Note: This data set was first published on the 1998 CAPS CD.
The text for this document was taken unchanged from that CD.

See also Description of Data Files.

IPA Global Geocryological database

Name of data set: Rock glaciers on South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula

Details of principal investigators:

Enrique Serrano (1)
Jeronimo Lopez-Martinez (2)
Juan Jose Duran
Jose Manuel Gonzalez-Casado (2)
Eduardo Martinez de Pison
Pedro Nicolos



(1) Dpto. Geografia, Urbanismo y
Universidad de Cantabria
Av. de Los Castros s/n.
30012 Santander Spain
Phone: +34-42-201776
Fax. +34-42-201783
E mail.-

(2) Dpto.Quimica agricola,
Geologia y Geoquimica. Universidad
Autonoma de Madrid
28049 Madrid - Spain
Phone: +34-1-3974513
Fax. +34-1-397490

Coverage of Data set:

Study location:

South Shetland Islands (Antarctica)

Geographic extent:

Northwest Latitude: 61.9836 S
Northwest Longitude: 62.75 W
Southeast Latitude: 63.667 S
Southeast Longitude: 57.667 W

Period of investigation:

Inventory of rock glaciers: 1994-1997

Summary description

In the South Shetland Islands we have found eight active rock glaciers, no relict or fossil examples, and seven protalus ramparts. The rock glaciers are located on peninsulas and capes of the two main islands of the archipelago: King George and Livingston. The South Shetland Islands have a cold oceanic climate, characteristic of the maritime Antarctica, with frequent summer rains and moderate thermal amplitude, and a cold and humid morphoclimatic system, of crionival character. These climatic parameters facilitate the operation of periglacial processes, and the presence of a usually saturated active layer in summer. In the South Shetland Islands the presence of rock glaciers have been identified on Livingston Island (Martinez de Pison et al., 1991; Lopez-Martinez et al., 1992a, 1992b), on Admiralty Bay, in King George Island (Birkenmajer, 1981; Barsch et al., 1985) and in Fildes Peninsula (Barsch et al. 1985; Barsch, 1996; Cheng et al., 1996). Four further active rock glaciers have been identified during the present study in King George and Livingston Island (Serrano and Lopez-Martinez, in prep.). The rock glaciers are located in marginal zones, between 300 m a.s.l. and sea level, which has been recently deglaciated, and principally under 70 m a.s.l, near 100 m under the Median Equilibrium Line Altitude (M.E.L.A.). There are indications of a recent diminution of activity, with blurred fronts, mass movements in fronts and sides, lichen colonization and glaciokarstic processes. All of these indicate an inherited dynamic of past conditions in lower altitudes.

References to rock glaciers are scarce in Antarctica, limited to a few examples in the Transantarctic Mountains, Victoria Land, South Georgia, James Ross Island and South Shetland Islands. The spatial pattern of rock glaciers indicates that they are more represented in the periphery of Antarctica than in the interior of the continent, and are particularly numerous in the Antarctic Peninsula region.

Current storage of data:

Paper                          X
Wordprocesosr file     X


Dpto. Geografia, Urbanismo y O.T. Universidad de Cantabria Av. de Los Castros s/n 39005 SANTANDER SPAIN E-mail: Fax. +34-42-201783

Are your data at risk of being lost? NO


BARSCH, D.1996. Rochglaciers. Indicators for the present and former geoecology in high mountain environments. Springer Verlag, Berlin. 331 p.

BARSCH, D., BLUEMEL, W.D., FLUEGEL, W.A., MAUSBACHER, R., STAEBLEIN, G., ZICK, W.1985. Untersuchungen zum Periglazial auf der Koenig George-Insel, Suedshetlandinseln, Antarktika. Ber Polarforsch, 24 :75.

BIRKENMAJER, K.1981. Lichenometric dating of raised marine beaches at Admiralty Bay, King George Island (South Shetland Islands, West Antarctica). Bulletin de L'Academie Polonaise des Sciences, vol. XXIX, 2 :119-127.

BOCKHEIM, J.G.1995. Permafrost distribution in the Southern Circumpolar region and its relation to the environment: a review and recommendations for further research. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, 6 :27-45.

CHENG, Z., ZHIJIU, C.; JIANXIN, Z.1996. Relatonship between the distribution of periglacial landforms and glaciation history, Fildes Peninsula, King George islands Antarctica. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, 7 : 95-100.

LOPEZ-MARTINEZ, J., MARTINEZ DE PISON, E., ARCHE, A. 1992a. Geomorphology of Hurd Peninsula, Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands. In Yoshida, Y. et al. Recent Progress in Antarctic Earth Science, Terrapub, Tokio :751-756.

LOPEZ-MARTINEZ, J., VILAPLANA, J.M., MARTINEZ DE PISÄN, E., CALVET, J. ARCHE, A., SERRAT, D., PALLAS, R. 1992b.- Geomorphology of selected areas in Livingston Island, South Shetland IslandS. In Lopez-Martinez, J. Geologia de la Antartida Occidental, III Congreso Geologico de Espana, T-III Salamanca :271-281.

MARTINEZ DE PISON, E., LOPEZ-MARTINEZ, J., ARCHE, A. 1991. Formas y depositos de la zona de Johnsons Dock. Mapa geomorfol·gico. Isla Livingston. Shetland del Sur, Antartida. Eria, Revista de Geografia, 24-25 :39-45.

SERRANO, E.; LOPEZ-MARTINEZ, J.(In prep.).- Rock glaciers in the South Shetland Islands.


South Shetland Island
Rock glaciers
Inventory of rock glaciers
Rock glacier information system

Please cite these data as follows:

Serrano, E. 1998. Rock glaciers on South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula In: International Permafrost Association, Data and Information Working Group, comp. Circumpolar Active-Layer Permafrost System (CAPS), version 1.0. CD-ROM available from National Snow and Ice Data Center, Boulder, Colorado: NSIDC, University of Colorado at Boulder