Location - 1290 km (800miles) south east of the Falkland Islands
in the South Atlantic Ocean, part of the "Scotia Arc"
Overseas dependency of the UK also claimed by Argentina
Territory - 3755sq.km. total
- Small settlement at Grytviken
- Permanently manned British Antarctic Survey base
of up to 18 people
Point - Mt. Paget 2934m (9535ft)
South Sandwich Islands
- 750 km (470 miles) south east of South Georgia
in the South Atlantic Ocean, part of the "Scotia Arc"
dependency of the UK also claimed by Argentina
- 337sq.km. total
Georgia and the South Sandwich are sub-Antarctic islands.
They are usually grouped together because they are governed
together as a British overseas dependency.
The South Sandwich Islands are isolated and are not
often visited other than by survey ships on scientific
excursions. The prevailing weather conditions usually
make the approach difficult, they rise very steeply
out of the sea and are subject to active volcanism.
South Georgia on the other hand is one of the most
visited locations in Antarctica. It is spectacularly
picturesque and is frequently described as being "The
Alps in the mid-ocean". Over half the island is
permanently glaciated, wildlife is abundant, approaches
by sea usually straightforward and it is steeped in
the history of Antarctic exploration and of Antarctic
whalers and sealers.
The only access to South Georgia or the South Sandwich
Islands is by sea.
King Penguins in
a Mating Ritual March, South Georgia
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a magnificent Alpine country, illuminated by the
rising sun, rose slowly from the sea; there were
mighty fells with snowy crowns and with sharp, uncovered
teeth, around the valleys through which enormous,
broad rivers of ice came flowing to the sea.
J. Gunnar Andersson, 1902
King penguins in Gold Harbour South Georgia
Gigapan - panoramic
pictures made up of multiple images from a digital
camera stitched together, click the picture to pop-up
a new window and then explore the larger image.
This picture used courtesy of Ella Derbyshire.
Captain James Cook arrived at South Georgia
in 1775, in his report, he mentioned the large numbers of
elephant and fur seals. This soon came to the attention
of the sealing industry and so started what was to become
a bloody period in the history of South Georgia, but also
the driving force for much of the early exploration of Antarctica.
sealers were very secretive in order not to alert other
competitive sealing crews of the whereabouts or abundance
They even went as far on occasion to "let
slip" details of made-up islands in the hope that other
crews would waste their time looking for them (and on occasion
it worked) instead of working the known sealing grounds.
Records of early activities are therefore
rather scant, but it seems that sealers were certainly active
on South Georgia from 1786 onwards. The ship Aspasia,
collected 57,000 fur seal skins in the 1800/1801 season
alone. Sealing continued unabated until eventually (but
too late) attempts were made to limit catches, the sealing
industry had all but collapsed by 1830.
In 1916 only one single male fur seal
was seen on South Georgia, it was duly killed.
|Grytviken and King
Grytviken and abandoned whaling station
Whaling was the next industry to come to
South Georgia when a whaling station was established in what was
to become called Grytviken in King Edward Cove in 1904.
From then until the mid 1960's South Georgia was one of the
most important places in the world for the whaling industry. Whaling
stations were established in seven harbours on the island and thirteen
floating factory ships were also used during this time. The whaling
stations were abandoned in 1965 and never reopened. They now stand
as derelict reminders to the inglorious past. In recent years many
of the buildings have collapsed or become damaged to such an extent
that they are now closed to all visitors.
Grytviken is the one place on South Georgia still occupied
today by the scientists and crew of the British Antarctic Survey.
The name Grytviken means 'Pot Cove' after the sealers trypots
(used for recovering the blubber from seals) which were discovered
there. It is the best harbour on the island, being a bay within
South Georgia has strong historical links to the early days
of Antarctic exploration. It was visited by Sir Ernest Shackleton
and his ship at the start of his attempt to be the first expedition
to cross the Antarctic continent from coast to coast. It was also
the place where he and four other crew members arrived a year and
a half after their ship had been sunk in the Antarctic pack ice
in an attempt to rescue the remainder of the crew, left on Elephant
Island while Shackleton and his party went for help.
Some tour operators offer the chance to follow in Shackleton's
footsteps to trek across South Georgia from King Haakon Bay to Stromness
over the towering peaks of the islands back-bone, though with rather
better modern resources!
Grytviken is today the home of a museum to the history of
the island and is also the final resting place of Shackleton
who died here onboard his ship Quest in King Edward Cove
on January 5 1922 en-route to Antarctica. The grave is an often
visited site for many passing ships.
Grytviken South Georgia March 4, 2008
Gigapan picture used courtesy of Ella Derbyshire
As well as its fascinating
history, and stunning scenery, South Georgia has some of the greatest
concentrations of wildlife on earth.
Despite the historical massacre of numbers, more
than 2 million southern fur seals - 95 percent of the world's
population arrive at South Georgia each summer. Half the world's
population of southern elephant seals also come here to breed.
Six penguin species can be found on South Georgia,
Macaronis, regal and impressive Kings, cheeky Gentoos and relatively
rare (here at least) Adelie, Chinstraps and Rockhoppers. The penguins
that live on the island number in the millions, sometimes totally
covering entire hillsides.
250 000 albatrosses of a variety of species return
here each year, including the bird that has the largest wingspan
of all at 3m+, the spectacular wandering albatross.
An estimated 10 million other seabirds such as
various petrels and prions that nest underground are are nocturnal
in habit to avoid predators.
Two native species only found on South Georgia
are the South Georgia pipit, the only songbird in Antarctica, and
the South Georgia pintail, the world's only known carnivorous
A Must Visit
South Georgia may not be Antarctica proper,
but it is an absolutely fantastic place, whether for the
history, wildlife or the exhilaration of being in such an
unspoiled and spectacular environment.
A chain of islands, connected
by a low submarine ledge, forming an island arc. They were
discovered by Captain James Cook, in HMS Resolution, who
first sighted the southernmost island later called Southern Thule
on the 30th of January 1775. From North to South, the islands are:
A single volcanic cone, approximately 14.5 km (9 miles)
in circumference and 550m (1780 ft) in height. Constantly
erupting with hot smoke issuing from the cone.
There are around a million breeding pairs of chinstrap
penguins on Zavodovski Island, making it one of the
world's largest penguin colonies.
Zavadovski island is an occasional call on tourist
itineraries. The penguins appear as white dots against the
black volcanic earth. Every spare patch of land is covered
and the penguins disappear up the mountainside frequently
lost in the mist.
The Russian explorer Fabian von Bellinghausen landed
on Zavodovski in 1819.
Other islands in the South
Leskov Island: The smallest of the
group, a flat summit and precipitous on all sides.
Visokoi Island: Another single volcanic
Candlemass Island and Vindication Island:
These two lie about two miles apart and are separated by
the Nelson Channel. Candlemass has two peaks, Mount Andromeda
and Mount Perseus, there is also a volcanic cone, known as Lucifer
Saunders Island: Roughly crescent shaped.
In the middle of the island there is Mount Michael, a glaciated
but active volcanic cone.
Bristol Island: First sighted by James
Cook and is separated by the Forster Passage from;
Bellingshausen, Southern Thule and Cook
Islands: These form the most southerly of the group.
If you pass by the South Sandwich
Islands then make sure you remember the event
- if only to win
a game of one-up-manship one day!
If you land on one of the islands
you're either a scientist, hopelessly lost, in a state of
some desperation, or possibly a fortunate traveller come to
see the extraordinary sight of the penguins on Zavadovski Island
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After 25 years of cruising
the world's oceans, Pauline and Tim Carr spent five years as
the only civilian inhabitants of South Georgia.