The South Orkney Islands are a group of islands about 600 kilometres to the northeast of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, and 850 kilometres south of South Georgia Island. The Islands are part of the British Antarctic Territory, a claim which is disputed by Argentina.
The islands were discovered in 1821 by two sealers, Nathaniel Brown Palmer and George Powell. Originally they named Powell's Group, with the main island named Coronation Island. In 1823, James Weddell visited the Islands, gave the archipelago its present name. He named them after the Scottish Orkney Islands. In later year the islands were used by sealers and whalers, but it was only in 1903 that a more permanent base was established on the islands. The expedition of William Speirs Bruce on the Scotia in 1903, which overwintered at Laurie Island, established a meteorological station, which was sold to the Argentinian Government upon his departure in 1904. This base, renamed Orcadas in 1951, is still in operation today and is thus the oldest research station continuously staffed in the Antarctic. A biological research station on Signy Island was built in 1947 by the British Antarctic Survey. In 1962, the islands became part of the newly established British Antarctic Territory.
The group of Islands is part of a string of islands that spreads of the Antarctic Peninsula in a northeastern direction, along the South Scotia Ridge. Further to the east this ridge makes a turn north (at the South Sandwich Islands), and back to the west, until it finally meets the southern tip of South America.
The group has 4 main islands: Coronation Island, Signy Island, Powell Island and Laurie Island, The are a couple of smaller islands called the Inaccessible Islands, which lie about 25 kilometres to the west of the Coronation Island, that are usually considered to be part of the South Orkney Islands.
There are no cities on the islands, just to scientific research stations: The Argentinian Orcadas Base on Laurie Island, and the British research station on Signy Island. The Orcadas Base houses people year-round around 45 in summer and 14 in winter. The British base on Signy Island houses around 10 people during the summer only.
Trips to the South Orkney Islands are possible and usually part of a longer trip by boat from South America to the Antarctic Peninsula.
The only way to get around is by boat, which is also only possible during the short (and cold) summer between December and early April, as the seas around the islands are ice-covered from late April to November.
As the people you are most likely to meet on the islands are scientists from one of the two research centers, either English or Spanish is the language to speak.
See also International Telephone Calls
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