Ellsworth Station

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Ellsworth Station
Estación Científica Ellsworth
Estación Ellsworth
Base Ellsworth
Antarctic base
Ellsworth Scientific Station
UC-1 Otter of VXE-6 in flight near Ellsworth Station, Antarctica in 1958
A U.S. Navy de Havilland Canada UC-1 Otter of Antarctic Development Squadron 6 (VXE-6) in flight over a large opern crevasse near Ellsworth Station, Antarctica, in 1958
Location within Antarctica
Location within Antarctica
Ellsworth Station
Location within Antarctica
Coordinates: 77°39′S 41°02′W / 77.650°S 41.033°W / -77.650; -41.033Coordinates: 77°39′S 41°02′W / 77.650°S 41.033°W / -77.650; -41.033
Country  Argentina
Province Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica, and South Atlantic Islands Province
Department Antártida Argentina
Region Filchner Ice Shelf
Location Gould Bay
Founded January 18, 1957 (1957-01-18) (1956–57 austral summer season)
Evacuated December 30, 1962 (1962-12-30)
Named for Lincoln Ellsworth
 • Type Directorate
 • Body Dirección Nacional del Antártico
 • Operator Instituto Antártico Argentino
Elevation 42 m (138 ft)
  • Summer: 40
  • Winter: 40
Time zone ART (UTC-3)
Type All year-round (1957–1962)
Period Annual
Status Abandoned since 1962 over safety concerns.
Remains presumed lost in Southern Ocean
  • Main house
  • Personnel houses
  • Airstrip
  • Radio station
  • Power plant
  • Laboratory (meteorology, astronomy, seismography, riometry)
  • Deposits

Ellsworth Scientific Station (Spanish: Estación Científica Ellsworth, or simply Estación Ellsworth or Base Ellsworth) was a permanent, all year-round originally American, then Argentine Antarctic scientific research station named after American polar explorer Lincoln Ellsworth. It was located on Gould Bay, on the Filchner Ice Shelf.

It was shut down in 1962 over safety concerns due to it being built on increasingly unstable ice, which produced fast deterioration of its superstructures and endangered both personnel and equipment.[1]


Ellsworth Station was built by United States Navy personnel under the command of Captain Finn Ronne,[2] with the support of the icebreakers USS Staten Island and USS Wyandot.[3] The originally planned site for the station was Cape Adams, but when the terrain proved impractical due to huge ice cliffs, an alternate location on Gould Bay was selected,[3] on the western coast of the Weddell Sea over the Filchner Ice Shelf, and close to the Argentine Belgrano I Base.[4]

Part of the scheduled agenda for the International Geophysical Year, Ellsworth was commissioned on 11 February 1957 and less than a year later, on 17 January 1959, was handed over to the Argentine Antarctic Institute. With the handover, the United States government gave all the buildings, facilities, and existing food supplies whilst Argentina provided the logistical and administrative services necessary for the continued operation of the station.[4] It was agreed that scientists of both countries would work together at the place in technical studies and scientific research.[4]

On 31 December 1959 the Argentine icebreaker ARA General San Martín was heading to Ellsworth Station to renew personnel and consumables when it received a SOS signal from the NorwegianSouth African exploration ship Polarbjorn, which had gotten stuck in ice. The Argentines managed to set the ship free so it could follow with its planned route along the coastline; however, General San Martín was later unable to reach its own primary goal—located on the deepest recess of the Weddell Sea—due to unusually thick pack ice on the target area.[5]

On 6 January 1962 then Frigate Captain Hermes Quijada of the Argentine Naval Aviation, leading a two-Douglas C-47 flight, made a stopover at Ellsworth before continuing to the South Pole. He became the first pilot that having taken off from the Americas landed at Earth's southernmost point.[4][6]

Feasibility of the station came into question when structural problems caused by the unstable ice had the base half-sunk during most of the spring.[1] To protect personnel and equipment, Ellsworth was closed and all of its staff and equipment were evacuated on 30 December 1962, during the 1962–63 austral summer campaign.[4] It continued to be inspected periodically by Argentine exploration teams:[7] it was eventually covered by snow and ice. The Filchner Shelf sector where it was located split as a giant iceberg and drifted through the Southern Ocean, where the base's remains have presumably been lost.[1]


The original facilities at Ellsworth Station could house over 40 people.

Scientific activities[edit]

During its operational days a number of experiments and observations were carried out at Ellsworth, involving ionospheric riometry observations; biology; human physiology; and surface and high-atmosphere meteorology, including radiation and carbon dioxide measurements.[4]

There was also active research involving glaciology at the Filchner Ice Shelf, which was explored by several expeditions launched from the station. Some of these patrols reached the West Crevice on the huge barrier, completing the Ellsworth–Belgrano triangulation.[4]


The area is a passage of weather fronts directed towards the north: although they do not precipitate, they do produce strong winds exceeding 200 km/h (120 mph) which radically lower the apparent temperature.[8]

Climate data for Ellsworth Station
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) −6
Average low °C (°F) −11
Average precipitation mm (inches) 8
Source: Weatherbase [9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Campaña Antártica 1962–1963" (in Spanish). Sitio no oficial del rompehielos A.R.A. Almirante Irízar. Archived from the original on 20 February 2009. 
  2. ^ Griffiths 2007, p. 210.
  3. ^ a b Mooney 1976, p. 610.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Base Ellsworth" (in Spanish). Fundaciòn Marambio. Archived from the original on 24 March 2014. 
  5. ^ Symposium on Antarctic Logistics 1963.
  6. ^ "Primer Vuelo Argentino al Polo Sur" (in Spanish). Fundaciòn Marambio. Archived from the original on 3 March 2011. 
  7. ^ "Campaña Antártica 1972–1973" (in Spanish). Sitio no oficial del rompehielos A.R.A. Almirante Irízar. Archived from the original on 24 March 2014. 
  8. ^ "Base Belgrano II" (in Spanish). Fundaciòn Marambio. Archived from the original on 2 June 2012. 
  9. ^ "Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Ellsworth, Antarctica". Weatherbase. 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  • Papers and Proceedings. Symposium on Antarctic Logistics. Boulder, CO: National Academies. 1963. p. 746. NAP:12264. 

External links[edit]