King George Island
The largest of the South Shetland Islands, King George is your gateway to Antarctica.
Information about 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.
Interesting facts about King George Island
Resident wildlife in summer is attracted by the warm climate here (although "warm" is a relative term for the Antarctic as the average summer temperature is around 30F plus or minus a few degrees!). The Island is subject to several claims for sovereignty since the British discovered it in 1819 and named it after King George III. Chile and Argentina both also claim the island, but it still remains part of British Antarctic Territory.
If a guest on a ship has an injury that needs an X-ray, or they need to be evacuated, cruise ships usually come to the Chilean base.