The accumulation, isotopic and chemical signals of an ice core from James Ross Island, Antarctica, are investigated for the interval from 1967 to 2008. Over this interval, comparison with station, satellite and reanalysis data allows for a detailed assessment of the environmental information preserved in the ice. Accumulation at James Ross Island is enhanced during years when the circumpolar westerlies are weak, allowing more precipitation events to reach the northeastern Antarctic Peninsula. The stable water isotope composition of the ice core has an interannual temperature dependence consistent with the spatial isotope‐temperature gradient across Antarctica, and preserves information about both summer and winter temperature variability in the region. Sea salts in the ice core are derived from open water sources in the marginal sea ice zone to the north of James Ross Island and transported to the site by strengthened northerly and westerly winds in the winter. A strong covariance with temperature means that the sea salt record may be able to be utilized, in conjunction with the isotope signal, as an indicator of winter temperature. Marine biogenic compounds in the ice core are derived from summer productivity within the sea ice zone to the south of James Ross Island. This source region may have become significant only in recent decades, when the collapse of nearby ice shelves established new sites of open water with high summer productivity. These findings provide a foundation for interpreting the environmental signals in the James Ross Island ice core, which extends though the whole Holocene and represents the oldest ice core that has been recovered from the Antarctic Peninsula region.