South Shetland Islands, Antarctica
Some 770 kilometers (478 miles) south of Cape Horn, the South Shetland Islands are usually the first land seen in Antarctica. Separated from the Antarctic Peninsula by the Bransfield Strait, nine major islands make up the group. The region was the first to be exploited by sealers in the early 19th century, and because of its proximity to South America, it still is the most visited by scientists and tourists. Chinstrap, Adelie, Gentoo and Macaroni Penguins all breed here. In addition, because it is the warmest part of the continent, large moss beds as well as orange, black, grey and green lichens grow –even hair grass and pearlwort manage to survive. Leopard seals, Weddell seals, crabeater seals, Southern elephant seals and Antarctic fur seals can be seen in the water and on the beaches.