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Antarctic Peninsula map
The Antarctic Peninsula is the northernmost part of the mainland of Antarcticamarker. It extends from a line between Cape Adamsmarker (Weddell Seamarker) and a point on the mainland south of Eklund Islands.

The Antarctic Peninsula is important because research has revealed that the forces of climate change are having a great effect on the region. The remote polar position has resulted in the area being dotted with numerous research stations and multiple claims of sovereignty. The peninsula forms part of disputed and overlapping claims by Argentina, Britain and Chile. None of these claims have international recognition and the respective countries do not currently actively pursue enforcement.


Discovery and naming

The first sighting of Antarctic Peninsula is contested but apparently occurred in 1820. The most likely first sighting of the Antarctic mainland, which was also the Antarctic Peninsula, was probably during an expedition of the Russian Imperial Navy that was captained by Thaddeus von Bellinghausen. The party did not recognise what they thought was an icefield covered by small hillocks as the mainland on 27 January 1820. Edward Bransfield and William Smith were the first to chart a part of the Antarctic Peninsula just three days later on the 30 January 1820. The location was later to be called Trinity Peninsulamarker, the extreme northeast portion of the peninsula. The next confirmed sighting was by John Biscoe who named the northern part of the Antarctic Peninsula, Graham Land, in 1832.

The first to make landing on the continent is also disputed. A 19th century seal hunter called John Davis was almost certainly the first, however sealers were secretive about their movements and their ship logs were deliberately unreliable, in order to protect any new sealing grounds from competition.

Between 1901 and 1904, Otto Nordenskiöld led the Swedish Antarctic Expedition, one of the first expeditions that was to explore parts of Antarctica. They landed on the Antarctic Peninsula in February 1902, aboard the Antarctica which later sunk not far from the peninsula with all crew saved. They were later rescued by an Argentinian ship.

Agreement on the name Antarctic Peninsula by the US-ACAN and UK-APC in 1964 resolved a long-standing difference over the use of the Americanmarker name "Palmer Peninsula" or the Britishmarker name "Graham Land" for this feature. (Graham Land is now that part of the Antarctic Peninsula northward of a line between Cape Jeremy and Cape Agassiz, whilst Palmer Land is the part southward of that line. Palmer Land is named for the American seal hunter, Nathaniel Palmer.) In Chilemarker, the peninsula is officially referred as O'Higgins Land, after the Chilean patriot and Antarctic visionary. Other Spanish countries call it "Península Antártica", among them Argentinamarker (while also calling it "Tierra de San Martín"), which has more bases and personnel there than any other nation.

Other portions of the peninsula that were named after various expeditions made their discovery include Bowman Coast, Black Coast, Danco Coast, Davis Coast, English Coast, Fallieres Coast, Loubet Land, Nordenskjold Coast and the Wilkins Coast.


The RRS Bransfield was the name of the ship that transported the secret British expedition to Antarctica during World War Two, during which the first permanent British bases on the Antarctic Peninsula were established. Tourism to the Antarctic Peninsula begin in the 1950s. Most ship-based tourists depart for the peninsula from Puerto Williamsmarker in Chilemarker.

Argentina's Esperanza Base was the birthplace of Emilio Marcos Palma, the first person to be born in Antarctica. The dinosaur species Antarctopelta was the first dinosaur fossil to be found on the continent, in January 1986 on James Ross Islandmarker, off the Antarctic Peninsula.

The grounding of the Argentine ship Bahía Paraíso and subsequent 170,000 gallon oil spill occurred near the Antarctic Peninsula in 1989. In 2005, Lewis Gordon Pugh broke the farthest-south long distance swim record by undertaking a 1 km (0.62 mile) swim at Petermann Islandmarker off the Antarctic Peninsula. In November 2007, the MS Explorermarker rammed submerged sea ice and then sunk after water from a fist sized hole could not be pumped out quick enough. All passengers and crew were safely evacuated and rescued.


Satellite image of Antarctic Peninsula
The peninsula is highly mountainous, its highest peaks rising to approximately 2,800 metres (9,186 ft). Notable peaks on the peninsula include Mount Castro, Mount Coman, Mount Gilbert, Mount Jacksonmarker, Mount William, Mount Owen and Mount Scottmarker. These mountains are considered to be a continuation of the Andes of South America, with a submarine spine connecting the two. That is an argument advanced by Chilemarker and Argentinamarker for their territorial claims.

The landscape of the peninsula is typical Antarctic tundra. The peninsula has a sharp elevation gradient, with glaciers flowing into the Larsen Ice Shelfmarker, which experienced significant breakup in 2002. Other ice shelves on the peninsular include George VI Ice Shelf, Wilkins Ice Shelfmarker, Wordie Ice Shelfmarker and the Bach Ice Shelf. The Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelfmarker lies to the east of the peninsula.

Islands along the peninsula are mostly ice covered and connected to the land by pack ice. Separating the peninsula from nearby islands is the Antarctic Soundmarker, Erebus and Terror Gulfmarker, George VI Sound, Gerlache Straitmarker and the Lemaire Channelmarker. The Lemaire Channel is a popular destination for tourist cruise ships that visit Antactica. Further to the west lies the Bellingshausen Seamarker and in the north is the Scotia Sea. The Antarctic Peninsula and Cape Hornmarker create a funneling effect, which channels the winds into the relatively narrow Drake Passagemarker.

Hope Baymarker, at , is near to the northernmost extremity of the peninsula, which is Prime Head, at 63º13'S. Near the tip at Hope Bay is Sheppard Point. The part of the Antarctic Peninsula extending northeastwards from a line connecting Cape Kater to Cape Longing is called the Trinity Peninsula. Brown Bluff is a rare tuya and Sheppard Nunatak are found here also. The Airy Glaciermarker, Seller Glacier, Fleming Glacier and Prospect Glaciersmarker form the Forster Ice Piedmont along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Charlotte Bay, Hughes Baymarker and Marguerite Baymarker are located on the west coast as well.

On the east coast is the Athene Glaciermarker while the Arctowski Nunatak and Akerlundh Nunatak are both located just off the east coast. A number of smaller peninsulas extend from the main Antarctic Peninsula including Hollick-Kenyon Peninsula and Prehn Peninsula at the base of the Antarctic Peninsula. Also located here are the Scaife Mountains. The Eternity Range is found in the middle of the peninsula. Other geographical features include Avery Plateau, the twin towers of Una's Tits.

Climate change

The Antarctic Peninsula is a part of the world that is experiencing extraordinary warming. Each decade for the last five, average temperatures in the Antarctic Peninsula have risen by half a degree Celsius.Ice mass loss on the peninsula occurred at a rate of 60 billion tonnes in 2006, with the greatest change occurring in the northern tip of the peninsula. Seven ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated or disintegrated in the last two decades.According to a study by the British Antarctic Survey, glaciers on the peninsula are not only retreating but also increasing their flow rate as a result of increased buoyancy in the lower parts of the glaciers. Professor David Vaughan has described the disintegration of the Wilkins Ice Shelf as the latest evidence of rapid warming in the area. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been unable to determine the greatest potential effect on sea level rise that glaciers in the region may cause.

Research stations

Since the peninsula has the mildest climate in Antarcticamarker, the highest concentration of research stations on the continent can be found there, or on the many nearby islands, and is the part of Antarctica most often visited by tour vessels and yachts. Occupied bases include Base General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme, Bellingshausen Station, Comandante Ferraz Brazilian Antarctic Basemarker, Rothera Research Stationmarker and San Martín Base. Today, on the Antarctic Peninsula there are many abandoned scientific and military bases. Ice core and sediment samples from the peninsula are valuable because events such as the Little Ice Age can be verified with samples from other continents.

Flora and fauna

Antarctica's two flowering plant species, the Antarctic hair grass (Deschampsia antarctica) and Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis) are found on the northern and western parts of the Antarctic Peninsula, where the climate is relatively mild.

Antarctic krill are found in the seas surrounding the peninsula and the rest of the continent. The Crabeater Seal spends most of its life in the same waters feeding on krill. Bald notothen is a cryopelagic fish that lives in sub-zero water temperatures around the peninsula. Vocalizations of the Sei Whale can be heard emanating from the waters surrounding the Antarctic Peninsula.

Penguin species found on the peninsula, especially near the tip and surrounding islands, include the Chinstrap Penguin, Emperor Penguin, Gentoo penguin and the Adelie Penguin. Petermann Islandmarker is the world's southernmost colony of Gentoo Penguins. The exposed rocks on the island is one of many locations on the peninsula that provides a good habitat for rookeries. The penguins return each year and may reach populations of more than ten thousand. The Weddell Seal and the are also seen on many ice-free islands along the Antarctic Peninsula. In 2003 the Great spider crab was discovered on the peninsula after being introduced to the area by humans.

Birds native to the peninsula include the Snow Petrel and Cape Petrel. The Imperial Shag is a cormorant which is native to many sub-Antarctic islands, the Antarctic Peninsula and southern South America. The scavenging giant petrel is also found on the peninsula.

See also


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