The archipelago consists of 11 major islands and numerous smaller ones. They are mainly mountainous and more than 80% glaciated. The islands are of volcanic origin. Although the islands might have been sighted before, the first recorded sighting is that of William Smith, a British sailor whose ship was blown off course while rounding Cape Horn in 1819. Soon after, seal hunters frequented the islands in search of Fur Seals.
Cruises to the South Shetland Islands
Take an exploratory expedition through some of Antarctica’s most wildlife-rich waters.
PLA29-23 The great Weddell Sea not only features massive tabular icebergs, wildly dramatic landscapes, and fascinating historical sites, but it is also one of the best places in Antarctica for viewing iconic wildlife like whales, seals and many other rarely seen...
11 Feb - 22 Feb, 2023
Crossing the Polar Circle
HDS30-23 This Polar Circle and Antarctic Peninsula cruise passes through waters travelled by Humpback, Minke and Fin whales. Anchoring in various spots around the region, the expedition offers the chance to hike, kayak, and dive in the iceberg-heavy waters.
4 Mar - 14 Mar, 2023
Searching for the Elusive Emperor Penguins
OTL22-23 A true expedition, our Weddell Sea cruise sets out to explore the range of the Emperor Penguins near Snow Hill Island. We will visit the area via helicopter and see a variety of other birds and penguins including Adélies and Gentoos.
10 Nov - 20 Nov, 2023
Searching for the Elusive Emperor Penguins
OTL23-23 A true expedition, our Weddell Sea cruise sets out to explore the range of the Emperor Penguins near Snow Hill Island. We will visit the area via helicopter and see a variety of other birds and penguins including Adélies and Gentoos.
20 Nov - 30 Nov, 2023
Classic Antarctica including Deception Island
HDS24-23 This Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands cruise delivers you into a landscape of dark rugged rock, pure white snow, and a fantastic variety of wildlife. Come say hello to whales, seals, and thousands of penguins.
7 Dec - 17 Dec, 2023
I was on the recent Antarctic trip on Ortelius, 16 Feb - 7 March. This has been my third expedition with Oceanwide, and
South Shetland Islands cruise reviews
Awe-inspiring, astounding, magic, massive, magnificent… There are not enough words to describe the wonder of Antarctica and I truly believe there's no better way to see and experience this with an
Das war eine sehr schöne Kreuzfahrt mit vielen tollen Tierbeobachtungen und Begegnungen. Leider war das Highlight der Tour, die Sonnenfinsternis, den Wolken zum Opfer gefallen. Das Essen war überauRead full review »
South Shetland Islands FAQ
What is the Time in the South Shetland Islands?
The South Shetland Islands follow Greenwich Mean Time +12 (GMT +12). This means that if it is 9:00 GMT +12 (9 a.m.) during your trip to the South Shetland Islands, it would be the previous day at 17:00 (5 p.m.) in New York City, USA and 22:00 (10 p.mRead more »
What is the Temperature and Weather Like in the South Shetland Islands?
The climate in this area is typically very cool and corresponds well with the rest of the northern Antarctic Peninsula.The average summer temperature only reaches 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7 degrees Fahrenheit), and the typical winter temperature hoverRead more »
What Wildlife Can I See in the South Shetland Islands?
A visit to the South Shetland Islands will reveal a surprising amount of life for such a harsh environment. South Shetlands wildlife such as, seals, penguins and seabirds utilize the surrounding water as a feeding spot, and they can often bRead more »
How Many People Live in the South Shetland Islands?
The number of people living in the South Shetland Islands is extremely hard to say. Research stations may only have a skeleton crew - if any at all - during the winter. During the summer months it's booming with scientists and support crew.Read more »
Who Owns the South Shetland Islands?
The South Shetland Islands are not under the control of any nation. Instead, the Antarctic Treaty enables all signatories to utilize the region for any non-military related purposes. This has led to 13 countries establishing research stations and fieRead more »
What Unique Features Does the South Shetland Islands Have?
The South Shetland Islands are volcanic, primarily mountainous and approximately 80 percent glaciated. A voyage to the South Shetland Islands will often provide visitors with the opportunity to see penguins and seals. Deception Island is always a higRead more »
South Shetland Islands Weather
Be prepared for some chilly weather on your South Shetland Islands cruise. The summer months’ average temperature only ever gets up to around 1 or 2°C, and that’s without factoring in the wind which can carry away your body heat.
Facts about the South Shetland Islands
- If the Antarctic region has any sort of bustling cosmopolitan centre, it’s the South Shetland Islands. There are 10 bases on the Islands populated the year round and another 8 that see activity in the summer months.
- The South Shetland Islands are made up of many tiny islands and rocks and 11 main islands – Clarence, Deception, Elephant, Greenwich, King George, Livingston, Low, Nelson, Robert, Smith, and Snow.
- Deception Island is considered an active and ongoing “significant volcanic risk.”
- Only about 3% of the Islands are ice-free, along the coasts. That’s where your South Shetland Islands holiday will find all of the Islands’ life – including the humans.
- Famous explorer Shackleton and his crew survived more than four harsh months on Elephant Island.
- 12 different countries have bases on King George Island – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Ecuador, Germany, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Uruguay, and the U.S.
- The Islands were initially discovered on February 19, 1819 when the British ship Williams was blown of course while trying to make its way around Cape Horn.
Travel to the South Shetland Islands
A cruise including South Shetland Islands takes you to the gateway of the Antarctic. The South Shetland Islands, just a half a day’s cruise away from the Antarctic Peninsula, is home to stunning scenery and astounding amounts of wildlife.
Get ready to bird watch as the islands are the home breeding grounds of terns, skuas, shags, gulls, and thousands of penguins of different kinds.