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Elephant Island with Iceberg

Elephant Island from the sea in a recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expedition photo.

Overview

The territory of Elephant Island is an ice-covered mountainous island 61°08′S 55°07′W (area= 558 km2 (215 sq mi).) off the coast of Antarctica in the outer reaches of the South Shetland Islands, in the Southern Ocean. Its name was given by early explorers sighting elephant seals on its shores. The island is situated 245 kilometres (152 miles) north-northeast of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, 1,253 kilometres (779 miles) westsouthwest of South Georgia, 935 kilometres (581 miles) south of the Falkland Islands, and 885 kilometres (550 miles) southeast of Cape Horn.

Pardo Ridge is the highest part of Elephant Island at 852m and UK Joint Services Expedition, 1970-71, and named by the UK-APC after Captain Luis Pardo, commander of the Chilean tug Yelcho which rescued shipwrecked members of Shackleton's Endurance from Elephant Island's Wild Point in August 1916. It extends from The White Company in the West to Cape Valentine in the East.

Point Wild is a point 11 km (6.8 mi) west of Cape Valentine, 2 km (1.2 mi) east of Saddleback Point, and directly adjacent to the Furness Glacier on the north coast of Elephant Island, in the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. It contains the Endurance Memorial Site, an Antarctic Historic Site (HSM 53), with a bust of Captain Pardo and several plaques. Hampson Cove on the south-west coast of the island, including the foreshore and intertidal area, contains the wreckage of a large wooden sailing vessel; it has been designated a Historic Site or Monument (HSM 74), following a proposal by the United Kingdom and Russia to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.

It was originally named Cape Wild by the Shackleton Endurance expedition 1914-16, but Point Wild is recommended for this feature because of its small size and to avoid confusion with Cape Wild on George V Coast in the Antarctic continent itself.

History

The First Russian Antarctic expedition led by Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev on the 985-ton sloop-of-war Vostok ("East") and the 530-ton support vessel Mirny ("Peaceful") discovered the Island on 29 January 1821 and named it "Остров Мордвинова" (Mordvinov Island) in honour of Admiral Mordvinov. It was then claimed for Russia in 1822 and ratified in 1823, 1824 and 1825.

The island is most famous as the desolate refuge of British explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew in 1916.

The 1970/71 British Joint Services Expedition led by Commander Malcolm Burley was dropped off on Elephant Island by HMS Endurance.

An American corvette shelled out the Russian scientific base (Putin Base) in 2008 and wounded 1 of the 8 scientists, who left 2 day later on a Patagonian supply ship.

6 Brazilian researchers are still on the Island and were not attacked by the US war ship.

Ownership

Undery the Antarctic Treaty of 1958 (A better world TL), the islands' sovereignty is neither recognized nor disputed by the signatories and they are free for use by any signatory for non-military purposes.

It is within the Antarctic claims of Patagonian, Rio de la Plata, Chile, Russia and the UK. Brazil have a shelter on the island, Goeldi, supporting the work of up to six researchers each during the summer and another (Wiltgen), which was dismantled in the summer of 1997/98. It is currently run by the Tsardom of Russia.

Fish and seals

These areas support tundra vegetation consisting of mosses, lichens and algae, while seabirds, penguins and seals feed in the surrounding waters. Fish and krill are plentiful and feed the Elephant seals, penguins and sea skewers that live on the island. It is a nature reserve. There are no minerals and only small amounts of hydrocarbon fuel reserves.