King George Island is the largest of the South Shetland Islands, located in the Southern Ocean, approx 75 ml (120 km) off the coast of Antarctica Peninsula. Close to the southwest is located Nelson Island. Next The photo shows the research base Carlini (formerly Jubany) of Argentina.
- The island has length of 59 ml (95 km), width of 16 ml (25 km) and a land land area of 1150 km2 (444 ml2). More than 90% of its surface is permanently glaciated. The archipelago's secong largest is the Livingston Island (uninhabited, total area of 798 km2 / 308 ml2).
- King George island was first discovered by William Smith (British) in October 1819 and named after King George III (1738-1820).
- The island is also known by the names "Isla 25 de Mayo" (in Argentina), "sla Rey Jorge" (in Chile) and "Vaterloo Island" (in Russia).
- There are three major bays on the island - Admiralty Bay, King George Bay and Maxwell Bay. Admiralty Bay has 3 fjords, and is a protected area under the Antarctic Treaty (1959).
- In 1908, the island was annexed by Great Britain as part of its Falkland Islands Dependency, and is still claimed as part of the UK's British Antarctic Territory. In 1940, the Island was claimed by Chile as part of the Chilean Antarctica. In 1943 it was claimed by Argentina as part of Argentartida (Argentine Antarctica). Argentina named it "Isla Veinticinco de Mayo ("May 25 Island") in honour of the country's National day. Russia and the USA don't recognize all these claims, and have reserved their right to claim it as their Antarctic territory.
- Wildlife (in the coastal areas) is replresented by species of seals (elephant, leopard, Weddell) and penguins (Adelie, chinstrap, gentoo). Seabirds are represented by skuas and giant petrel, nesting here during summer.
- Human population on the island is around 500, and limited to the research stations (bases) established and maintained here by Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Ecuador, South Korea, Peru, Poland, Russia, Uruguay and USA. Most of the bases are permanently staffed.
- The Chilean base "Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva" (on Fildes Peninsula) is operated the whole year-round and has an airport (airstrip, large hangar, control tower) and service buildings (including cafeteria, bank, post office, homes for families with children. Fildes Peninsula has length of 7 km (4,3 ml) and forms the island's southwest extremity.
- Chinese "Chang Cheng" base has a multipurpose room, also serving as full-size basketball court.
- In 2004, near the Russian station "Bellingshausen" was opened the Trinity Church (orthodox, permanently manned by a priest).
- On December 8, 2013, Metallica (heavy metal band) performed a Coca-Cola sponsored concert at the Argentina's Carlini Station.
- Among the limited number of tourist activities on the island is the Antarctic marathon (taking place each year during summer).
- At Poland's Arctowski Station there is a lighthouse (the world's most southerly).
- USA's NOAA agency (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) runs a seasonal (summer-only) penguin-research station located on Admiralty Bay.
Currently, there are 16 research stations on the islands, maintained by different countries, but mainly during the summer months only. Most bases are on the King George Island, as it is served by the Eduardo Frei airfield (at the Chilean base).
The above photo shows the research bases Frei (Chile) and Bellingshausen (Russia).
The list of Antarctic bases on the South Shetland Islands (listed alphabetically by country) includes:
- Argentina (Camara, Carlini, Decepción)
- Bulgaria (St Kliment Ohridski)
- Brazil (Comandante Ferraz - maintained the whole-year-round)
- Czech Republic (Eco-Nelson)
- Chile (Presidente Eduardo Frei, Profesor Julio Escudero, Captain Arturo Prat - all maintained the whole-year-round)
- Chile-USA (Shirreff Base /since 1990)
- China (Chang Cheng)
- Ecuador (Pedro Vicente Maldonado)
- Spain (Juan Carlos, Gabriel de Castilla)
- South Korea (King Sejong - maintained the whole-year-round)
- Peru (Machu Picchu)
- Poland (Henryk Arctowski - maintained the whole-year-round)
- Russia (Bellingshausen - maintained the whole-year-round)
- Uruguay (Artigas - maintained the whole-year-round)
- USA (Copacabana)
In 1958 was initiated the Antarctic cruise ship) tourism. Today, the number of visiting tourists is in tens of thousands (summer-only) annually, with over 95% of the tours being to the South Shetland islands and the Antarctica Peninsula, Among the most visited cruise ship destinations in the archipelago are Hannah Point (on the Livingston's southern coast), Half Moon Island and Deception Island, as well as the Aitcho Islands (north of Greenwich Island). Passengers are being offloaded via Zodiacs (inflatable boats) and offered nature walks, skiing and climbing, wildlife watching tours.
King George Island cruise terminal
The company Antarctica21 offers fly-cruise deals from Punta Arenas (Chile) with direct flights to Antarctica (King George Island). Thes are the "fastest voyages" in the region, with Drake Passage crossing time only 2 hours - instead the 50+ hours of cruising through the passage.