Seymour Island

This article is about the island near the Antarctic Peninsula. For the island in Canada's Nunavut Territory, see Seymour Island (Nunavut).
Seymour Island
Seymour Island

Antarctic Peninsula

Location Antarctica
Coordinates 64°14′S 56°37′W / 64.233°S 56.617°W / -64.233; -56.617Coordinates: 64°14′S 56°37′W / 64.233°S 56.617°W / -64.233; -56.617
Archipelago James Ross Island group
Population 0

Seymour Island is an island in the chain of 16 major islands around the tip of the Graham Land on the Antarctic Peninsula. Graham Land is the closest part of Antarctica to South America.[2] It lies within the section of the island chain that resides off the west side of the peninsula's northernmost tip. Within that section, it lies slightly to the north of Snow Hill Island and just east of the larger key, James Ross Island, and its smaller, neighboring island, Vega Island.

Seymour Island is sometimes called Marambio Island or Seymour-Marambio Island, taking its resident Argentine base as its namesake (see section, Base Antárctica Marambio, below).

Historic site

A wooden plaque and rock cairn stand at Penguins Bay, on the southern coast of Seymour Island. The plaque was placed on 10 November 1903 by the crew of the Argentinian Corvette Uruguay on a mission to rescue the members of the Swedish expedition led by Otto Nordenskiöld. The inscription on the plaque, placed where the two parties met, reads:

“10.XI.1903 Uruguay (Argentine Navy) in its journey to give assistance to the Swedish Antarctic expedition”.

The cairn was erected in January 1990 by Argentina at the site of the plaque in commemoration of the same event. The site has been designated a Historic Site or Monument (HSM 60), following a proposal by Argentina to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.[3]

Base Antárctica Marambio

Main article: Marambio Base

Located in the island is the Marambio Base which is the main Argentine base in Antarctica operating an airfield (ICAO SAWB) for wheeled landing the whole year.[4] In winter the base has an average of 55 crew members, but in summer the population of the base can grow to 180.[5]


The average temperatures on Seymour Island, as measured at Base Antárctica Marambio, are 1 °C (33.8 °F) during the summer and −21 °C (−5.8 °F) during the winter. In the wintertime, however, strong winds can lower the wind chill temperature as low as −60 °C (−76 °F).

Paleontological significance

The rocks making up Seymour Island date mainly from the Late Cretaceous to the Eocene. Successively younger rock formations found on the island are the López de Bertodano Formation (Cretaceous to early Paleocene) Sobral Formation and Cross Valley Formation (Paleocene) and La Meseta Formation (Eocene). Seymour Island has been referred to as the Rosetta Stone of Antarctic palaeontology, due to the unparalleled insight it provides into the geological and palaeontological history of the continent.

In November 1882, when Norwegian Captain, Carl Anton Larsen landed his ship, the Jason, on Seymour Island, he returned with more than maps of the territory, he found fossils of long-extinct species. Interestingly, Larsen's trip aboard the Jason was significantly more successful than his Swedish Antarctic Expedition journey between 1901 and 1904. During that trip, his ship, the Antarctic, was crushed and sunk by icebergs, and he and his crew were forced to weather fourteen months on the neighboring Snow Hill Island, surviving on penguins and seals. Ever since his voyage on the Jason, the island has been the subject of paleontological study.

The Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary (K-Pg) outcrops on Seymour Island in the upper levels of the López de Bertodano Formation.[6] A small (but significant) iridium anomaly occurs at the boundary on Seymour Island, as at lower latitudes, thought to be fallout from the Chicxulub impactor in the Gulf of Mexico.[7] Directly above the boundary a layer of disarticulated fish fossils occurs, victims of a disturbed ecosystem immediately following the impact event.[6] Multiple reports have described evidence for climatic changes in Antarctica prior to the mass extinction,[8] but the extent to which these affected marine biodiversity is debated. Based on extensive marine fossil collections from Seymour Island, recent work has confirmed that a single and severe mass extinction event occurred at this time in Antarctica just as at lower latitudes.[9]

Seymour Island has also been the site of much study of the Eocene period of climatic cooling, a process that culminated in the initiation of Antarctic glaciation. Studies of the fine fraction carbonate from sites in the Southern Ocean suggest that, rather than a monotonic decrease in temperature over the Eocene period, the middle of the epoch was punctuated by a brief duration of warming (Bohaty and Zachos, 2003).[10]

Seymour Island has been a site of study of many fossils from this particular part of the Eocene period, during which there was a more flourishing ecosystem with diverse biota as a result of the warmer climate. A diverse array of fossilized species have been studied on the Island, including extinct penguin species (such as Palaeeudyptes klekowskii and Archaeospheniscus wimani), various species in the bivalvia class and various types of flora and fauna.[10]

A fossil marsupial of the extinct family Polydolopidae was found on Seymour Island in 1982.[11] This was the first evidence of land mammals having lived in Antarctica. Further fossils have subsequently been found, including members of the marsupial orders Didelphimorphia (opossum) and Microbiotheria,[12] as well as ungulates and a member of the enigmatic extinct order Gondwanatheria, possibly Sudamerica ameghinoi.[13][14][15]

See also


  1. Administered under the Antarctic Treaty System
  2. ESA Science & Technology: Graham Land
  3. "List of Historic Sites and Monuments approved by the ATCM (2012)" (PDF). Antarctic Treaty Secretariat. 2012. Retrieved 2014-01-04.
  4. Antarctic facilities –
  5. official page
  6. 1 2 Zinsmeister, W.J. (1998). "Discovery of fish mortality horizon at the K-T Boundary on Seymour Island: Re-evaluation of events at the end of the Cretaceous". Journal of Paleontology. 72 (3).
  7. Elliot D.H.; Askin RA; Kyte FT; Zinsmeister WJ (1994). "Iridium and dinocysts at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary on Seymour Island, Antarctica: Implications for the K-T event". Geology. 22. doi:10.1130/0091-7613(1994)022<0675:IADATC>2.3.CO;2.
  8. Petersen, S.V.; Dutton A; Lohmann KC (2016). "End-Cretaceous extinction in Antarctica linked to both Deccan volcanism and meteorite impact via climate change". Nature Communications. 7.
  9. Witts J.D.; Whittle RJ; Wignall PB; Crame JA; Francis JE; Newton RJ; Bowman VC (2016). "Macrofossil evidence for a rapid and severe Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction in Antarctica". Nature Communications. 7. doi:10.1038/ncomms11738.
  10. 1 2 Middle Eocene Warming On Seymour Island, Antarctica: Continental Shelf Paleotemperatures Recorded In Molluscan Carbonates
  11. Woodburne, Michael O.; Zinsmeister, William J. (Oct 1982). "Fossil Land Mammal from Antarctica". Science. 218 (4569): 284–286. doi:10.1126/science.218.4569.284. PMID 17838631. Retrieved 2009-01-17.
  12. Goin, Francisco J.; et al. (Dec 1999). "New Discoveries of "Opposum-Like" Marsupials from Antarctica (Seymour Island, Medial Eocene)". Journal of Mammalian Evolution. 6 (4): 335–365. doi:10.1023/A:1027357927460. Retrieved 2009-01-17.
  13. Reguero, Marcelo A.; Sergio A. Marenssi; Sergio N. Santillana (May 2002). "Antarctic Peninsula and South America (Patagonia) Paleogene terrestrial faunas and environments: biogeographic relationships". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 179 (3–4): 189–210. doi:10.1016/S0031-0182(01)00417-5.
  14. Mills, William James. Exploring Polar Frontiers: A Historical Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, 2003. ISBN 1-57607-422-6, ISBN 978-1-57607-422-0
  15. Goin, F.J.; Reguero, M.A.; Pascual, R.; von Koenigswald, W.; Woodburne, M.O.; Case, J.A.; Marenssi, S.A.; Vieytes, C.; Vizcaíno, S.F. (2006). "First gondwanatherian mammal from Antarctica". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 258: 135–144. doi:10.1144/GSL.SP.2006.258.01.10.
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