Counting penguins in Antarctica

One of the most popular places we visit is Elephant Island. From above, this spectacular place looks almost to be the shape of an elephant head and trunk. It is also home to the hundreds of elephant seals that make their home there. Located just 150 miles off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, Elephant Island famously saw Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men arrive there amid grave danger in 1916.

British Sealers first discovered it in the 1820s, and it was charted by a Russian Antarctic expedition. It was originally named Mordvinov Island after an eighteenth-century Admiral in the Imperial Russian Navy.

The story of Shackleton’s party and Elephant Island is one of the great stories of resilience and bravery from the time of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. After being trapped in the ice in the Weddell Sea, the party abandoned their ship and took their lifeboats in the hopes of finding the island for refuge. Once they arrived, Shackleton and five of the men took a lifeboat to South Georgia, leaving the remainder of the team behind to survive there for 135 days living beneath two upturned boats. After Shackleton’s party reached South Georgia and traversed the treacherous mountains, they reached their salvation at a whaling station and were then able to rescue the rest of the party. Miraculously, everyone in the crew survived the ordeal.

Elephant Island is of great historical significance and has two dedicated memorial sites. In one location you’ll see the bust of Captain Luis Pardo, who notably captained the rescue ship that returned to save Shackleton’s men. Point Wild, where Shackleton’s men hunkered down, is also a historical site. You’ll see another monument located at the site of a wreckage of a large wooden boat in the southwestern part of the island.

Once you see Elephant island, you’ll notice how many elephant seals there are. These incredible creatures are a guest favorite, and you’ll be fascinated not only by their size but by their huge bulbous noses and loud snorts and roars. During mating season the ‘beach masters’ battle it out over the females, which is truly a sight to see. The beaches are also crowded with fur seals, gentoo penguins and chinstrap penguins.

With so much history and an abundance of wildlife, Elephant Island is a fantastic place to visit and one we often hope to accomplish on our voyages. That being said, landing here is incredibly difficult due to windy conditions and exposed terrain so Zodiac tours in the waters that surround the island are the best way to visit this special place.

Contact Us

If you are interested in visiting Elephant Island, please speak with our team. Once you are onboard, your Expedition Leader will work with the crew and if weather and planning allow, you may be lucky enough to visit this wondrous place.