The site was discovered in 1950 by the French Antarctic Expedition under André-Franck Liotard and a landing made on 18 January 1950. The base was established by Liotard and a team of 11 men who raised the main building with several annexes to house scientific activities. It was named for expeditioner J.-A. Martin, originally second-in-command of the expedition, who had died en route to the Antarctic.
On 6 January 1951 the base team was relieved by 17-member team under the leadership of Michel Barré. Over the following year they enlarged the main building while continuing the research program. They, in turn, were relieved on 4 January 1952 while a smaller team of four, led by Mario Marret, built a secondary base on Petrel Island, some 60 km to the west in the Géologie Archipelago.
On the night of 23-24 January 1952 the Port Martin base was largely destroyed by a fire which burnt down its main building. No lives were lost nor injuries incurred but the base personnel were evacuated to Petrel Island, where they overwintered, and Port Martin abandoned.
Since 1952 the site has remained largely undisturbed. What remains in Port-Martin are the base's ancillary buildings, including a weather shelter and its coal and supply sheds, beneath a covering of snow. It represents an optimal site to design archeological methods and techniques in extreme climatic conditions. It is consisdered a valuable archaeological as well as a historic site and is protected under the Antarctic Treaty System as Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) No.166. It has also been designated a Historic Site or Monument (HSM 46), following a proposal by France to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.
- "Port Martin, Terre Adelie". Management Plan for Antarctic Specially Protected Area No. 166: Measure 1, Annex G. Antarctic Treaty Secretariat. 2006. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
- "List of Historic Sites and Monuments approved by the ATCM (2012)". Antarctic Treaty Secretariat. 2012. Retrieved 2014-01-02.
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