1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/South Shetland

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31593001911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 25 — South Shetland

SOUTH SHETLAND, a chain of islands on the border of the Antarctic region, lying about 500 m. S.E. of Cape Horn, between 61° and 63 10' S. and between 53° and 63° W., and separated by Bransfield Strait from the region composed of Danco Land, Palmer Land, Louis Philippe Land, &c. The more considerable islands from west to east are Smith (or James), Low (or Jameson), Snow, Deception, Livingstone, Greenwich, Robert, Nelson, King George I., Elephant, and Clarence. Deception Island is remarkable as of purely volcanic origin. On the south-east side an opening 600 ft. wide gives entrance to an internal crater-lake (Port Forster) nearly circular, with a diameter of about 5 m. and a depth of 97 fathoms. Voyagers in 1828 and 1842 reported that steam still issued from numerous vents, but Otto Nordenskjöld (Antarctica, London, 1905) found no exterior evidence of volcanic activity. Most of the islands are rocky and mountainous, and some of their peaks are between 6000 and 7000 ft. in height. Covered with snow for the greater part of the year, and growing nothing but lichens, mosses and some scanty grass, the South Shetlands are of interest almost solely as a haunt of seals, albatrosses, penguins and other sea-fowl. It has been supposed by many that the Dutch navigator Dirk Gerrits discovered the South Shetlands in 1598, but it appears probable that this story originated through confusion with another voyage in which Gerrits was not concerned (cf. H. R. Mill, Siege of the South Pole, p. 34 seq.). In 1819 William Smith of the English brig " Williams " observed the South Shetland coast on the 19th of February. Revisiting it in October, he landed on King George I. Island, taking possession for England; he also gave the whole chain the name it bears. In 1820 the naval lieutenant Edward Bransfield was sent in the " Williams " to survey the islands, which attracted the attention of American and British sealers, and became fairly well known through the visits of Antarctic explorers. A smaller group—Coronation Island, Laurie Island, &c.—lying 200 m. east of the South Shetlands, bears the name of South Orkney. It was discovered by the English captain, Powell, in 1821.