Ross Island

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Ross Island
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Map of Ross Island
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Ross Island
Location Antarctica
Coordinates 77°30′S168°00′E / 77.500°S 168.000°E / -77.500; 168.000 Coordinates: 77°30′S168°00′E / 77.500°S 168.000°E / -77.500; 168.000
Archipelago Ross Archipelago
Area2,460 km2 (950 sq mi)
Highest elevation3,794 m (12448 ft)
Highest point Mount Erebus
Administered under the Antarctic Treaty System
PopulationAt least 100

Ross Island is an island formed by four volcanoes in the Ross Sea near the continent of Antarctica, off the coast of Victoria Land in McMurdo Sound. Ross Island lies within the boundaries of Ross Dependency, an area of Antarctica claimed by New Zealand.




Sir James Ross discovered it in 1840, and it was later named in honour of him by Robert F. Scott.

Ross Island was the base for many of the early expeditions to Antarctica. It is the southernmost island reachable by sea. Huts built by Scott's and Shackleton's expeditions are still standing on the island, preserved as historical sites.

Today Ross Island is home to New Zealand's Scott Base, and the largest Antarctic settlement, the U.S. Antarctic Program's McMurdo Station. Greenpeace established World Park Base on the island and ran it for five years, from 1987 to 1992.


South end of Ross Island South End of Ross Island.jpg
South end of Ross Island

Because of the persistent presence of the ice sheet, the island is sometimes taken to be part of the Antarctic mainland. Its area is 2,460 square kilometres (950 sq mi); only a small portion of the island is free of ice and snow.

The planet's southernmost active volcano, Erebus (3,794 m or 12,448 ft), as well as the dormant volcano Terror (3,230 m or 10,597 ft), are situated on the island. They were named by Captain James Ross after his ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. The third highest elevation is Mount Bird, with Shell Glacier and Endeavour Piedmont Glacier on its slopes. Abbott Peak stands between Mount Erebus and Mount Bird. Gamble Cone and Kyle Cone stand in the east of the island. [1] Beeby Peak is 4.4 kilometres (2+38 nautical miles) east-northeast of the summit of Mount Bird.

Despite its relatively small size, Ross Island is the world's 6th highest island and the highest island in Antarctica. It has the highest average elevation of any island.[ citation needed ]


Many features on or near Ross Island have been charted and named by various survey and exploration groups.

Mount Erebus is the island's most prominent landmark. Hut Point Peninsula, the site of McMurdo Station (US) and Scott Base (New Zealand), projects southwest from its lower slopes. Barne Glacier projects off its western slopes. To the north of Mount Terror are the Kienle Nunataks.

The far eastern point of the island is called Cape Crozier. On the west side of the island is rocky Cape Evans, which forms the north side of Erebus Bay.

See also

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The Ross Dependency is a region of Antarctica defined by a sector originating at the South Pole, passing along longitudes 160° east to 150° west, and terminating at latitude 60° south. It is claimed by New Zealand. Since the Antarctic Treaty came into force in 1961, Article IV of which states: "No acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica or create any rights of sovereignty in Antarctica", most countries do not recognise territorial claims in Antarctica.

Mount Erebus Volcano on Ross Island, Antarctica

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McMurdo Station is a United States Antarctic research station on the south tip of Ross Island, which is in the New Zealand–claimed Ross Dependency on the shore of McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. It is operated by the United States through the United States Antarctic Program, a branch of the National Science Foundation. The station is the largest community in Antarctica, capable of supporting up to 1,258 residents, and serves as one of three year-round United States Antarctic science facilities. All personnel and cargo going to or coming from Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station first pass through McMurdo. By road, McMurdo is 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from New Zealand's smaller Scott Base.

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Mount Terror is a large shield volcano that forms the eastern part of Ross Island, Antarctica. It has numerous cinder cones and domes on the flanks of the shield and is mostly under snow and ice. It is the second largest of the four volcanoes which make up Ross Island and is somewhat overshadowed by its neighbour, Mount Erebus, 30 km (19 mi) to the west. Mount Terror was named in 1841 by Sir James Clark Ross for his second ship, HMS Terror. The captain of Terror was Francis Crozier, a close friend of Ross for whom the nearby Cape Crozier is named.

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Beaufort Island

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Erebus Ice Tongue

The Erebus Ice Tongue is a mountain outlet glacier and the seaward extension of Erebus Glacier from Ross Island. It projects 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) into McMurdo Sound from the Ross Island coastline near Cape Evans, Antarctica. The glacier tongue varies in thickness from 50 metres (160 ft) at the snout to 300 metres (980 ft) at the point where it is grounded on the shoreline. Explorers from Robert F. Scott's Discovery Expedition (1901–1904) named and charted the ice tongue.

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Cape Crozier is the most easterly point of Ross Island in Antarctica. It was discovered in 1841 during James Clark Ross's expedition of 1839 to 1843 with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, and was named after Francis Crozier, captain of HMS Terror. The extinct volcano Mount Terror, also named during the Ross expedition, rises sharply from the Cape to a height of 3,230 m (10,600 ft), and the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf stretches away to its east.

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  1. LeMasurier, W. E.; Thomson, J. W., eds. (1990). Volcanoes of the Antarctic Plate and Southern Oceans. American Geophysical Union. p. 512. ISBN   0-87590-172-7.