The South Sandwich Islands group consists of a chain of islands, connected by a low submarine ledge, forming an arc in a N-S direction between the parallels of 56°18’ S and 59°28’ S, and between the meridians of 26°14’ W and 28°11’ W. Actively volcanic and normally un-inhabited (except for penguins and elephant seals), the islands are totally Antarctic in climate.
The islands were discovered by Captain James Cook, in HMS Resolution, who first sighted Southern Thule on 30th January 1775. They were, in his words: “Lands doomed by nature to perpetual frigidness: never to feel the warmth of the sun's rays; whose horrible and savage aspect I have not words to describe”.
Shackleton’s expedition in the Endurance in 1914-16 was ill-fated, and his ship was crushed by the ice.
In 1930, the island group was successfully explored in the Discovery II - a vessel that was specially designed by Sir James Flannery. The hull was strengthened to withstand the ice, and the engines were adapted for the harsh climate. In recognition of his contribution, the western headland of Southern Thule was named Cape Flannery.
[map courtesy of Prof. David W.H. Walton of the British Antarctic Survey]