Thursday 26 October 2017

The Norwegian Island of Peter I - a gloomy nobody's land in Antarctica

Peter I Island (Norwegian: Peter I Øy) is an uninhabited volcanic island in the Bellingshausen Sea, 450 kilometres from Antarctica. Along with Queen Maud Land and Bouvet Island, Peter I comprises one of the three Norwegian dependent territories in the Antarctic.

The island was first sighted by Russian sailor von Bellingshausen in 1821 and was named for Peter I (Peter First) of Russia. Drift ice made it impossible for Bellinghausen to come close to the island's coast.

Nearly all of the island is covered by a glacier and surrounded by pack ice, making it inaccessible almost all year round. There is little life on the island apart from seabirds and seals.

The volcanic island is dominated by Lars Christensen Peak.

Coordinates : 68° 51′ S, 90° 35′ W
                - south of the Antarctic Circle
Population :  0
Dimensions: 19 km long, 11 km wide

In the Arctic, at this latitude North, you can find several inhabitated settlements, even small towns. Not in Antarctica. Here there is only barren, rugged glacial coastline surrounded by ice cliffs and bergs; even the volcano that once formed the island, and is its central core, is covered by a thick ice-cap that slides steeply down to the sea.

Auststupet, mountain cliffs along the steeper eastern side.

The ice edges fall vertically into the surf waves crashing down with huge force.

The North tip is gentlier sloped.

Cape Ingrid, a rocky peninsula on the west side. Narrow strips of beach suitable for landing surround the cape.

Simonovbreen glacier, on the northeast side.

In the surf, large blocks of ice floe.

After Bellinghausen sighting no one set foot on the island until 1929; the first landing happened when an expedition led by Nils Larsen and Ola Olstad, financed by whale-ship owner Lars Christensen, succeeded in getting ashore. They claimed it for Norway, who annexed it in 1931 by a royal proclamation declaring the island under Norwegian sovereignty.

Since then there have been several landings on the island by various nations for scientific investigations.

The automatic station, with the Lars Christensen peak in background.

In 1987, the Norwegian Polar Institute sent five scientists to spend eleven days on the island. The main focuses were aerial photography and topographical measurements to allow for an accurate map of the island. The second important area was marine biological investigations. The team also installed an automated meteorological station on the island.

But usually the few who come here measure their stay in the hours.

The best access is provided by helicopter capable of landing on the low ice cap near the northern tip of the island.

The Base Camp of DXpedition 2006 on the glacier

Radiosletta plateau, provides the best landing site for helicopters, except under the frequent katabatic winds.

On the only beach where you can go ashore - the bay of Sandefjordbukta - great surf waves usually break violently.

The tallest peak is the Lars Christensen Peak at 1 640 meters. This summit is a 100-metre wide circular crater. It's a shield volcano, wide and low. Dated samples range from 0.35 to 0.1 million years old.

The scarce island's vegetation consists exclusively of mosses and lichens which have adapted to the extreme Antarctic climate. Strong freezing winds, steady snowfall keep vegetation to a minimum.

The island is a breeding ground for a few seabirds, particularly southern fulmars, but also petrels and Antarctic terns. There are numerous seals

Southern giant Petrel

Antarctic Fulmar

Lars Christensen peak in the low Sun.

Light is often magic at this latitude

Austral lights in Bellinghausen.


Mister Twister said...

Why am I expecting a Halloween post tomorrow?

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

Witches will be visiting elsewhere..