Elephant Island, Antarctica Cruise Port
History buffs are familiar with the cruise port of Elephant Island, Antarctica: in 1916, this was the refuge of explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew after the ship Endurance got stuck in ice and were forced to trek across ice floes to safety. Even though they spent the entire winter waiting for rescue, not a single crew member was lost. Regardless of its name, the island is covered with elephant seals rather than pachyderms (and looks like an elephant's head to approaching ships). Located in the Southern Ocean near the outer reaches of the South Shetland Islands, Elephant Island has claims from not only Argentina and Chile, but also the United Kingdom. Brazil also has two shelters here that contain up to six researchers that work during the summer months. For the adventure of a lifetime, here are a handful of our favorite experiences when cruising to Elephant Island, Antarctica:
- Named for Frank Wild, who kept the Shackleton crew together while they waited to be picked up, you'll find historic Point Wild. Marking the spot is a bust of Luis Pardo Villalón, the Chilean Navy pilot who rescued the crew with his cutter Yelcho.
- Wreck Bay gets its name from the remains of a large wooded ship destroyed along its shore. Originally thought to be from Shackleton's Endurance or from Swedish explorer Otto Nordenskjöld’s ship Antarctic, later tests point to the wreckage more probably belong to an American vessel called the Charles Shearer that was lost in 1877 while heading to the South Shetland Islands.
- Check out the island's wildlife at Cape Lookout, a bluff on the southern coast where various penguins (chinstrap, gentoo, and macaroni) call home. Other birds of note include sheathbills, cape petrels, and stormy petrels; it's also a great place to spot the elephant seals and Antarctic fur seals.
- For the truly adventurous, there may be expeditions to explore the moss colonies, which are thought to thousands of years old. The moss bank is not terribly far from where the Shackleton party was marooned, and is considered one of the oldest livings things in the world.