In 1773, even though he crossed the Antarctic Circle and correctly surmised this was the route to the South Pole in 1775, Captain Cook was quite dismissive of land beyond South Georgia, writing "... we may reasonably suppose that we have seen the best, as lying most to the North." How wrong he was!
King George Island is the largest and most "civilised" of the South Shetland Islands and is also home to many of the Antarctic research stations on its southern side at Maxwell Bay and Admiralty Bay, due to the milder environment. Historically, exploration and sealing brought people to this island. Nowadays, there is an Antarctic 26 mile marathon held here that attracts runners from all over the world!
It also features colonies of nesting Adélie and Chinstrap Penguins, Kelp Gulls, Blue-eyed Cormorants, Antarctic Terns and Southern Giant Petrels and is home to scientific bases of many different countries.
Scientific bases apart, the South Shetland Islands are a haven for wildlife. The wildlife and dramatic scenery are the Islands' major attractions e.g. Gentoo, Adelie, Chinstrap penguins, Antarctic tern, Snowy sheathbill, Southern giant petrel, Southern elephant seal. Vast penguin rookeries, beaches ruled by Antarctic fur seals and Southern elephant seals make every day spent in this amazing island group unforgettable.
Sailing through the narrow passage into the flooded caldera of Deception Island is truly amazing, while Macaroni, Chinstrap and Gentoo Penguins as well as elephant seals await you at Livingston Island. Hannah Point on Livingstone Island has more biodiversity than most sites in Antarctica so proceed with extreme caution, as it is a vulnerable site. Visitors can do a lot of damage and it is important to take great care when ashore, especially higher up and on the cliffs where giant petrels nest. Make sure you go no nearer than 50m. Use your zoom not your legs!