South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands: Wikis

Advertisements
  
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
Flag Coat of arms
Motto"Leo Terram Propriam Protegat"  (Latin)
"Let the Lion protect his own land"
or "May the Lion protect his own land"
Anthem"God Save the Queen"
Capital King Edward Point (Grytviken)
Official language(s) English
Government British Overseas Territory
 -  Head of State Queen Elizabeth II
 -  Commissioner Alan Huckle
Area
 -  Total 3,903 km2 
1,507 sq mi 
Population
 -  2006 estimate 30 (n/a)
 -  Density 0.005/km2 (n/a)
0.013/sq mi
Currency Pound sterling (GBP)
Time zone (UTC-2)
Drives on the left
Internet TLD .gs

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) is a British overseas territory in the southern Atlantic Ocean. It is a remote and inhospitable collection of islands, consisting of South Georgia and a chain of smaller islands, the South Sandwich Islands. South Georgia is 167.4 kilometres (104.0 mi) long and 1.4 to 37 km (0.87 to 23 miles) wide[1] and is by far the largest island in the territory. The South Sandwich Islands lie about 520 kilometres (320 mi) to the south-east of South Georgia.[1] The total land area of the territory is 3,903 square kilometres (1,507 sq mi).[2]

There is no native population on any of the islands, and the only present inhabitants are the British Government Officer, Deputy Postmaster, scientists, and support staff from the British Antarctic Survey who maintain scientific bases at Bird Island and at the capital, King Edward Point, as well as museum staff at nearby Grytviken.

Distraught members of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition made an emergency crossing of South Georgia without proper equipment (see also Voyage of the James Caird#South Georgia).

The United Kingdom claimed sovereignty over South Georgia in 1775 and the South Sandwich Islands in 1908. In 1908 the United Kingdom annexed both South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The territory of "South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands" was formed in 1985; previously it had been governed as part of the Falkland Islands Dependencies. Argentina claimed South Georgia in 1927, and the South Sandwich Islands in 1938.

Argentina maintained a naval station, Corbeta Uruguay on Thule Island in the South Sandwich Islands from 1976 until 1982 when it was closed by the Royal Navy. The Argentine claim over South Georgia contributed to the 1982 Falklands War, during which Argentine forces briefly occupied the Island. Argentina continues to claim sovereignty of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Contents

History

Advertisements

South Georgia

Map by James Cook (1777, South-up)
Central South Georgia: Cumberland Bay; Thatcher Peninsula with King Edward Cove (Grytviken); Allardyce Range with the summit Mt. Paget (NASA imagery).

The Island of South Georgia is said to have been first sighted in 1675 by Anthony de la Roché, a London merchant, and was named Roche Island on a number of early maps. It was sighted by a commercial Spanish ship named León operating out of Saint-Malo on 28 June or 29 June 1756.[3]

In 1775 Captain James Cook circumnavigated the island, made the first landing, claimed the territory for the Kingdom of Great Britain, and named it "the Isle of Georgia" in honour of King George III. British arrangements for the government of South Georgia were first established under the 1843 British Letters Patent.

In 1882 a German expedition sent out to observe the transit of Venus was stationed at Royal Bay on the south-east side of the island.

Throughout the 19th century South Georgia was a sealers' base and, in the following century, a whalers' base until whaling ended in the 1960s. The first land-based whaling station, and first permanent habitation, was established at Grytviken in 1904 by Norwegian Carl Anton Larsen. It operated through his Argentine Fishing Company, which settled in Grytviken.[4][5] The station remained in operation until 1965.

Whaling stations operated under leases granted by the (British) Governor of the Falkland Islands. The seven stations, all on the north coast with its sheltered harbours were, starting from the west:

  • Prince Olav Harbour (from 1911–1916 factory ship and small station, land-based station 1917–1931)
  • Leith Harbour (1909–1965)
  • Stromness (from 1907 factory ship, land-based station 1913–1931, repair yard to 1960/1961)
  • Husvik (from 1907 factory ship, land-based station 1910–1960, not in operation 1930–1945)
  • Grytviken (1904–1964)
  • Godthul (1908–1929, only a rudimentary land base, main operations on factory ship)
  • Ocean Harbour (1909–1920)

With the end of the whaling industry the stations were abandoned. Apart from a few preserved buildings such as the museum and church at Grytviken, only their decaying remains survive.

The church at Grytviken.
This photograph was taken by Frank Hurley during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition

From 1905 the Argentine Meteorological Office cooperated in maintaining the meteorological observatory at Grytviken under the British lease requirements of the whaling station until these changed in 1949.

In 1908 the United Kingdom issued a further Letters Patent to establish constitutional arrangements for its possessions in the South Atlantic. As well as South Georgia, the Letters Patent covered the South Orkneys, the South Shetlands, the South Sandwich Islands, and Graham Land. (The claim was extended in 1917 to also include a sector of Antarctica reaching to the South Pole.)

From 1909 an administrative centre and residence was established at King Edward Point on South Georgia, near the whaling station of Grytviken. A permanent local British administration and resident Magistrate exercised effective possession, enforcement of British law, and regulation of all economic, scientific and other activities in the territory, which was then governed as the Falkland Islands Dependencies.

In about 1912, what is according to some accounts the largest whale ever caught, a blue whale of 33.58 metres, was landed at Grytviken.[6][7]

In April 1916, Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition became stranded on Elephant Island, some 800 miles south west of South Georgia. Shackleton and five companions set out in a small boat to summon help, and on May 10, after an epic voyage, they landed at King Haakon Bay on South Georgia's south coast. While three stayed at the coast, Shacketon and other two companions went on to cover 22 miles overland to reach help at Stromness whaling station. The remaining 22 members of the expedition, who had stayed on Elephant Island, were all subsequently rescued. In January 1922, during a later expedition, Shackleton died on board ship off South Georgia. He is buried at Grytviken.

Argentina claimed South Georgia in 1927.[8]

Historical and modern settlements of South Georgia Island

During World War II, the Royal Navy deployed an armed merchant vessel to patrol South Georgian and Antarctic waters against German raiders, along with two four-inch shore guns (still present) protecting Cumberland Bay and Stromness Bay, manned by volunteers from among the Norwegian whalers. The base at King Edward Point was expanded as a research facility in 1949/1950 by the British Antarctic Survey (until 1962 called Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey).

The Falklands War was precipitated on 19 March 1982 when a group of Argentinians, posing as scrap metal merchants, occupied the abandoned whaling station at Leith Harbour on South Georgia. On April 3 the Argentine troops attacked and occupied Grytviken. Among the commanding officers of the Argentine Garrison was Alfredo Astiz, a Captain in the Argentine Navy who, years later, was convicted of felonies committed during the Dirty War in Argentina.

The island was recaptured by British forces on 25 April in Operation Paraquet. From 1985, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands ceased to be administered as a Falkland Islands Dependency and became a separate territory. The King Edward Point base, which had become a small military garrison after the Falklands war, returned to civilian use in 2001 and is now operated by the British Antarctic Survey.

South Sandwich Islands

The southern eight islands of the Sandwich Islands Group were discovered by James Cook in 1775 (though he lumped the southernmost three together as Southern Thule, and their separate insularity was not established until 1820, by Bellingshausen[9]). The northern three islands were discovered by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen in 1819. The islands were named "Sandwich Land" by Cook after the 4th Earl of Sandwich, 1st Lord of the Admiralty. The word "South" was later added to distinguish them from the "Sandwich Islands," now known as Hawaii.

The United Kingdom formally annexed the South Sandwich Islands through the 1908 Letters Patent, grouping them with other British-held territory in Antarctica as the Falkland Islands Dependencies.

Argentina claimed the South Sandwich Islands in 1938, and challenged British sovereignty in the Islands on several occasions. From January 25, 1955, through summer of 1956 Argentina maintained the summer station Teniente Esquivel at Ferguson Bay on the southeastern coast of Thule Island. From 1976 to 1982, Argentina maintained a naval base named Corbeta Uruguay, in the lee (southern east coast) of the same island. Although the British discovered the presence of the Argentine base in 1978, protested and tried to resolve the issue by diplomatic means, no effort was made to remove them by force until after the Falklands War. The base was eventually removed on June 20, 1982.

On 10 February 2008, a small earthquake of magnitude 6.5 on the Richter Scale had its epicentre 205 km (127 mi) SSE of Bristol Island.[10] On 30 June 2008 at 06:17:53 UTC, an earthquake of magnitude 7.0 struck the region. Its epicentre was at 58.160S 21.893W, 283 km (176 mi) ENE (73 degrees) of Bristol Island.[11]

Geography

CIA map of the Islands.

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are a collection of bleak and remote islands in the South Atlantic Ocean. Most of the islands, rising steeply from the sea, are rugged and mountainous. At higher elevations the islands are permanently covered with ice and snow.

South Georgia Group

The South Georgia Group (Spanish name Georgias del Sur) lies about 1,390 kilometres (864 mi) east-southeast of the Falkland Islands, at 54°–55°S, 36°–38°W. It comprises South Georgia Island itself (by far the largest island in the territory), along with the islands that immediately surround it and some remote and isolated islets to the west and east-southeast. It has a total land area of 3,756 square kilometres (1,450 sq mi), including satellite islands (but excluding the South Sandwich Islands which form a separate island group).

Islands in the South Georgia Group

South Georgia Island (San Pedro in Spanish), lies at 54°15′S 36°45′W / 54.25°S 36.75°W / -54.25; -36.75Coordinates: 54°15′S 36°45′W / 54.25°S 36.75°W / -54.25; -36.75 and has an area of 3,528 km2 (1,362 sq mi). It is mountainous and largely barren. Eleven peaks rise to over 2,000 metres (6,562 ft) high, their slopes furrowed with deep gorges filled with glaciers (Fortuna Glacier being the largest). The highest peak is Mount Paget in the Allardyce Range at 2,934 metres (9,626 ft).

Geologically, the island consists of gneiss and argillaceous schists, with no trace of fossils, showing that the island is, like the Falkland Islands, a surviving fragment of some greater land-mass now vanished, most probably indicating a former extension of the Andean system.

Smaller islands and islets off the coast of South Georgia Island include:

View of Grytviken.

The following remote rocks are also considered part of the South Georgia Group:

South Sandwich Islands

NASA satellite photograph of Montagu Island

The South Sandwich Islands (Spanish name: Islas Sandwich del Sur) comprise 11 mostly volcanic islands (excluding tiny satellite islands and offshore rocks), with some active volcanoes. They form an island arc running from north to south in the region 56°18'–59°27'S, 26°23'–28°08'W, between about 350 miles (563 km) and 500 miles (805 km) south east of South Georgia.

The northernmost of the South Sandwich Islands form the Traversay Islands and Candlemas Islands groups, while the southernmost make up Southern Thule. The three largest islands – Saunders, Montagu and Bristol – lie between the two. The Islands' highest point is Mount Belinda (1,370 m / 4,495 ft) on Montagu Island.

The South Sandwich Islands are uninhabited, though a permanently manned Argentine research station was located on Thule Island from 1976 to 1982 (for details, see "History" section above). There are automatic weather stations on Thule (Morrell) Island and Zavodovski. To the northwest of Zavodovski Island is the Protector Shoal, a submarine volcano.

The following table lists the South Sandwich Islands from north to south:

Island (Spanish Name) Area Highest Peak Location
Traversay Islands
Protector Shoal -27 m (-89 ft) 55°54′S 28°06′W / 55.9°S 28.1°W / -55.9; -28.1 (Protector Shoal)
Zavodovski 25 km2 (10 sq mi) Mount Curry: 550 m (1,804 ft) 56°18′S 27°34′W / 56.3°S 27.567°W / -56.3; -27.567 (Zavodovski)
Leskov 0.3 km2 (0.1 sq mi) Rudder Point: 190 m (623 ft) 56°40′S 28°08′W / 56.667°S 28.133°W / -56.667; -28.133 (Leskov)
Visokoi 35 km2 (14 sq mi) Mount Hodson: 915 m (3,002 ft) 56°42′S 27°13′W / 56.7°S 27.217°W / -56.7; -27.217 (Visokoi)
Candlemas Islands (sometimes included with Traversay Islands)
Candlemas (Candelaria) 14 km2 (5 sq mi) Mount Andromeda: 550 m (1,804 ft) 57°05′S 26°39′W / 57.083°S 26.65°W / -57.083; -26.65 (Candlemas)
Vindication (Vindicación) 5 km2 (2 sq mi) Quadrant Peak: 430 m (1,411 ft) 57°06′S 26°47′W / 57.1°S 26.783°W / -57.1; -26.783 (Vindication)
Central islands
Saunders 40 km2 (15 sq mi) Mount Michael: 990 m (3,248 ft) 57°48′S 26°28′W / 57.8°S 26.467°W / -57.8; -26.467 (Saunders)
Montagu (Jorge) 110 km2 (42 sq mi) Mount Belinda: 1,370 m (4,495 ft) 58°25′S 26°23′W / 58.417°S 26.383°W / -58.417; -26.383 (Montagu)
Bristol (Blanca) 46 km2 (18 sq mi) Mount Darnley: 1,100 m (3,609 ft) 59°03′S 26°30′W / 59.05°S 26.5°W / -59.05; -26.5 (Bristol)
Southern Thule (Tule del Sur)
Bellingshausen 1 km2 (0.4 sq mi) Basilisk Peak: 255 m (837 ft) 59°25′S 27°05′W / 59.417°S 27.083°W / -59.417; -27.083 (Bellingshausen)
Cook 20 km2 (8 sq mi) Mount Harmer: 1,115 m (3,658 ft) 59°26′S 27°09′W / 59.433°S 27.15°W / -59.433; -27.15 (Cook)
Thule or Morrell Island 14 km2 (5 sq mi) Mount Larsen: 710 m (2,329 ft) 59°27′S 27°18′W / 59.45°S 27.3°W / -59.45; -27.3 (Thule)
Vysokaya Bank ? 59°43′S 27°58′W / 59.717°S 27.967°W / -59.717; -27.967 (Protector Shoal)
South Sandwich Islands 310 km2 (120 sq mi) Mount Belinda: 1,370 m (4,495 ft)

A series of six passages separates each of the islands or island groups in the chain. They are, from north to south: Zavodovski I. — Traverse passage — Visokoi I. — Brown's passage — Candlemas Is. — Shackleton's passage — Saunders I. — Larsen's passage — Montagu I. — Biscoe's passage — Bristol I. — Forster's passage — Southern Thule.

Climate

NASA satellite image of South Georgia Island covered with snow.
The South Sandwich Islands conspire with air currents to make wave patterns in clouds.

The permanently cold sea maintains a cold maritime climate on the islands, and the weather is very variable and harsh.[citation needed] Typical daily maximum temperatures in South Georgia at sea level are around 0°C (32°F) in winter (August) and 8°C (46°F) in summer (January). Winter minimum temperatures are typically about −5°C (23°F) and rarely dip below −10°C (14°F). Annual precipitation in South Georgia is about 1500 mm (59 in), much of which falls as sleet or snow, which is possible in any month. Inland, the snow line in summer is at an altitude of about 300m.

Westerly winds blow throughout the year interspersed with periods of calm. This gives the eastern side of South Georgia (leeward side) a much more pleasant climate than the exposed western side. The prevailing weather conditions generally make the islands difficult to approach by ship, though the north coast of South Georgia has several large bays which provide good anchorage.

During mountain wind conditions, the winds blow straight up the western side and straight down the eastern side of the mountains and become much warmer and drier; this produces the most pleasant conditions when temperatures can occasionally rise over 20 °C (68 °F) on summer days. The highest ever recorded temperature was 23.5 °C (74 °F) at Grytviken.[12]

The seas surrounding South Georgia are cold throughout the year due to the proximity of the Antarctic Current. They usually remain free of pack ice in winter, though thin ice may form in sheltered bays, and icebergs are common.[13] Sea temperatures drop to 0 °C (32 °F) in late August and rise to around 4 °C (39 °F) only in early April.

The South Sandwich Islands are much colder than South Georgia, being further south and more exposed to cold outbreaks from the Antarctic continent. They are also surrounded by sea ice from the middle of May to late November (even longer at their southern end).[14]

Politics

Executive power is vested in The Queen and is exercised by the Commissioner, a post held by the Governor of the Falkland Islands. The current Commissioner is Alan Huckle; he became Commissioner on 25 August 2006. A Senior Executive Officer (Martin Collins) deals with policy matters and is also Director of SGSSI Fisheries, responsible for the allocation of fishing licences. An Executive Officer (Richard McKee) deals with administrative matters relating to the territory. There is also an Environmental Officer (Darren Christie). The Financial Secretary and Attorney General of the territory are appointed ex officio similar appointments in the Falkland Islands' Government.

As there are no permanent inhabitants on the islands, there is no legislative council and no elections are held. The UK Foreign Office manages the foreign relations of the territory. Since 1982, the territory celebrates Liberation Day on June 14.

The constitution of the territory (adopted 3 October 1985), the manner in which its government is directed, and the availability of judicial review were discussed in a series of litigations in 2001 to 2005; see in particular Regina v. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Appellant) ex parte Quark Fishing Limited [2005] UKHL 57.[15] Although its government is entirely directed by the UK Foreign Office, it was held that its decisions under that direction could not be challenged as if they were in law decisions of a UK government department; thus the European Convention on Human Rights did not apply.

Economy

This postage stamp depicting a fin whale was issued in 1963.

As there are no native inhabitants, economic activity in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is limited. The territory has revenues of UK£3.9 million, 90% of which is derived from fishing licences (2002 figures).[16] Other sources of revenue are the sale of postage stamps and coins, tourism and customs and harbour dues.

Fishing

Fishing takes place around South Georgia and in adjacent waters in some months of the year, with fishing licences sold by the territory for Patagonian toothfish, cod icefish and krill. Fishing licences bring in millions of pounds a year, most of which is spent on fishery protection and research. All fisheries are regulated and managed in accordance with the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) system.

In 2001, the South Georgia government received a certificate from the Marine Stewardship Council for its sustainable Patagonian toothfish fishery, which certifies that they met the MSC's environmental standards and places limits on the timing and quantity of Patagonian toothfish that may be caught.[17]

Tourism

Tourism has become a larger source of income in recent years, with many cruise ships and sailing yachts visiting the islands (the only way to visit South Georgia is by sea). The territory gains income from landing charges and the sale of souvenirs. Cruise ships often combine a Grytviken visit with a trip to the Antarctic Peninsula.

Charter yacht visits usually begin in the Falkland Islands, last between four and six weeks, and enable guests to visit remote harbors of South Georgia and even the South Sandwich Islands. Sailing vessels are now required to anchor out and can no longer tie up to the old whaling piers on shore.[citation needed] The island has also featured in the Warren Miller video 'Storm'.

Postage stamps

A large source of income from abroad also comes from the issue of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands postage stamps which are produced in the UK.

A reasonable policy (few sets of stamps are issued each year) along with attractive subject matter (especially whales) makes them very popular with topical stamp collectors.

There are only four genuine first day cover sets from 16 March 1982 available. These stamps were stamped actually at the South Georgia Post Office, all those in circulation were stamped elsewhere and sent out, but the only genuine ones were kept at the Post Office on South Georgia. These four sets were removed by a member of staff of the British Antarctic Survey in the few moments the Argentinians allowed them to gather their belongings. Everything else was torched, but these four sets were saved and brought back to the UK by Dr Robert Headland, BAS, who kept a diary during his captivity. Upon his return to the UK the diary was typed up and subsequently published, the typist of the manuscript was given the Insects set as payment.

Currency

The pound sterling is the official currency of the islands, and the same notes and coins are used as in the United Kingdom. For more information on British currency in the wider region see the Sterling Currency in the South Atlantic and the Antarctic.

Flora and fauna

Southern Giant Petrel on South Georgia Island
120,000 King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) on Salisbury Plain.
Wandering Albatross at South Georgia Island

The parts of the islands that are not permanently covered in snow or ice are part of the Scotia Sea Islands tundra ecoregion. Native vegetation on South Georgia is limited to grasses, mosses, lichens, ferns and a few other small flowering plants. A number of other introduced species have become naturalised. There are no trees or shrubs.

South Georgia supports a great number of sea birds, including albatross, a large colony of King Penguins and penguins of various other species, along with petrels, prions, shags, skuas, gulls and terns. There is one songbird which is unique to the archipelago, the South Georgia Pipit, and a duck, the South Georgia Pintail.

Seals are frequent on the islands, and whales may be seen in the surrounding waters. There are no native land mammals, though reindeer, introduced early in the 20th century, live on South Georgia, along with brown rats and mice. The latter have destroyed tens of millions of ground-nesting birds’ eggs and chicks, and scientists plan to eradicate the rats over four years starting 2011. It will be by far the largest rodent eradication attempt in the world to date.[18][19]

Military

After the Falklands War in 1982, a full-time British military presence was maintained at King Edward Point on South Georgia. This was scaled down during the 1990s, and the last detachment left South Georgia in March 2001, when the new station was built and occupied by the British Antarctic Survey.

The main British military facility in the region is at RAF Mount Pleasant (and Mare Harbour) on East Falkland. Other than that, a handful of British naval vessels patrol the region. They visit South Georgia a few times each year, sometimes deploying small patrols of infantry. Flights by RAF C-130 Hercules and Vickers VC10 aircraft occasionally patrol the territory.

HMS Endurance, the British Royal Navy ice patrol ship, operates in the South Georgia area during part of most southern summer seasons. She carries out hydrological and mapping work as well as assisting with scientific fieldwork for the British Antarctic Survey, high-profile film and photographic units, and youth expedition group BSES Expeditions.

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b Google Earth
  2. ^ CIA - The World Factbook 2002 - South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
  3. ^ Historia de las Relaciones Exteriores de la Argentina
  4. ^ La Infanteria de Marina en el conflicto del Atlantico Sur, Jorge Alberto Erecaborde. The original quote in Spanish is: La Compañia Argentina de Pesca SA, al amparo de las leyes argentinas y bajo su bandera, se instala en Grytviken".
  5. ^ Historia General de las Relaciones Exteriores de la República Argentina
  6. ^ The Island of South Georgia, The Whaling Museum, Sandefjord, Norway
  7. ^ Whaling, South Georgia Heritage Trust
  8. ^ R.K. Headland, The Island of South Georgia, Cambridge University Press, 1984. p. 238.
  9. ^ Exploring polar frontiers: a historical encyclopedia, Volume 2, p. 157, William James Mills, 2003
  10. ^ 2008 February 10: Magnitude 6.5 - South Sandwich Islands region: USGS.
  11. ^ http://neic.usgs.gov (U.S. Geological Survey)
  12. ^ Extreme Temperatures Around the World
  13. ^ South Georgia official website – environment – ocean
  14. ^ General Survey of Climatology V12, 2001, Edited by Landsberg, Elsevier publishing
  15. ^ Quark Fishing Ltd, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2005] UKHL 57 (13 October 2005)
  16. ^ Commonwealth Secretariat website
  17. ^ Whole Foods Market (2006), "Welcome Back Chilean Sea Bass!", Whole Foods Market 
  18. ^ Hastings, Chris (7 March 2010). "South Georgia to poison millions of rats". Times Online. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7052509.ece. Retrieved 8 March 2010. 
  19. ^ Connor, Steve (8 March 2010). "Ecologists turn exterminators in the great rat hunt". The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/ecologists-turn-exterminators-in-the-great-rat-hunt-1917801.html. Retrieved 8 March 2010. 

References

  • George Forster, A Voyage Round the World in His Britannic Majesty's Sloop Resolution Commanded by Capt. James Cook, during the Years 1772, 3, 4 and 5 (2 vols.) , London, 1777.
  • R.K. Headland, The Island of South Georgia, Cambridge University Press, 1984.

External links

Government
General information
Other



Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Islands of the Southern Ocean : South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
noframe
Flag
Image:Sx-flag.png
Quick Facts
Capital King Edward Point
Government overseas territory of United Kingdom
Area 3,903 sq km
Population no indigenous inhabitants; two staffed research stations
Electricity NA
Calling Code NA
Internet TLD .gs

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands [1] are two groups of sub-Antarctic islands of the Southern Ocean east of the southern tip of South America, north of Antarctica. The islands are an overseas territory of the United Kingdom that are administered from the Falkland Islands, but are also claimed by Argentina.

  • South Georgia Island
  • The South Sandwich Islands - Nine uninhabited islands.
  • Shag Rocks - Shag rocks consists of bare rocks that rise high above the oceans west of South Georgia and are home to vast numbers of seabirds.
  • Black Rock
  • Clerke Rocks

Research Stations

While whalers and seal hunters built settlements on these islands, the only permanent settlements today are at the various research bases. A "city" in these islands may consist of no more than five people during the winter months.

  • King Edward Point - Seat of Government where the Government Officer resides. Is the port of entry and home of the Fishery Research base run for the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) by the British Antarctic Survey.
  • Grytviken - One of several former whaling stations on South Georgia.
  • Bird Island - An island located at the north-west tip of South Georgia on which long-term research by the British Antarctic Survey is ongoing.

Understand

South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands are rugged islands, rising out of the Southern Ocean. There are no indigenous residents, very few people live here and only those who really want to make the trip end up coming.

The islands have played a minor role in history, including a brief occupation by Argentina during the Falklands War in 1982, the Falkland Islands themselves being 1000 km (621 miles) to the west. One famous previous visitor is Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, who used the islands as a staging post for his 1914 expedition. He is in fact buried in the small settlement of Grytviken.

As with the Falklands, Argentina still maintains a formal claim to the islands, however the British military presence on the islands came to an end in March 2001. Today, the King Edward Point station houses a permanent group of scientists from the British Antarctic Survey, which also maintains a biological station on Bird Island.

Get in

These islands are one of the most remote places in the world, with the only access being by sea. The Southern Ocean is one of the roughest in the world with storms that can make even the most hardened sailor feel ill.

Get around

Only competent mountaineers need try and travel overland, because of the glaciers. The best way to get around is by boat. If you have time come by yacht - specialist charterers operate out of Ushuaia and the Falklands. If time is tight come on a cruise ship. There are around 40 visits a year between November and March. In winter the snow is down to sea level and cross-country skis, or snowshoes, are the way to get about. In summer you can walk normally, at least down near the coast.

Talk

Should you find anyone to talk to, the language most commonly used is English. More than likely, however, your only companions will be those who come with you, so you can feel free to converse in any language you choose.

Buy

There is a small gift shop at Grytviken which will accept Falkland pounds, British pounds, American dollars and Euros. Most large ships visiting the islands will sell basic supplies (razors, shampoo, hats, snacks), but otherwise it is unlikely you will have any use for whatever money you bring with you.

Eat

It is illegal to kill or damage native flora or fauna so penguin egg omelettes and albatross chicks are off the menu.

  • The introduced dandelions make a good salad, washed and then tossed in oil and vinegar with beetroot and walnuts. Shooting the reindeer is prohibited except under licence from the Commissioner, but he is not likely to grant one unless you have a good reason.
  • You can fish with a rod and line and may catch a marbled rock cod, or possibly one of the other Antarctic fishes in the bays. Only catch enough to eat - they are protected, and while nobody minds you catching the odd one or two, you'll need to buy an expensive licence to catch commercial quantities. If you pass a commercial fishing vessel at sea, it is worth swinging by to see if they offer you any, but be very careful not to get in the way of their fishing gear.

Drink

While there is a small bar at King Edward Point, unless you're a researcher living at the station it's not a place that visitors have access to. As a result, all alcohol and other beverages should be brought with you.

Sleep

Anyone wishing to sleep ashore overnight must have their proposal vetted by the Government's Expeditions Advisory Panel. This process will cost you GBP£1000 per expedition. As a result, nearly all visitors to the islands sleep aboard ship at night.

Camping may be permitted in the Grytviken area without going through the expensive expedition application vetting process, but you will have to have transport and medical backup prearranged.

  • Beware of the sun - particularly during the September to November ozone hole season. Protect yourself with high protection factor cream (30+), a floppy hat and long sleeves. If going onto glaciers or snow this is vital as are good sunglasses.
  • Fur seal bites are capable of becoming very badly infected in a short period of time. If you get bitten, even just a scratch, you must clean the wound and get onto an appropriate course of antibiotics immediately (oxytetracycline is good for this application).
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid dehydration, particularly if it is windy.

Respect

Respect wildlife. It lives here, we don't. Breeding animals in particular are prone to disturbance.

Contact

During the summer mail may be left in Grytviken, and it is picked up whenever either a supply ship or a fishery patrol ship arrives - usually around once a month. The only other option for contacting the outside world is with a satellite phone, which most boats will make available at a charge of between US$2 and US$5 per minute.

There is no public Internet, phone or email access available on shore.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

English

Wikipedia

Proper noun

Singular
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

Plural
-

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

  1. A British-owned territory of inhospitable islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

Translations


Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message