February 3, 2015
King George Island, Antarctica.
I was startled when I got an SMS message sailing into Admiralty Bay on King George Island. King George is the largest of the South Shetland Islands off the coast of Antarctica and is one of the northernmost points of land in what is internationally considered Antarctica. The SMS message was from ATT welcoming me “abroad,” inviting me to use my ATT service, and to find one of the free ATT wi-fi hotspots in my area. I had found cell phone service in Antarctica.
King George Island (known is Spanish as Isla 25 de Mayo) as is as close to Urban as Antarctica gets. It’s claimed by Britain, Argentina and Chile. But under the Antarctic treaty Chile, Argentina, China, Russia, Brazil, Poland, South Korea and Uruguay all have research stations and they share infrastructure, like an airport. This is the place where tourists coming by air touchdown. The island has a better climate than mainland Antarctica and is closer to mainland South America. Accessibility and climate make it a center for research. While heavily glaciated, you can actually see some green in the mountains, not trees but green all the same. The water in Admiralty Bay is that milky glacial blue that you see in Alaska. Sea water closer to the continent, although fed by glaciers, is clear. We passed the Polish and the Brazilian bases. Brazil was under reconstruction after a fire two years ago destroyed the station.
Tabular ice burgs floating north from Antarctic sound and the Weddell Sea stall along the south side of the island, their trip toward the warmer water of the convergence stalled. Suzi and I watched us sail out of Admiralty Bay past, what the chart calls “Teflon Rocks” (there has to be a story here) and along the south coast of King George Island past ice burgs or our last view of Antarctica. We rounded the island and headed due north, heading 0o, toward the fog of the Antarctic convergence and the Falkland Islands.