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Livingston Island

South Shetland Islands

GeographyHistoryScientific BasesTourism

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 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, and 3000 km from the South Pole.

Drake Passage © Lyubomir Ivanov

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 .


Bransfield Strait © Lyubomir Ivanov

The South Shetlands cover a total land area of 3687 sq km comprising (from east to west) the islands of Clarence, Elephant, King George, Nelson, Robert, Greenwich, Livingston, Deception, Snow, Low and Smith, as well as numerous smaller islets and rocks.


McFarlane Strait © Lyubomir Ivanov

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, located barely 18 km southwest of Livingston’s Barnard Point in the Bransfield Strait, is an active volcano whose half-submerged crater is forming the sheltered harbour of Port Foster entered by a single narrow passage, Neptunes Bellows.


Morton Strait © Pedro Alfaro

The Island is extending 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 sq km. There are many islets and rocks scattered in the surrounding waters, particularly numerous 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.

Livingston 's Ice Cap © Pedro Alfaro

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.

Byers Peninsula © Pedro Alfaro

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 sq km) 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, ridges and heights in eastern Livingston that are too precipitous to keep snow.

Atanasoff Nunatak © Lyubomir Ivanov

The principal mountain formations include Tangra Mountains (30 km long, with Mt. Friesland rising to 1700 m), Bowles Ridge (respectively 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).

Tangra Mountains © Lyubomir Ivanov

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.

Pliska Ridge © Lyubomir Ivanov

Here follow the average temperatures of the warmest month, of the coldest month, and annual, and the average annual rainfall for Livingston Island, with comparative data for certain 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).