Champ Island lays in the interior of Franz-Josef-Land Archipels and ranks among the medium-sized islands with a maximal diameter of ca. 27 km and an area of ca. 374 km². The interior of the island is mountainous, with flat tabular tops, and is heavily glaciated. More than half of the coast lines are glacier ice fronts, interrupted by several distinctive capes and steep ice-free slopes - for instance Cape Kjeldsen to the West, Cape Tchkalova (earlier: Cape Clare, southwest), Cape Fiume (south), Cape Triest (Southeast). Towards the East, the Pohndorff Narrows with glacier fronts on both sides and partly just a few 100 m wide, separates Champ from its next neighbour, Salisbury Island.
Like most parts of Franz-Joseph-Land, also Champ consists of horizontaly mesozoic sediment layers, separated by partly mighty intrusive magmatic rocks, which are responsible for clearly visible sharp steps in mountain slopes and especially the clearly cut edges of the tabular mountain tops - due to their higher resistance to erosion.
An almost unique phenomenon, even on world scale, are the up to 3 m big stone spheres (geodes) of Champ, especially at Cape Triest. Geodes develop hidden inside the sediment layers, starting usually from a core like a small fossil, which contains certain organic and sulphuric substances. By a combination of chemical processes and migration and accumulation of substances within the rock (therefore also called concretions), the geode forms - typically being harder and heavier in the end than the surrounding normal rock. Once the sedimentary rock erodes away on the surface, the geodes will be set free and lay on the surface. Also at Cape Triests, numerous geodes of all sizes can be found higher up in the slope, still partly stuck in the crumbling rock faces. Geodes are nothing unusual in principle, small ones are quite common in many places, not necessarily round. The special thing about Cape Triest is the unusual size and partly almost perfect round shape of some of them - something comparable is known only from a beach in New Zealand.
The southern side of Champ was partly mapped by the TEGETTHOFF expedition already in spring 1874 (hence the names: Cape Fiume, Cape Triest), as the sledge tour participants could see these promontories and tops in the distance from their route on Austria Channel, as well as from their climb of Cape Brünn of McClintock Island - but as Payer imagined them to be part of the long coast line of what he interpreted as one big Zichy Land, he did not realize that they were part of an own island, separate from neighbours Luigi and Salisbury.
The remaining mapping was accomplished only during the Fiala-Ziegler-Expedition 1903-05., which determined thereby also its island character, separated from neighbouring islands Luigi and Salisbury by narrow channels.
Otherwise, Champ played no special role in the history of the archipelago, which changed only since the 1990s with its increasing popularity as an excursion destination in tourism due to the famous geodes of Cape Trieste. In 2007, the expedition leader of a cruise ship was even forced to accept the removal of one of these geodes by the ship helicopter onto the wessel and out of the nature reserve of Franz Josef Land for the private collection of a rich russian - otherwise, he was threatened, his company would get no future permissions for visits of the archipelago, anymore.
Names: Only the Fiala-Ziegler Expedition found out in 1904, that this was an island of its own, which received its name after William S. Champ, the secretary of the expedition sponsor William Ziegler. Champ was much involved in the preparations of the expedition and in 1905 also in the organisation of the rescue expedtion, after the expedition vessel AMERICA had been crushed by the ice during the wintering in Teplitz Bay of Rudolf Iinsel in winter 1903/04.
Cape Fiume and Cape Triest received their names already in 1874 by the austrian-hungarian TEGETTHOFF expedition, commemorating at that time austro-hungarian cities at the Adria coast.
The Ziegler expeditions (1901-05) named also Cape Clare (today Cape Tchkalowa) and Cape Kjeldsen (today Cape Goristiy).
See also: Travel
Main attraction on Champ are the geodes in attractive landscape surroundings at Cape Triest. Originally, the place fascinated by stone balls in all sizes, including thousands down to just a few centimetres. Unfortunately, maybe two dozen land calls of ships during the years since 1991 have been enough to loot Cape Triest of most of the smaller spheres, which disappeared in tourist pockets and most likely most of them have been thrown away since in the home places of the travellers or will end that way, when their heirs don´t have any sense for them. Only the bigger sizes, too big to be taken as souvenirs, are still there, including the famous really big ones. Of course, new geodes will erode free, but not as fast. Therefore, visitors should abstain from the temptation of picking geodes as souvenirs to preserve the unique character of the place.
In the lower areas under the geodes field, there is also an interesting flora including not only flowers but also mosses and less attention-attracting plants, and east of it, some skuas are breeding on the ground - plus the bird colonies up in the rock face of the cape. To avoid damages, landings should focus onto the mound and bed of the little stream coming down from the geodes zone as an access route and should avoid entering the vegetation and birdlife zones east of the stream.
Inspite of all fascination of the geodes: do not miss also some other features of this landing site: some nice erosion structures in the sand stone along the glacier to the west, a walk on the ice-free glacier ice, and a careful look into the ice front of the glacier, which can be approached from the beach. Attention: be careful in case of an ice calving from the front, which can cause impressive flood waves: always be prepared for an immediate escape upwards.
Due to highly differing and changing ice conditions both out in Markham and Yermak Sound, and right in front of the beach, landings are not always possible by boat.