Today’s Image of the Day from the European Space Agency features a rare view of Elephant Island off the coast of Antarctica. The photo was captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission in February 2023.
Elephant Island is an ice-covered, mountainous island in the Southern Ocean. It is located in the outer reaches of the South Shetland Islands.
“The highest peaks are Mount Pendragon, which reaches around 970 meters, visible on the southern end, and, moving northeast, Mount Elder, which reaches around 945 meters,” said ESA.
“North of Mount Elder, the wide Endurance Glacier can be seen in the centre of the image. It is the main discharge glacier on the island and drains to the south and into the Weddel Sea. Thin sea ice, visible in light blue in front of the calving front, separates the glacier terminus from the open ocean waters.”
Elephant Island holds a special place in polar exploration history because of its role in the Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1917). After their ship, the Endurance, was trapped and then crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea, Shackleton and his crew sailed lifeboats over treacherous seas to reach Elephant Island. It was an inhospitable place with no sources of food or shelter, but it was land.
Realizing that there was no chance of rescue from Elephant Island, Shackleton and a few crew members set out in a small lifeboat, the James Caird, to sail 800 miles to South Georgia Island where they hoped to find help. This journey is considered one of the greatest boat journeys ever accomplished. They did eventually reach South Georgia, and Shackleton was able to return to Elephant Island and rescue the remaining crew members.
Though it’s largely ice-covered, Elephant Island is home to various wildlife, particularly seals, penguins, and seabirds. The island is uninhabited by humans, but it is a popular destination for expedition cruises and is often visited by those interested in polar exploration history.
Image Credit: ESA
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