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Paulet Island

A huge penguin colony, and a sober memorial to shipwreck survivors.

Information about Paulet Island

Paulet Island is a striking sight. This circular rock is only 1 mile in diameter, yet it has a volcanic cone that rises to over 1100 feet at its center. It’s found about 3 miles from Dundee Island at the northern end of the Antarctic Peninsula.

First mapped in 1839, Paulet Island is home to a huge penguin colony. Some 100,000 breeding pairs of Adelie penguins live here, a truly remarkable sight and sound! You will also see other sea birds on your visit, including shags, snow petrels, and kelp gulls.

Another fascinating aspect of Paulet Island is the historic shelter that dates back to 1903. The expedition ship on the Nordenskjöld expedition - the Antarctica (after which the Antarctic Sound is named) - was crushed by the ice pack, and survivors of the wreck reached Paulet built a stone hut to shelter them from the harsh winter conditions. There is also a cairn built on the highest point of the island that they used to attract attention for any rescue. There is also a grave marker for one expedition member who sadly did not survive.

Because Paulet Island is so densely packed with wildlife, visitors will be escorted in small groups by experienced Antarctic guides. This ensures that the breeding birds are disturbed as little as possible and that the shelter site is protected.

Fur seals are often also seen on the shores here. In the peak breeding season, you may find that some of the walking trails around the island are closed due to the sheer numbers of wonderful creatures that choose to raise their young here.

Interesting facts about Paulet Island

Stone hut on Paulet Island built in February 1903 by survivors of the wrecked vessel Antarctic under Captain Carl A. Larsen, members of the Swedish South Polar Expedition led by Otto Nordenskjöld. A grave of a member of the expedition and the rock cairn built by the survivors of the wreck at the highest point of the island to draw the attention of rescue expeditions (Historic Site and Monument No. 41).

The captain of the ship - Larsen- went on to start whaling on South Georgia. When he left Paulet Island, rescued by the SS Uruguay, he left behind supplies, just in case someone else got stuck in the ice in the Weddell Sea.

It was just over a decade later that Shackleton tried to reach Paulet Island after the Endeavour was lost, knowing there were supplies left by Larsen. But the currents took the ice, then the bots, in a different direction, and they ended up on remote Elephant Island and they whole saga of getting to South Georgia. If they had reached Paulet Island they would have had supplies, penguins to capture and eat, and could have continued through the Antarctic Sound at the relevant time, and discovered some whalers!

Pictures of Paulet Island

Highlights Close to Paulet Island

snow hill hut
Snow Hill Hut

Snow Hill Island is very well named! This large island is 21 miles long and over 7 miles wide and is almost completely covered in snow all year round.

It was first discovered by a British expedition in 1843 and named “Snow Hill” because it wasn’t clear at first if it was connected to its neighbor, Seymour Island. Subsequent surveys by a Swedish Expedition in 1901 found that it was, indeed, a separate outcrop, and “Island” was added to its name. The high ground on Snow Hill Island rises to approximately 560ft above sea level.

Snow Hill is important geologically. There have been many marine fossils found in its rocks, and huge dikes of had-wearing basalt rock have withstood erosion to become important and striking features.

The 1901 Swedish expedition spent three winters on Snow Hill Island, using it as a base to explore the wider area. They built a wooden hut in 1902 which still stands and is now a designated Historic Monument.

Snow Hill Hut is a 20ft by 26ft wooden building that is preserved as a time capsule and consists of a central living room, a kitchen, and 3 double bunks. You can still see furniture, bedding, lamps, plates, food packages, and more everyday items that were simply left when the hut was abandoned. The contents of Snow Hill Hut were then preserved in remarkable condition by the Antarctic cold.

There is the very slight chance of encountering an Emperor Penguin on an ice floe here since there is the Emperor Penguin colony on the permanent ice just to the south of Snow Hill Island. The actual colony is very inaccessible and only a few cruise ships manage to reach the location in the early season with all the additional ice (and when the Emperor Penguins are completing their breeding cycle throughout the winter!). In most cases a helicopter is also required to get closer, then a trek across the ice.

Animals in Paulet Island

Our trips to Paulet Island

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