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10 Important Historical Sites in Antarctica

September, 2020 | General, History

On each of our voyages, we make a point of celebrating the fascinating history of Antarctica. Depending on the itinerary, guests may be lucky enough to experience any number of historical sites. These places can combine incredible beauty, interesting artifacts, and captivating stories that relay the magic of Antarctica’s history. 

Here are a few important spots that not only assist us in telling the story of Antarctica, but also offer a combination of spectacular beauty and wildlife. 

1. Portal Point:  Discover the access route to the Peninsula and hear the story of Wally Herbert. Enjoy stunning scenery as you walk along the coast (perhaps for the first time!) as you learn more about the conditions on the Peninsula, both past and present.

2. Whalers Bay, Deception Island: This wonderful site encapsulates all the history of the Peninsula in one go, from the chronicles of the great explorers, to the whaling industry, right through to the first flights into Antarctica. The stunning scenery at Neptune’s Window and the Bellows always impresses. 

The Black-Browed Albatross

Gravesite on Deception Island

3. Lemaire Channel/ Danco Island: This area presents the opportunity to talk about Gerlache and the involvement of Amundsen, plus the wider aspects of the Belgian Expedition. The Lemaire Channel is one of the most spectacular areas in Antarctica to voyage through, and is always awe-inspiring.

4. Paulet Island: The scenery here is not only incredible but gives us an opportunity to educate our guests about the Swedish Expedition. This tiny island in the Weddell Sea is where the majority of the Nordenskjold expedition were marooned and overwintered after their ship was crushed by the ice in 1903.

5. Point Wild, Elephant Island: A famous place that has captivating historical significance in the story of Shackleton and his men. We often lecture on “The Scott-Shackleton Great Leadership Debate” at this spot, providing a real connection between the two and what their expedition stories mean.

6. Port Lockroy: The physical representation of how people used to live at this location makes it a choice destination. It also provides many interesting stories about the way countries have sought to gain vantage in securing national holding in Antarctica.

Lemaire channel

Entering the Lemaire Channel

7. Wordie House: Named after James Wordie, chief scientist and geologist of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition. Very important meteorological research has been conducted here, and there are 500 original artifacts on site.

8. Grytviken, South Georgia: This industrial heritage site is one of the most popular historic sites we visit, and here we reflect on the story of Shackleton and his ship the Endurance. This spot also provides us with access to a museum, church, cemetary, whaling station and an abundance of wildlife.

The Black-Browed Albatross

Visiting Shackleton’s grave in the Grytviken cemetary

9. Waterboat Point: Learn the remarkable story of Bagshaw and Lester. These two young British men overwintered here in 1921 with minimal supplies, living underneath an upturned boat that had been left behind by whalers. Today the site of their hut has been overtaken by a Gentoo penguin colony.

10. Yankee Harbour: When sealers arrived on the South Shetland Islands immediately after their discovery in 1819, they were the first to spend any extended time in Antarctic waters. Yankee Harbour is one of the few places where we can see physical remains from this time. Though the history of sealing is obscure as there are few historical sources, it is tremendously important in terms of the history of Antarctica.

These are just a few of the wonderful historical sites you might get to visit on our voyages to Antarctica. If you’re interested in following in the footsteps of great Antarctic explorers and alongside our onboard Historians, please reach out to your preferred travel agent or contact our team here.