The Antarctic Peninsula is the area north of Antarctica that is the warmest and most populated part of the continent. It extends north from the South Pole and covers an area of about 1 million square kilometers.
The Antarctic Peninsula is known for its unique nature, which includes icy mountains, deep fjords, and islands covered with snow. Numerous species of wildlife such as penguins, whales, seals, and seabirds can be seen here.
However, the Antarctic Peninsula also faces threats from climate change and human activities such as tourism, industry and fishing. In addition, global warming is melting glaciers and ice caps, which could lead to rising global sea levels.
Preserving the natural resources and ecosystems of the Antarctic Peninsula is a critical task for the global community. This requires scientific research and the development of measures to protect the ecological integrity of this unique area.
The Antarctic Peninsula is part of the continent of Antarctica, stretching about 1,287 km north toward South America. The closest point of South America to the peninsula, separated from it by the Drake Passage, is Tierra del Fuego Island, located about 1,000 km from Antarctica. In turn, the northernmost tip of the Antarctic Peninsula is also a peninsula and is called Trinity. The southern boundary of the peninsula is drawn at about 74°S.
The peninsula has different names on the maps of different countries, but most of the nations involved in Antarctic research, following the recommendation of the 10th Pacific Science Congress in 1961, recognized the area as the Antarctic Peninsula.
The central part of the peninsula is occupied by a 1500-2000 m high glacial plateau. Near the coast, there are massifs of mountains, in some places free of ice. In geomorphological terms, these mountains are a continuation of the South American mountain system Andes: they are connected by an underwater mountain ridge. It is this indisputable fact that underlies the territorial claims to the peninsula by Argentina and Chile.
Near the shores of the Antarctic Peninsula are large ice shelves: the Wilkins Glacier in the west, and the Larsen Glacier in the east, with the mainland glaciers moving predominantly toward the latter. Around the peninsula there is a whole scattering of islands. The largest of them and in the whole of Antarctica – Alexander’s Land I (area 43 250 km2, in the Bellingshausen Sea), discovered January 28, 1821 by the expedition of Faddei Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev, and named in honor of the Russian Emperor. This island is 378 km long and 200 km wide. The length of its coastline is 2185 km. In spite of its considerable size the island is difficult to find on the satellite images, as its boundaries visually merge with the ice shelf.
The lowlands of the peninsula are entirely Antarctic deserts. The flora here is represented by only two flowering plants: Antarctic meadowsweet and Quito colobanthus. But because of global warming the area of distribution of these species over the last decades of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century increased fivefold. If this process continues, it is possible that in just a century there will be trees here.
Global warming has a noticeable impact on the climate of the peninsula. During the second half of the 20th century alone, the average annual temperature in the Antarctic Peninsula area rose by 2.5°C. The most vivid illustration of the effect of global warming was a noticeable decrease in the area of the Larsen Glacier. Prior to that, the glacier had remained stable for 10 thousand years, since the end of the last ice age.
Larsen Glacier was named in honor of the Norwegian captain K.A. Larsen, who explored the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula in 1893 on the ship Jason. At that time this ice shelf consisted of three large parts. They were named Larsen A, Larsen B and Larsen C. Currently, the glacier is partially destroyed for all the same reason as the other ice massifs of Antarctica: due to an abnormal increase in air temperature in the region, caused not only by natural causes, but also by the so-called anthropogenic factor – human activity on the planet. In 1995, the Larsen A. Glacier broke away from the main massif of the glacier. B, within a month an iceberg with an area of over 3,250 km2 and a thickness of 220 m broke away: the process of destruction became irreversible. Further melting of the glacier resulted in ejection of more than a thousand icebergs into the Weddell Sea. Only the Larsen C glacier remains in its original form.
Antarctica, as we can see it today, was formed about 25 million years ago when the supercontinent Gondwana collapsed. It happened gradually, starting about 160 million years ago. During the formation of the Antarctic Peninsula and its adjacent islands, some parts of the land rose sharply, the process accompanied by volcanic eruptions. The peninsula, arched between Antarctica and the extreme south of South America, has a predominantly mountainous topography with peaks of high peaks. These mountains are nothing less than an extension of the Andes. The low mountain range that connects them and the peninsula is underwater.
In fact, it is not known exactly who was the navigator who first sighted the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Most scientists and historians of geographical discoveries, however, agree that it was, judging by many indirect evidences, the Russian explorer and navigator Fadzey Bellingshausen (1778-1852). This occurred on January 27, 1820, during the circumnavigation of the Antarctic expedition of 1819-1821, which explored the southern polar seas on the sloops Vostok and Mirny.
Only three days later, on January 30, 1820, an expedition of British navigators Edward Bransfield and William Smith charted the extreme northeastern part of the peninsula, later named Trinity Peninsula. Captain Bransfield declared these lands British, which later led to British territorial claims to the entire peninsula.
Then for a long time nobody ventured to these shores until in 1832 English explorer John Biscoe ventured there. Passing by the peninsula on a sailing ship, he called its northern part Graham Land.
However, the sailors only observed the peninsula, none of them managed to land on it. The first person to dock on its shore was, in all probability, as is commonly believed, the seal hunter John Davis. The shore where this happened is now called Davis’s Beach.
In 1901-1904. The Antarctic Peninsula was explored by Otto Nordenskiöld, at the head of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition, one of the first to arrive in these wild lands to explore this part of Antarctica. Nordenskiöld came ashore in February 1902. His ship “Antarctica” soon went down near the peninsula, but the crew luckily managed to escape.
The fact that it is the peninsula was established documentary only in 1934-1937 years by the British expedition, who managed to first hold an aerial survey.
The Antarctic Peninsula and adjacent islands have a relatively mild climate for this region, and therefore there are more research stations here than in the rest of Antarctica. For the same reason, the islands near the peninsula are most often visited by tourist ships on Antarctic cruises. Tourism to these places has been growing since the 1950s, and today the number of people who want to see the Antarctic Peninsula with their own eyes is steadily increasing year by year.
Russia, Chile, Brazil, Great Britain, Argentina, Poland, USA, China and Ukraine own research stations on the peninsula and the islands. The research program of each station is very extensive, but apart from collecting scientific data in the field of meteorology, geology, glaciology, these stations play a role of a kind of “state presence”, designed to demonstrate the country’s interest in developing the natural resources of Antarctica, if it comes to this. Despite the fact that Antarctica is considered a demilitarized zone, where, by definition, there should be no military personnel, they were present at some stations, for example at the Argentine station. In addition to active stations, there are many abandoned stations on the peninsula from various countries, including military ones.
Polar explorers conduct meteorological, glaciological and geological research under programs agreed upon between the 46 states that support the 1959 international Antarctic Treaty.
For a long time the Antarctic Peninsula had different names on geographical maps of different countries. Nowadays, the name Graham Land is used for the part of the Antarctic Peninsula north of the line between Cape Jeremy and Cape Agassiz, the name Palmer Land – for the part located south of this line, in Chile the peninsula is called O’Higgins Land, and in Argentina – Tierra de San Martin.
- A peninsula of the continent of Antarctica, its northern tip.
- Administrative affiliation: there is no such affiliation, Antarctica is under UN protectorate, but a number of countries have territorial claims for granting them a sovereign economic zone here.
- Legal system: territory management, and resolution of disputes through consultative meetings of UN member states. No indigenous people.
- Shelf glaciers: Larsen, George VI, Wilkins, Wardi, Baja.
- Research stations: “General-Bernardo-O’Higgins” (Chile), “Bellingshausen” (Russia), “Comandante Ferras” (Brazil), “Rothera”(UK), “San Martin” (Argentina), “Marambio” (Argentina), “Esperanza” (Argentina), “Captain Arturo-Prat” (Chile), “Artstovsky” (Poland), “Palmer” (USA), “Chancheng” (China), “Academician Vernadsky” (Ukraine).
- The largest islands: the Juanville Islands, Alexander I Land, the Palmer Archipelago, Booth Island, and Graham Land.
- The most important port: Port Lockroy on Goodyear Island (belongs to the British Antarctic Expedition).
- Surrounding seas and straits: Drake Passage to the north, Bellingshausen Sea to the west, Wedzell Sea to the east.
- Nearest airport: Teniente Marcha International Airport on Waterloo Island (King George), linked to the international airport in Punta Arenas (Argentina).
- Area: about 257,400 km2.
- Length: about 1,287 km.
- Width: about 200 km.
- Highest point: Mount Jackson (3184 m).
- Other peaks: Mount Castro (1630 m), Gilbert (1420 m), William (1600 m), Owen (1105 m) and Scott (880 m).
Climate and weather
- Antarctic, on the peninsula it is the most temperate compared to the rest of Antarctica.
- The average temperature in January: +1-2°C.
- Average July temperature: -15-20°C.
- The average annual precipitation is up to 500 mm on the west coast and up to 150 mm on the east coast.
- Minerals: There are known deposits of oil (on the shelf), iron ore, coal and uranium. Extraction of resources is forbidden till 2048.
- Exploration at special stations.
- Antarctic tourism.
- Extraction of krill and crabs.
- Services: Tourism which is considered extreme, in summer (in the Southern Hemisphere).
- Natural: Larsen Glacier, Alexander I Land, Trinity Peninsula, Lemar Channel, Neko Bay, Wilhelmina Bay, Brown Cliff, Antarctic Bay, rookeries of sea leopards – a type of seal named for its spotted skin, Wedzell seals and crab seals, colonies of penguins Gentoo and Chinstrap, colonies of blue-eyed cormorants.
- Research stations: Russia, Chile, Brazil, UK, Argentina, Poland, USA, China, Ukraine.
- Museum of Arctic Heritage (Port Lockroy).
- In 2005, professional swimmer Lewis Gordon Pugh set a world record by swimming one kilometer in icy water off the coast of Petermann Island, near the Antarctic Peninsula.
- Amid talk of global warming affecting Antarctica, some surprising news came in May 2013 from the United States. The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported: “Unusual current patterns, likely due to high pressure in the Bellingshausen Sea, are pushing sea ice from the Weddell Sea far northward. Sea ice expansion that exceeds averaged values over the entire history of satellite observations from 1979 to 2013 has also been observed in the Ross Sea.” Because of these phenomena in the major Antarctic seas, U.S. scientists are predicting a cooling rather than warming of the southern hemisphere climate to come quite soon.
- The Antarctic Peninsula is the setting for popular legends of a secret Nazi base set up on the sixth continent during World War II to develop “weapons of retaliation,” which included “flying saucers,” and to create a refuge in case of defeat in the war.
- During World War II, the royal research icebreaker Bransfield carried a secret British expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula, during which the first British bases were established here.
- The attraction of the Antarctic Peninsula is the Brown Cliff on the coast, which is a rock of volcanic origin, 745 meters high. The surface of the cliff has several shades of color.