Peter I Island — A Glacier-Choked Rock

Kyle Mackenzie Sullivan
3 min readMar 29, 2017


Navigational chart for Peter I Island.

Peter I Island is not a pleasant place. Named for an unpleasant and consequential man, Peter the Great of Russia, this uninhabited rock has no room for human life whatsoever. Currently, there is an automated weather station there, since 1987 — the best footprint that all of human civilization could muster. Peter I sits a little under 300 miles from Antarctica proper, all alone in the Southern Ocean.

It is an extraordinary place to behold…ice is the only paradigm the island can know. It is smothered by an all-encompassing glacier and is normally packed in around the edges by sea ice for most of the year. Glacial ice drips off the edges of the island in great big chunks during the brief Antarctic summer, filling the surrounding waters with towering sculptures of frozen blue and white. While humanity is essentially banned from this place by virtue of the environment, other forms of life do temporarily exist on Peter I. Southern Fulmars and Antarctic Terns use the island as a breeding place. Crabeater Seals, Leopard Seals and Elephant Seals visit sporadically, along with Adelie and Chinstrap Penguins. And, on the extremely rare occasion, human tourists can be seen there. It is estimated that maybe 1400 people have visited the island since its discovery in 1821. Most of this traffic would have come from the recent uptick in Antarctic tourism.

Peter I Island, a cold and inhospitable place.

The Oceanwide Expeditions vessel M/V Ortelius reached Peter I Island on day 23 of our voyage in Antarctica. We aimed to land on the ice via helicopter but were thwarted by unstable weather and high winds, even as we hid in the natural, short-lived wind shadow on one side of the island. We opted for a zodiac cruise, instead, around the shoreline. However, as we put the boats in the water, the wind kicked up even more…preventing anything other than gazing at the island from the deck of the ship. Peter I had made it quite clear what was and what wasn’t allowed.

Footage of our time in the waters around Peter I.

I’d say that visiting this island was a special privilege, despite our inability to put feet on the ground or poke around the shoreline by zodiac. The decisions made by the expedition staff were good ones; we could all plainly see how unfriendly the sea was, how wicked the wind was becoming. We were quite content to take pictures and capture footage of the island and surrounding ice from the safety of the ship. Even from deck, it was like looking back in time to a previous ice age. Peter I will rank as one of the more primordial, remote spots I have ever seen. I hope that one day I’ll get the opportunity to see it again .

The expedition crew test the waters around Peter I Island.

If you are looking to travel to the remotest parts of the world, then I suggest you book passage with Oceanwide Expeditions. They have the best ships (ours had helicopters!) and a knowledgeable, experienced crew. Check out their offerings here:

If you are looking for more reports from my month in Antarctic waters, then follow me here on Medium ( or you can follow me on Twitter (

Photos from the expedition can be found on Instagram ( You can also subscribe to me on YouTube, where you can see footage of what I am describing here (

Peter I island is located about 280 miles from the coastline of Antarctica.
One last look at this remote and inhospitable rock…



Kyle Mackenzie Sullivan

Filmmaker, Photographer, &, Armchair Anthropologist. Lover of books, languages, science & extinct nations. Creator of Trekspertise & The Wikisurfer podcast.