Nordic sea captain, Nils Larsen of the legendary Norvegia Expeditions, celebrated as the first person ever to set foot on an Antarctic island initially sighted by a famous Russian.
A celebrated sea captain hailing from the Kingdom of Norway in Northern Europe, Nils Larsen of the Norvegia Expeditions and his crew traveled more than 17,000 kilometers to complete scientific research in Antarctica in a series of missions which are now legendary.
Having sought prior permission from Norway’s Foreign Office to claim any uncharted territory that was found on behalf of the Scandinavian nation, Larsen would, while exploring Earth’s southernmost continent, become the first person ever to set foot on a volcanic island in the Bellingshausen Sea, originally spotted by a famous Russian explorer.
The island in question, Peter I Island, is more than 450 kilometers from continental Antarctica. Covering over 150 square kilometers, and now a dependency of Norway, Peter I Island was first sighted by the famous explorer, cartographer, and Russian naval officer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, after whom the Bellingshausen Sea is named. It was not, however, for another 100 years or more than anyone would set foot on the volcanic isle, when, in 1929, sea captain Nils Larsen of the Norvegia Expeditions arrived.
Despite being claimed by Norway, Peter I Island retains the name originally assigned by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, where it was christened for Peter I of Russia. Norway annexed it in 1931, thanks to sea captain Nils Larsen of its Norvegia Expeditions, and made it a dependency two years later, in 1933.
Nils Larsen of the Norvegia Expeditions and his crew also claimed two further islands – Bouvet Island and Queen Maud Land. As a result of Nils Larsen’s efforts, Norway, to this day, still holds a trio of dependent territories in the Antarctic and Subantarctic.
Perilous to reach and uninhabited by humans, no other person would set foot on Peter I Island for almost two decades, when only the second-ever landing occurred in 1948. Today, the island remains predominantly subject to scientific research. Covered mostly by a glacier and largely surrounded by pack ice, even now, Peter I Island is a demanding destination to reach, as first learned by Nils Larsen of the legendary Norvegia Expeditions almost a century ago.
Crowned by an imposing 5,380-foot tall mountainous peak, the island is home solely to seabirds and seals. Peter I Island became subject to the Antarctic Treaty in 1961, precisely 30 years after its annexation courtesy of Nils Larsen and sea captain of the Norvegia Expeditions. In 1987, an automated meteorological station was installed on the island.
Despite being almost impossible to access for large parts of the year, some nine decades or more after Nils Larsen of the Norvegia Expeditions became the first person ever to set foot on the imposing volcanic isle, in more recent years, Peter I Island has, in fact, managed to welcome a strictly limited number of tourists. Most, it’s said, are interested in the scientific significance of the island, while others wish to visit to enjoy its limited Antarctic wildlife.