremity of the island. It was named from association with nearby Fildes Strait by the UK-APC in 1960.

Point Thomas lighthouse at Arctowski Station is the most southerly lighthouse of the world. [11]

NOAA runs Lenie Base, a seasonal research station for penguin studies on Admiralty Bay. This small station, dubbed Copacabana, operates in the Antarctic summer only, but is used as a survival hut in the winter. [12]


The Antarctic Peninsula and its nearby islands are considered to have the mildest living conditions in Antarctica. The island's climate is strongly influenced by the surrounding ocean. [13] Under the Köppen system, it is one of the few locations in Antarctica classified as a tundra climate rather than an ice cap climate. [14] Variation in temperatures are small with the coldest month, July averaging −6.5 °C (20.3 °F) and 1.5 °C (34.7 °F) in the warmest month. [15] With only 591.3 hours of sunshine per year, the weather is often unsettled and cloudy throughout the year with precipitation in the form of snow, rain and drizzle occurring often. [13] On average, 729 mm of precipitation falls per year. [13]

Climate data for Bellingshausen Station (Collins Harbour,King George Island) (1968–2014)
Average high °C (°F)3.3
Daily mean °C (°F)1.5
Average low °C (°F)0.1
Average precipitation mm (inches)54.4
Average relative humidity (%)87.888.888.388.088.287.688.588.689.688.888.488.388.4
Mean monthly sunshine hours 89.366.254.428.413.
Source: Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute [15]
Climate data for Base Frei (Fildes Bay, King George Island)
Record high °C (°F)13.0
Average high °C (°F)2.7
Daily mean °C (°F)1.5
Average low °C (°F)0.3
Record low °C (°F)−5.1
Average precipitation mm (inches)53.8
Average relative humidity (%)91898989889089888990898189
Mean monthly sunshine hours 83.871.257.323.
Source: Dirección Meteorológica de Chile (temperature data:1970-2004, all other 1990-2000) [16]

See also

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Livingston Island Island of the South Shetland Islands

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Fildes Peninsula Antarctic Specially Protected Area

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Robert Island Island of the South Shetland Islands in the Southern Ocean

Robert Island or Mitchells Island or Polotsk Island or Roberts Island is an island 11 miles (18 km) long and 8 miles (13 km) wide, situated between Nelson Island and Greenwich Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. Robert Island is located at 62°24′S59°30′W. Surface area 132 km2 (51 sq mi). The name "Robert Island" dates back to around 1821 and is now established in international usage.

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Bellingshausen Station Antarctic base

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Villa Las Estrellas Village in Chile

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Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva

Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva is the most important Antarctic base of Chile. It is located at Fildes Peninsula, an ice-free area, in front of Fildes Bay, west of King George Island, South Shetland Islands. Situated alongside the Escudero Station and only 200 metres from the Russian Bellingshausen Station, its geographic coordinates are 62°12′0″S58°57′51″W, at an altitude of 10 metres above sea-level. The base is located in the Chilean commune of Antártica, which is the Antarctic territory claimed by Chile.

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Profesor Julio Escudero Base Antarctic Station

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Cape Shirreff

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Eddystone Rocks (South Shetland Islands) Group of two rocks in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica.

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Maxwell Bay, also called Fildes Bay and Guardia Nacional Bay is a bay 19 km (12 mi) long, lying between King George Island and Nelson Island, in the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. The main entrance to the bay is at the south-east side and is wide open; Fildes Strait on the north-west side is encumbered by rocks and is only navigable by boats. The name "Maxwells Straits" was given to this bay and to Fildes Strait by British sealing captain James Weddell in 1822–24, for Lieutenant Francis Maxwell who had served with Weddell in 1813–14. The name was altered and limited to the feature here described by the UK Antarctic Place-Names Committee in 1960.

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Coordinates: 62°02′S58°21′W / 62.033°S 58.350°W / -62.033; -58.350