South of the infamous Drake Passage, the South Shetland Islands run parallel to the Antarctic Peninsula, stretching across 540 kilometres of krill-rich ocean, happy feeding grounds for whales, penguins, seals and sea lions.
King George Island is the most populated, with permanent settlements of eight nations, including Brazil, Argentina, Russia and South Korea, and summer stations manned by many other countries, each staking their rival claims to a cake-slice share of Antarctic territory.
Livingstone Island was a popular whaling station in the 19th century; now gentoo penguins play among the remnants of abandoned whaling stations, elephant and fur seals bask on the beach.
Elephant Island is where Shackleton’s crew hunkered down to survive an Antarctic winter, and you can still see remnants of the Endurance on the southwest of the island along with chinstrap penguins and seals.
Deception Island is one of Antarctica’s two most active volcanoes, blown out into a perfect horseshoe-shaped harbour. Stroll to the breathtaking caldera that last erupted in 1992 or bathe in Pendulum Cove, warmed to bathwater temperatures by geothermal heat.
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