The Argentine Islands are a group of small islands off the
West coast of Graham Land in Latitude 65*15* South and 64*16* West. They are separated
from the Antarctic Peninsula by the 7 km wide Penola Strait. Fifty km on the North lies
the Palmer Archipelago dominated by Anvers Island and to the South-West the snow-domed
The Argentine Islands group are small and ice-capped and do not rise more then 50 m above sea level.. The largest island is about 1.5 km long by 1 km across. They are therefore inconspicuous from any distance away. As the Western side of the Antarctic Peninsula has a great many small islands they would not have attracted the attention of the earliest explorers.
The islands feature in an area which attracted the explorer-scientists at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. Prior to this and first in the area sealers from Britain, Russia, The United States and Norway, though they tended to keep mainly to the South Shetlands and the South Orkneys to the North. After the early explorers came the whalers who were especially active in the nineteen twenties. They had a station at Port Lockroy 50 km to the North.
Come back in nineteen century. In 1832 John Biscoe who combined sealing and exploration saw and named Adelaide Island from the West. He discovered the Biscoe Islands on his way North to Anvers Island where it is thought he landed. The Argentine Islands would not have been of any significance to him and were invisible most probably because of surrounding bergs. Other sealers may have sailed down Penola Striate but as previously stated left no records.
In 1873 the German Eduard Dallmann left Hamburg in the steamship "Grönland". He combined sealing and exploration and named the Bismarck Strait at the Southern end of Anvers Island, Hovgaard, Booth and Petermann Islands. As this latter Island is only 9 km to the North of the Argentine Islands it is very probable that he saw them. In 1893-94 two Norwegian sealers (Evensen and Pedersen in the "Castor" and "Hertha") sailed down the Graham Land coast passing inside the Biscoe Islands. They were most likely to far West to have seen the Argentine Islands.
The first scientific expedition to work in the vicinity of the Argentine Islands was the Belgian Antarctic Expedition 1897-99 led by Captain Adrien de Gerlache. He sailed down Penola Strait on February 12th 1898 naming Capes Tuxen and Rasmussen and the Crul Islets to the West. He headed South to within sight of Alexander First Island where they were beset and were the first scientific Expedition to winter in the Antarctic.
The first mention of the Argentine Islands occurs with the naming of them by Dr. Jean Charcot leader of the French Antarctic Expedition of 1903-05. He named them after the Argentine Republic in appreciation of that governments generosity and kindness to his expedition. Charcot wintered at the West side of Booth Island. He was responsible for the great mass of place name sand discoveries in this region. Galindez Island where the present hut is situated is named after Captain Ismael Galindez, Argentine Navy who was sent which his ship "Uruguay" to search for Charcot in 1905 when the latter was feared missing. Charcot's ship was the "Francais" after which Mt. Francais on Anvers Island was named. Irizar Island was named after Captain Julian Irizar of the Argentine Navy, Uruguay Island was named after the Argentinean corvette "Uruguay" which effected the rescue of the Swedish Expedition of 1903, and the Yalours after Lieutenant J. Yalour, Argentine Navy, an officer of the above ship.
Five years later Charcot had another expedition to the area in his well known ship "Pourquoi pas?". He revisited the Argentine Islands and spent the winter from February 3rd to November 26th 1909 in a bay on the East side of Petermann Island called Port Circumcision after the holy day on which it was first sighted (January first). A plaque commemorating this can be seen there today near the Argentinean refuge hut. His expedition tried to find a route onto the high plateau but were defeated by tremendous ice-falls. He named all the mountains on the mainland opposite the islands, calling Mts. Scott, Shackleton and Peary after the famous explorers, Mount Demaria probably for the Demaria brothers, French developers of an anastigmatic lens used by the expedition's photographic section, Mount Balch after Edwin Swift Balch, American author and authority on Antarctic exploration, Chaigneau Peak after Senior Chaigneau, then Governor of Provincia de Magallanes, Chile, Blanchard Ridge after a Monsieur Blanchard, then French Consul at Punta Arenas, Mount Mill after Hugh Robert Mill, British geographer, Antarctic historian and author in 1905 of The Siege of the South Pole. Lumiere Peak was named probably after Louis Lumiere who leaded in photographic research and development in France at that time, the Trooz Glacier after Belgian Minister on the Interior and Public Instruction J. de Trooz who was instrumental in procuring funds for the publication of the scientific results of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition of 1897-1899, and Waddington Bay after Senator Waddington, President of the Chamber of Commerce at Rouen.
Nothing much more is heard of the area until 1923-1924 when whale catchers sent out from the factory ships "Sevilla" and "Roald Amundsen" passed down the strait between the Peninsula an the Biscoe Islands looking for suitable anchorage's for their parent ships. They were unsuccessful Port Lockroy being the only one is use. In December 1929 ship "William Scoresby" crossed around the area looking for a wide expanse of open water so that Sir H. Wilkins could fly his sea-plane which was based on the ship. He eventually flew over the Peninsula crossing Beascochea Bay. His description of this part of the flight is interesting. He reported a great natural amphitheater at the head of the bay which was the most awesome thing he had ever seen from the air. "It was no place over which to linger. Whirling currents caught the machine. We looked down into what seemed to be a cylinder leading down to hell. The drop was almost sheer for, we believe, about 6000 feet". Sledge parties from the Argentine Islands have visited this area and report that any route to the plateau up the glaciers is out of the question because of huge ice cliffs.
The British Graham Land Expedition of 1934-1937 under John Rymill had their Northern Winter base on Winter Island one of the Argentine group. Their sailing ship "Penola" was frothed into a small very sheltered bay in Stella Creek on Galindez Island. They claimed it to be the best anchorage for a ship of their size in the whole of Graham Land. They built a hut on the promontory of Winter Island opposite the Galindez ice cliff which afforded an easy exit to Penola Strait via Cornice Channel. They had with them a "Fox-moth" sea plane which made several interesting flights from the islands. The expedition did much survey work in the surrounding area. They named Skua, Winter, Grotto, Corner, Anagram, Barchans and Forge islands, carried out a hydrographic survey which has stood up to the present day. Penola strait was named after their ship "Penola".
The Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey was initiated after the war in order to counteract claims on the area by Argentina and Chili. Bases were established on Deception Island and at Port Lockroy in 1944. In 1946 when on their way to establish the base at Stonnington stores were off loaded at the old British Graham land Expedition hut as this hut was to be occupied next season and a permanent base set up. However in January 7th 1947 when ship "Trepassey" arrived to set up base there were no sing of the hut to be seen. Later in the season when more snow melted, pieces of timber were found well above the high water mark on Skua Island and it was noted that round the shore line of many the islands, large chunks of ice had been deposited showing that possibly a large tide wave had been responsible for the disappearance of the hut. A new hut was built on the same site. Sir James Wordie visited the hut when building started on January 31st. The hut was completed on March 28th 1947. Five men occupied the base which was given the initial "F". A meteorological program was carried out, and the hut called Wordie Hut after Sir James. This hut was occupied continuously until 1953 when a new and larger hut was erected on Marina Point, Galindez Island which was given the name "Coronation House". In 1954 the complement of men over-wintering was 10 of which 6 were meteorological observers. The Radio-sound program was started that year but it was not until 1961 that radar was used for tracking. In 1957 the Physics program was started and in 1962 the closing of Base "A" at Port Lockroy. At the same time the original meteorological station on Argentine Islands was expanded to become a geophysical observatory. In 1960 due to bad ice conditions the ships were unable to establish Base "T" at Adelaide Island. The personnel for Adelaide wintered at Wordie Hut and the surveyors in the party helped Cyril Murray to survey the islands. A large scale map 1:10000 was published in 1963. Wordie Hut was reconstructed in 1995-96 and it is memorial museum today.
The station complex consists of nine buildings standing on rock foundations. In 1961 a new extension was added to the East end of the hut and provided living facilities for a 15 persons. In 1977 the Base "F" was renamed in honour of famous British scientist M. Faraday. In 1980 the living/working accommodation underwent major alterations to update the facilities. A two-storey extension was erected and the ground floor provides sleeping accommodation for 24 people, a clothing store, boiler room, RO plant, reception area and lobby. There is a lounge, library, dining room and kitchen upstairs. The old part of the building is now mostly laboratories and work rooms, together with the surgery and washrooms. It was oil-fired central heating. The generator shed was erected in 1978-1979 and other buildings have been constructed over the years. These include two non-magnetic buildings, one balloon launching building, now converted to skidoo garage, one old generator building now used as a frozen food store and a carpenter's workshop, and a general stores building that includes the base emergency supplies.
Faraday (now Vernadsky) is the oldest station in the Antarctic Peninsula area operated by the Upper Atmosphere and Ice and Climate Divisions. Surface meteorology, ozone, ultra violet radiation, geomagnetism, ionosphere's including storm effects and plasma irregularities, ionosphere currents, acoustic gravity waves in the thermosphere and long term changes to the upper atmosphere, tides, VLF, isotope sampling, human physiology, atmospheric turbidity, etc. have been carried out.
In 1996 the British base Faraday has been transferred to Ukraine and renamed to Vernadsky. Now station is operated in the field of Upper Atmosphere and Climate divisions and continue the previous investigations.
Twelve peoples are wintering in the First Ukrainian Antarctic Expedition 1996/97. Their scientific interests cover ionosphere, magnetosphere, geomagnetism, meteorology, glaciology and ozone research.