Mountainous peninsula, part of the World Cordillera System, between South America and the bulk of West Antarctica. Formerly named Palmer Land, a term now used for a smaller part of the peninsula, after American explorer Nathaniel Palmer who visited it in 1820. Its distinctly S-shaped form stretches south for about 1900km from the Drake Passage at around 63°S to Ellsworth Land at around 75°S and lies roughly between 56°W and 67°W.
This is the most temperate part of the continent (temperate meaning that parts of it actually average a temperature above freezing during the summer months) with the bulk of the ice-free land and houses the majority of Antarctic research stations as well as being the home of much of the continent's fauna in the form of seals, penguins and seabirds in general. Its proximity to South America across the tempestuous Drake Passage and the rugged shoreline with its many natural harbours make it the most approachable territory of the Antarctic mainland. Natural hazards are significant with not only the loose sea ice surrounding the tip and western side but also volcanic activity and numerous earthquakes. The eastern coast is bound by the shelf ice of the Larsen Ice Shelf and several smaller shelves.
The Antarctic Peninsula is an important workshop for scientists investigating climate change. With a rise of the average air temperature in the range of 2°C and the accompanying loss both of surface ice and of habitat for some species the effects of global warming, if such a thing is occurring, are on dramatic display and a cause for concern. The jury is still out on whether this is a periodic phenomenon or a consequence of human activity.
Numerous research stations run by a number of different countries are located on the peninsula itself and the surrounding islands, including the American Palmer Station in the north, the British Rothera Station and several others maintained by Argentina and Chile, countries that maintain claims on the territory and contribute the bulk of the several thousand people that make up the population of the peninsula.
British Antarctic Survey
US Geological Survey
Medical University of South Carolina