Petermann Island is located just south of the Lemaire Channel. A stony, partially glaciated island, it stretches 1.8 by 1.2 km (1.1 by .75 miles), lifting to a height of about 250 meters (820 feet).
Petermann Island’s Wide Array of Wildlife
For many visitors, this is the only place to see Adélie penguins. One of the northernmost Adélie penguin colonies live here, as well as one of the southernmost gentoo penguin colonies. Blue-eyed shags also breed on Petermann Island, and around the landing bay leopard seals and humpback whales are a common sight. Vibrant green and red algae, known as cryoplankton, color the snow in bursting clouds, especially when the snow is melting in summer.
Petermann Island’s Curiously Named Bay
The French explorer Charcot wintered his ship, Pourquoi Pas, in a small bay on the southeast side of the island in 1909. He had discovered the location on the first of January, the Catholic feast day celebrating Christ’s circumcision. Because of this, Charcot and his crew―ever the devout Catholics―named it Port Circumcision. How the island got its name is a little more humdrum: A crew member on the Dallmann expedition of 1873―1874 named it after German geographer August Petermann. In our visits to this island, we usually land in the sheltered Circumcision Bay. There the ghosts of the past―old mooring points of the ship, a watermark in the rocks from 1909―still survive, transporting us to another time.