Germans discovered and named Booth Island.
Argentine maps say it’s in Antartida Argentina.
Chilean maps class it as Territorio Antártico Chileno.
It’s also said to be part of the British Antarctic Territory.
Belgians called it Wandel Island.
All of these countries are signatories to the Antarctic Treaty, which freezes all claims to Antarctica and nearby islands, so maybe it doesn’t belong to anyone.
I went to Booth Island as part of a cruise on the MV Lyubov Orlova. I would say that we left from the south of Argentina, but as Argentina claims land all the way to the South Pole, this might create confusion. Instead, I will say that we left from Ushuaia: a city on the main island of Tierra del Fuego, just below the South American continent.
Argentina’s dispute over the ownership of the Falkland Islands led to a war. The Antarctic claims haven’t, but they’re more than theoretical. As an Australian, I was allowed to be in Argentina for 90 days. If I wanted to stay longer, I had to leave and come back.
I arrived in Buenos Aires from Peru on 17 October 2007. My flight home was booked for 22 January 2008: 97 days later.
At first I thought – I’m off to Antarctica before the time expires, so I’ll get another 90 days when I return to Argentina. But I realised – hang on – as far as the Argentine authorities are concerned, I’m not leaving the country; I’m just going to another part of it. So in December, I had a weekend in Colonia, Uruguay.
I was right. They didn’t stamp my passport in or out of Ushuaia.
It took two days to cross the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula. Once we got there, about three times a day, we’d travel in small Zodiac boats from the ship. Usually, we landed on islands, but twice we went to the mainland.
We could walk around for a few hours, though usually not very far. Booth Island wasn’t on the original itinerary, which made it a special surprise.