Only occasionally do conditions allow passing ships to disembark passengers.
Rating: * * *
If you have managed to get to Antarctica without having heard of the 1914-1917 expedition lead by Sir Ernest Shackleton, this is the place to learn about it. One of the world’s most impressive open boat journeys began here, but the boat journey was only a small part of the story. Twenty-two men survived on the island for five months in one of the most incredible tales of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration.
There is a very busy Chinstrap penguin colony on Point Wild, surrounding the statue erected to honour Luis Pardo Villalón, the Captain of the Yelcho, the Chilean ship that finally managed to rescue Wild and his men. Once the summer has advanced, a large number of fur seals will usually be found ashore resting.
Where is it?
Elephant Island is one of the most easterly of the South Shetland Islands, north and east of the Antarctic Peninsula, about 70 nautical miles from King George Island and 130 miles from the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
This island is nothing but challenge. Exposed to the Scotia Sea and currents from the Drake Passage, the waters surrounding Elephant are always tough, and it is often not possible to safely navigate boats close to the island. If it is safe to launch boats, getting close to shore is the next challenge, as a big sea swell is a routine feature of the area. The land itself is unwelcoming, rocky, steep, icy and covered in wildlife that appears to be as desperate get ashore as Shackleton and his team once were. If a landing is possible, consider yourself very lucky, and you will still be limited to the few small awkward areas that are not icy cliffs or full of penguins and seals.
There are at least 50,000 pairs of chinstrap penguins on the northern shore of Elephant Island, and a few thousand Gentoos share the southern shore with more Chinstraps. Pintado petrels nest in the cliff faces, and Antarctic fur seals and Elephant seals are often found on shore later in the season.
Elephant Island is one of the places Antarctic history enthusiasts dream of reaching. This island is central to one of the most incredible stories of Antarctic survival, and just to see it in the distance can bring the incredible feats of the Heroic Age to life.
Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, was trapped in heavy sea ice in the Weddell Sea for nine months before the ship was finally crushed by the ice and sank. The crew sailed the lifeboats north, and six months after the Endurance sank, following a harrowing journey, finally reached Elephant Island. From this small speck of rock Sir Ernest Shackleton and five of his men successfully sailed one of the ship’s lifeboats, the James Caird, to South Georgia Island looking for rescue. Twenty-two men, lead by Frank Wild, remained on the island, living under lifeboats and tents, surviving under some of the toughest conditions imaginable for another five gruelling months. Shackleton finally successfully returned to rescue the men he left on Elephant Island at the end of August 1916.
The rescue of the men remaining on Elephant Island was by the Chilean ship Yelcho, and a bronze bust of Captain Luis Pardo Villalón was erected at Point Wild by the Chilean government to honour his part in this saga.
Photos, Voting and more coming soon!
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.