King George Island

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King George Island

South Shetland Islands
(British Antarctic Territory)

King George Island map-en.svg
Map of King George Island, Antarctica

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Location: 62°1’59"S, 58°21’0"W
Area: 444 square miles

King George Island is the largest of the South Shetland Islands, 75 miles off the coast of Graham Land, Antarctica in the Southern Ocean. The island was named after King George III.

It is approximately 59 miles long and 16 miles wide with a land area of 444 square miles. Over 90% of the island's surface is permanently glaciated.[1]


The island was first claimed for Britain on 16 October 1819, and formally annexed[2][3][4] as part of the Falkland Islands Dependencies in 1908. (The island was claimed by Chile too in 1940 and by Argentina in 1943.) The South Shetland Islands are now part of the British Antarctic Territory; Britain's claims in Antarctica.

King George Island was discovered and named by the British explorer William Smith in 1819.[1]

In 1821, 11 men of the sailing vessel Lord Melville survived the winter on the island, the first men to do so in Antarctica.[5]


The coastal areas of the island are home to a comparatively diverse selection of vegetation and animal life, including elephant seals, Weddell seals and leopard seals, and chinstrap and gentoo penguins.

Activity by mankind

King George Island site

Habitation of King George Island is limited to research stations belonging to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Ecuador, South Korea, Peru, Poland, Russia, and Uruguay. Most of these stations are permanently staffed, carrying out research into areas as diverse as biology, ecology, geology, and palaeontology. Teniente Marsh, the Chilean Station on the Fildes Peninsula, is operated as a permanent village with an airstrip, a bank, a post office and comfortable ranch-style family homes with children. Chilean claims are not recognised other than by Chile, but the Antarctic Treaty allows such limited colonization of the Fildes Peninsula without overtly pursuing its territorial claims.

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.

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

The Fildes Peninsula 4 miles long, forms the south-western extremity of the island. It was named from association with nearby Fildes Strait by the Antarctic Place-names Committee (attached to the British Antarctic Survey) in 1960.

Arctowski lighthouse at Poland's Arctowski Station is the most southerly lighthouse of the world.[6]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about King George Island)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Campbell, David G (2002). The Crystal Desert: Summers in Antarctica, p. 4. Houghton-Mifflin Books. ISBN 0-618-21921-8.
  2. Odd Gunnar Skagestad. Norsk Polar Politikk: Hovedtrekk og Utvikslingslinier, 1905-1974. Oslo: Dreyers Forlag, 1975
  3. Thorleif Tobias Thorleifsson. Bi-polar international diplomacy: The Sverdrup Islands question, 1902-1930. Master of Arts Thesis, Simon Fraser University, 2004.
  4. Robert K. Headland, The Island of South Georgia, Cambridge University Press, 1984.
  5. Mills, William James (2003). Exploring Polar Frontiers: A Historical Encyclopedia, p. 353. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc. ISBN 1-57607-422-6.


  • A.G.E. Jones, "Captain William Smith and the Discovery of New South Shetland", Geographical Journal, Vol. 141, No. 3 (November 1975), pp. 445–461
  • Alan Gurney, Below the Convergence: Voyages Toward Antarctica, 1699-1839, Penguin Books, New York, 1998
The South Shetland Islands, British Antarctic Territory

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