Skip to Main Content
Cruising past the Port of Palmer Archipelago

The Palmer Archipelago

If you turn a globe over and look at Antarctica, you’ll see that the continent doesn’t consist of a smooth (or even rough) circle centered around the South Pole. Instead, its shape is decidedly irregular, with the deep indentations of the Ross Ice Shelf, and an arm stretching out towards South America—the Antarctic Peninsula. At the end of the peninsula is the Palmer Archipelago, a group of 52 ice-covered islands that are one of the most accessible parts of Antarctica. Palmer Archipelago, also known as Antarctic Archipelago, is located off the northwestern coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. The archipelago extends from Tower Island in the north to Anvers Island in the south and is separated from the Antarctic Peninsula by the Gerlache Strait and from the Wilhelm Archipelago by the Bismarck Strait. First mapped by the Belgian Antarctic Expedition of 1897–1899, the archipelago was named by leader Adrien de Gerlache in honor of Captain Nathaniel Palmer, who navigated the same waters in 1820. A skilled and fearless seal hunter, Palmer was searching for new seal rookeries south of Cape Horn in late 1820 when he and his men became the first Americans (and the third group of people) to discover the Antarctic Peninsula. Along with English sealer George Powell, Palmer also codiscovered the nearby South Orkney Islands archipelago.