Livingston Island

Livingston Island

Infobox Islands
name = Livingston

image caption = Map of Livingston Island, Antarctica

map_custom = no
nickname =
location = Antarctica
coordinates = coord|62|36|S|60|30|W|display=inline
archipelago = South Shetland Islands
total islands =
major islands =
area = convert|974|km2|sqmi|0|abbr=on
length = convert|73|km|mi|0|abbr=on
width = convert|34|km|mi|0|abbr=on
highest mount = Mt Friesland
elevation = convert|1700|m|ft|0|abbr=on
population =
population as of =
density =
ethnic groups =
country = Antarctica
additional info = Administered under the Antarctic Treaty System

Livingston Island (coord|62|36|S|60|30|W|) is an Antarctic island in the South Shetland Islands, Western Antarctica lying between Greenwich and Snow Islands. This island was known to sealers as early as 1819, and the name Livingston has been well established in international usage for over 180 years.


Livingston is situated in the Southern Ocean 110 km to the northwest of Cape Roquemaurel on the Antarctic mainland, 830 km to the south-southeast of Cape Horn in South America, 820 km to the southeast of the Diego Ramirez Islands (the southernmost land of South America), 1000 km due south of the Falkland Islands, 1600 km to the southwest of South Georgia Island, and 3000 km from the South Pole.The Island is part of the South Shetlands archipelago, an islands chain extending over 500 km in east-northeast to west-southwest direction, and separated from the nearby Antarctic Peninsula by Bransfield Strait, and from South America by the Drake Passage. The South Shetlands cover a total land area of 3687 km² comprising (from east to west) Clarence Island, Elephant Island, King George Island, Nelson Island, Robert Island, Greenwich Island, Livingston Island, Deception Island, Snow Island, Low Island and Smith Island, as well as numerous smaller islets and rocks. Livingston is separated from the neighbouring Greenwich Island to the east and Snow Island to the west-southwest respectively by McFarlane Strait and by Morton Strait. Deception Island, located barely 18 km southwest of Livingston’s Barnard Point in the Bransfield Strait, is a volcano whose caldera forms the sheltered harbour of Port Foster entered by a single narrow passage known as Neptunes Bellows.

The Island extends 73 km from Start Point in the west to Renier Point in the east, its width varying from 5 km at the neck between South Bay and Hero Bay to 34 km between Botev Point to the south and Williams Point to the north, with surface area of 974 km². There are many islets and rocks in the surrounding waters, particularly off the north coast. More sizable among the adjacent smaller islands are Rugged Island off Byers Peninsula, Half Moon Island in Moon Bay and Desolation Island in Hero Bay to the north.

Ice cliffs, often withdrawing in the recent decades to uncover new coves, beaches and points, form most of the coastline. Except for isolated patches the land surface is covered by an ice cap, highly crevassed in certain segments, with ice domes and plateaus in the central and western areas, and a number of valley glaciers formed by the more mountainous relief of eastern Livingston. Typical of the Island’s glaciology are the conspicuous ash layers originating from volcanic activity on the neighbouring Deception Island.

Apart from the extensive Byers Peninsula (61 km²) forming the west extremity of Livingston, the ice-free part of the island includes certain coastal areas at Cape Shirreff, Siddons Point, Hannah Point, Williams Point, Hurd Peninsula and Rozhen Peninsula, as well as slopes in the mountain ranges, and ridges and heights in eastern Livingston that are too precipitous to keep snow. The principal mountain formations include Tangra Mountains (30 km long, with Mt Friesland rising to 1700 m), Bowles Ridge (6.5 km, elevation 822 m), Vidin Heights (8 km, 604 m), Burdick Ridge (773 m), Melnik Ridge (696 m) and Pliska Ridge (667 m).

The coastline of the island is irregular, with the more significant indentations of South Bay, False Bay, Moon Bay, Hero, Barclay, New Plymouth, Osogovo and Walker, and the peninsulas of Hurd (extension 10 km), Rozhen (9 km), Burgas (10,5 km), Varna (12 km), Ioannes Paulus II (12.8 km) and Byers (15 km).

The local variety of the Antarctic Peninsula weather is particularly changeable, windy, humid and sunless; says Australian mountaineer Damien Gildea: ‘Livingston got just about the worst weather in the world’. Whiteouts are common, and blizzards can occur at any time of the year. Temperatures are rather constant, rarely exceeding 3°C in summer or falling below –11°C in winter, with wind chill temperatures up to 5-10°C lower.

Below are the average temperatures of the warmest month, coldest month, yearly average, and the average annual rainfall of Livingston Island compared with some other locations

Livingston Island (coastal areas): 1.3°C (34.3°F), –7°C (19.4°F), –2.7°C (27.1°F), 800 mm (31.5 inches);

London: 17°C (62.6°F), 3.9°C (39°F), 9.9°C (49.8°F), 611 mm (24 inches).

Cherni Vrah (peak rising to 2,290 m just 6.5 km from Sofia): 8.6°C (47.5°F), –8.1°C (17.4°F), 0.1°C (32.2°F), 1,178 mm (46.4 inches);

Sofia: 20.1°C (68.2°F), –1.1°C (30°F), 9.9°C (49.8°F), 575 mm (22.6 inches).


It was only in the Nineteenth century that any land was discovered in what today is ‘political’ Antarctica, and that land happened to be Livingston Island. Captain William Smith in the English merchant brig "Williams", while sailing to Valparaiso in 1819 deviated from his route south of Cape Horn, and on 19 February sighted the northeast extremity of Livingston, Williams Point.A few months later Smith revisited the South Shetlands to land on King George Island on 16 October 1819 and claim possession for Britain. In the meantime, a Spanish vessel had been damaged by severe weather in the Drake Passage and sunk off the north coast of Livingston in September 1819. The 74-gun "San Telmo" commanded by Captain Rosendo Porlier was the flagship of a Spanish naval squadron. The more than 600 men lost onboard the "San Telmo" were the first recorded people to die in Antarctica. While no one survived, parts of her wreckage were found subsequently by sealers on Half Moon Beach, Cape Shirreff.

In December 1819 William Smith returned with his ship to the South Shetlands. This time he was chartered by Captain William Shirreff, British commanding officer in the Pacific stationed in Chile, and accompanied by Lieutenant Edward Bransfield who was tasked to survey and map the new lands. On 30 January 1820 they sighted the mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula, unaware that three days earlier the continent had already been discovered by the Russian Antarctic expedition of Fabian Gottlieb Thaddeus von Bellingshausen and Mihail Lazarev.One year later, the Russians had circumnavigated Antarctica and arrived in the South Shetlands region in January 1821 to find over 50 American and English sealing vessels and 1000 men taking hundreds of thousands of fur seal skins. While sailing between Deception Island and Livingston (named Smolensk by the Russians) Bellingshausen met the American Captain Nathaniel Palmer, yet another pioneer of Antarctic exploration who himself had sighted the mainland in the previous November. Remains of huts and sealer artefacts are still found on Livingston, which possesses the second greatest concentration of historical sites in Antarctica (after South Georgia). The names of many geographical features on the Island also refer to its early history. Among the commemorated are ship captains such as the Americans Christopher Burdick, Charles Barnard, Robert Johnson, Donald MacKay, Robert Inott, David Leslie, Benjamin Brunow, Robert Macy, Prince Moores and William Napier, the Britons William Shirreff, M’Kean, John Walker, Ralph Bond, Christopher MacGregor, T. Binn and William Bowles, the Australian Richard Siddons, people like the New York shipowner James Byers, the American whaling merchants William and Francis Rotch, British Admiralty hydrographer Thomas Hurd, and John Miers, publisher of the first chart of the South Shetland Islands based on the work of William Smith, or sealing vessels like "Huron", "Williams", "Samuel", "Gleaner", "Huntress", "Charity", "Hannah", "Henry", "John", "Hero" and others. Some of the place names given by the Nineteen Century sealers are descriptive, such as Devils Point, Hell Gates and Neck or Nothing Passage, hazardous places where ships and people were lost; Inept Cove, Needle Peak, or the Robbery Beaches where American sealers were robbed of their sealskins by the British. However, names like Livingston, Mount Friesland and Renier Point also go back to the first few seasons after the discovery of the islands yet their particular origins remain unknown.

cientific bases

The permanent scientific bases of Juan Carlos I (Spain) and St. Kliment Ohridski (Bulgaria) were established in 1988 at South Bay. Other base facilities are the small Shirreff Base (or Guillermo Mann, Chile and the U.S.A.) on Cape Shirreff since 1991, and the inactive base Cámara (Argentina) on Half Moon Island since 1953. Occasional field camps support research in remote areas of the Island. Camp Byers (Spain) operates regularly near Nikopol Point on Byers Peninsula, and the Camp Academia site situated at elevation 541 m in upper Huron Glacier, Wörner Gap area served as a base camp of the Tangra 2004/05 topographic survey. Camp Academia is accessible by 11-12.5 km routes from St. Kliment Ohridski and Juan Carlos I respectively, and offers convenient overland access to Tangra Mountains to the south; Bowles Ridge, Vidin Heights, Kaliakra Glacier and Saedinenie Snowfield areas to the north; Huron Glacier to the east; and Perunika Glacier and Huntress Glacier to the west. Camp Academia was named for the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in appreciation of Academy’s contribution to the Antarctic exploration, and has been designated as the summer post office Tangra 1091 of the Bulgarian Posts since 2004.

Protected areas

In order to protect Antarctica the Antarctic Treaty system enforces a strict general regime regulating human presence and activities on the continent, and designates certain protected territories where access is allowed only for scientific purposes, and with special permission.

There have been two such nature reserves on Livingston Island since 1966, comprising respectively the extensive Byers Peninsula, and the small peninsula of Cape Shirreff together with San Telmo Island and adjacent waters.

Subject of protection are the fossils demonstrating the link between Antarctica and other austral continents, a variety of abundant flora and fauna including colonies of seals and penguins that are the subject of scientific study and monitoring, as well as numerous historical monuments dating from the Nineteenth century.


Antarctic shipborne tourism was initiated in 1958 in the South Shetland Islands. Since then the number of tourists visiting Antarctica has grown to tens of thousands annually, of whom over 95% tour the South Shetlands and the nearby Antarctic Peninsula. Hannah Point on the south coast of Livingston and Half Moon Island off the east coast, as well as the nearby Deception Island and the Aitcho Islands near Greenwich Island are among the most popular destinations frequented by cruise ships, offering walks amidst spectacular scenery and amazing wildlife.

ee also

* St. Kliment Ohridski Base
* Juan Carlos I Base
* Camp Academia
* Camp Byers
* Antarctic Place-names Commission
* List of Bulgarian toponyms in Antarctica
* Tangra Mountains
* Tangra 2004/05 Expedition
* South Shetland Islands


* L.L. Ivanov et al, (from English Strait to Morton Strait, with illustrations and ice-cover distribution), 1:100000 scale topographic map, Antarctic Place-names Commission of Bulgaria, Sofia, 2005
* Text authorized for publication in Wikipedia by the [ Antarctic Place-names Commission of Bulgaria] .

External links

* [ 70south - more information on the South Shetland Islands including Livinston Island]
* [ Expedition Tangra 2004/05]
* [ Spanish base Juan Carlos I]
* [ Expedition Omega Livingston 2003]
* [ Protected area Byers Peninsula]
* [ Protected area Cape Shirreff]

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