Antarctic Peninsula History

Discovered in 1820, the Antarctic Peninsula has witnessed some of the world’s most momentous polar expeditions

Antarctic Peninsula

Region: Antarctica

Destinations: Antarctic Peninsula

The still-debated discovery of the Antarctic Peninsula

Although confirmed sightings of the Antarctic Peninsula occurred as early as 1820, only the most northern tip (Trinity Peninsula) would be charted for many years. There would be no undisputed and documented landings on the Antarctic Continent until 1853. Even so, some scholars believe that in 1821 American sealers were the first humans to set foot on the continent.

Antarctic Peninsula: a lasting legend of exploration

Since its discovery, the Antarctic Peninsula has been one of the central locations of polar exploration. Roald Amundsen was forced to overwinter just west of the peninsula in 1897, Otto Nordenskiöld’s Swedish Antarctic Expedition landed on the Antarctic Peninsula in 1902, and Ernest Shackleton’s vessel, Endurance, was crushed by sea ice near the peninsula in 1915.

More recent Antarctic Peninsula history

Research stations began appearing in the Antarctic Peninsula around World War II, and most bases on the continent are concentrated there due to the area’s comparatively milder climate. Tourism came to the peninsula in the 1950s, and in 1961 the Antarctic Treaty established Antarctica as a scientific preserve protected from nuclear testing, waste disposal, and industrial development.

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