King George Island
an old military base in the South Shetland Islands
Information about King George Island
The largest of the South Shetland Islands, King George Island lies only 75 miles from the coast of the Antarctic continent. With historical claims made by Britain, Chile and Argentina, the island is also known as Isla Rey Jorge and Isla 25 de Mayo.
The importance of King George Island to many Antarctic bases is the 1,300m long airstrip maintained by the permanently occupied Chilean Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva. This provides a lifeline as an airbridge for personnel and supplies for many other Antarctic bases and research stations.
The presence of the airstrip allows King George Island to be used as a "fly-cruise" destination. Flying from Chile across the Drake Passage saves up to 3 days at sea, allowing Antarctic exploration for those with less time to take a full cruise.
Pictures of King George Island
Highlights in King George Island
King George Island
King George Island is widely known as the “Gateway to the Antarctic”. More than 10 different nations have permanent scientific bases here, and that’s reflected in the different names the island is known as: “Isla 25 de Mayo” in Argentina, “Isla Rey Jorge” in Chile, and “Ватерло́о Vaterloo” in Russia.
King George has the only airport in the South Shetland Islands. Its strategic location, next to the Chilean base Eduardo Frei (with flights from Chile), and just 75 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula, makes it the most important staging and connection hub in the region.
By maintaining a base, a nation is granted membership of the Antarctic Treaty, and hence there is a cosmopolitan population of scientists in residence most of the time on King George Island. This might explain why there’s a Russian Orthodox church here (one of the very few permanent buildings in the whole of Antarctica) with a priest always in residence!
All this is even more impressive when you realize that more than 90% of the 59 miles long by 16 miles wide island is permanently covered with ice and snow. This suits the native wildlife just fine, and King George Island is home to many different species including Weddell, leopard, and elephant seals, gentoo, chinstrap, and Adelie penguins, and many seabirds such as skuas and southern giant petrels.