Morning photo: The fringes of Antarctica

South Shetland Islands

Chinstrap penguins stand in a field of moss flecked with feathers on Deception Island.

SUMMIT COUNTY — The vast bulk of Antarctica is ice-covered, in some places with glaciers several miles deep. But moving north, away from the center of the continent, some of the sub-Antarctic Islands like the South Shetland chain are surprisingly green. Just don’t expect any grass. The only chlorophyll-producing plants are primitive mosses growing on the fringe of what the plant kingdom can tolerate. In many cases, these little oases are just a few miles away from thick sheets of ice, tempered by the slightly warmer sea water surrounding the islands. It’s a spectacular world of biodiversity, just as interesting as the ice covered heart of the frozen continent.

An abandoned whaling boat gathers moss on Aitcho Island, part of the South Shetland archipelago.
Steep ramparts of volcanic rock at Neptune's Bellows, the entrance to the submerged caldera of Deception Island.
The remnants of an abandoned whaling station on Deception Island.
Gentoo penguins enjoy a dry beach at Deception Island.
The shoreline of Half Moon Island, in the South Shetlands.
Gentoo penguins seem to be checking out the M/V Professor Molchanov from atop a mossy knoll on Half Moon Island.
Exploring Half Moon Island in the South Shetland archipelago off the coast of Antarctica.
Old whaling boat on Aitcho Island.


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