More for human activity than scenery or wildlife.
Rating: * *
King George Island is one of the largest of the South Shetland Islands. It houses many national bases, an airstrip and a ‘tourist hotel’.
Where is it?
King George is the eastern-most island of the main group of the South Shetland Islands, directly north of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula across Bransfield Strait.
The South Shetlands are renowned for bad weather, and Maxwell Bay, which houses most bases, seems to get the worst of the lot. It is often windy, regularly sleeting or snowing, and the ‘sheltered’ waters of the bays can be very rough. If you have been invited ashore by one of the national bases, you will be well looked after.
This is not generally a wildlife stop. There are few major colonies of wildlife near any of the bases (Arctowski is an exception to this, but their penguins are out of bounds), but individual penguins and seals will be around. Skuas, Kelp gulls and Snowy sheathbills will be plentiful, and any one of the three main penguin species is quite possible.
King George Island is one of the more accessible points of Antarctica. It has been a hotbed of human endeavour since 1821, when 11 men from the British sealer Lord Melville accidentally overwintered when their ship was blown offshore. They were rescued the following summer. Commercial sealers, then whalers, utilised the island, and since then, human impact has increased markedly. This is one of Antarctica’s most polluted sites, with waste building up around most bases until they were forced to remove it. Things have improved significantly, but most of the bases still maintain a somewhat disreputable air.
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