South Georgia Newsletter, May 2008

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Passenger Limit of 500 Set for Cruise Ships

GSGSSI has set an upper limit of 500 passengers for cruise ships visiting South Georgia.


In his address to the 19th Annual General Meeting of IAATO(International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) in April, Executive Officer Richard McKee told IATTO company members that as part of the Government’s major legislative review a new visitor policy document has been prepared. There will be two important areas of policy change, one involving the management of larger cruise ships and one for management by privately owned vessels (especially large ones).


In future seasons visit permits will only be issued to vessels carrying a maximum of 500 passengers (with one exception that had already registered for the coming season). It is intended that vessels carrying more than 500 passengers will not be permitted to visit South Georgia or enter within 12nm of the territorial baselines.


GSGSSI is aware that there are increasing numbers of large privately owned vessels cruising in the Southern Ocean. Richard McKee said "Whilst private vessels are welcome to visit South Georgia our existing policy did not address the management issues that large private vessels pose, some of which now closely resemble small expedition cruise ships."


Privately owned vessels carrying 10 persons or less may be permitted to land passengers at all approved landing sites, whilst those carrying 11-20 persons on board may be permitted to land passengers at all approved landing sites, but may only land at Specially Protected Area landing sites when accompanied by a GSGSSI approved or designated observer to oversee landings. Privately owned vessels carrying more than 20 persons on board (including professional crew) will normally only be permitted to land passengers at Grytviken unless accompanied by an approved observer to oversee landings at all times.


Richard also made clear to IAATO members that in the future it is likely that there will be restrictions on the carriage and burning of heavy fuel oil: "GSGSSI is committed to reducing the risk of major environmental incident involving intermediate bunker fuel. Future regulations are likely to restrict all vessels to burning only distillate fuel such as DMA with tight restrictions in place on the carriage of specific densities of intermediate bunker fuel."


On site management Richard said "The first batch of Site Visitor Management Plans for St Andrews Bay, Cape Rosa, Cooper Bay Macaronis, Fortuna Whistle Cove, Godthul, Gold Harbour, Salisbury Plain, and Shackleton Walk will be available before the start of the next season." There will also be a revised set of procedures for visiting Prion Island: All visitors will be required to proceed directly to the new boardwalk after landing and remain on it at all times; numbers of visitors ashore at any one time will continue to be restricted; and the one vessel visit per day limit will remain.


The document 'South Georgia Update 2008' presented at the IAATO Meeting is available here.


"Prinsendam" en route to South Georgia. Cruise ships like this carrying more than 500 passengers will no longer be able to visit South Georgia.
"Prinsendam" en route to South Georgia. Cruise ships like this carrying more than 500 passengers will no longer be able to visit South Georgia.



GSGSSI Financial Statements for 2007 Published

GSGSSI Financial Statements for the year ending December 31st 2007 have been published on this website.


Two pie charts in the document show that the total income of £4,747,234 came mainly from sale of fishery licenses (80%), landing charges (11%), investment income (3%) and stamp sales (2%). Outgoings of £5,791,887 were mainly on fisheries management (50%), special expenditures which includes habitat restoration work and the hydroelectric project (28%), King Edward Point running costs (9%) and the Environmental Programme (2%).


There was an overall deficit for the year of £1,045,000 leaving a year end balance of £1,879,000. To see the Financial Statements in full, click here.



Fishing and Shipping News

The main South Georgia Toothfish season started on May 1st. Four longliners had been inspected and licensed before the beginning of the month and were on the fishery grounds ready to start fishing as soon as the fishery opened. A further four were inspected and licensed in the first few days of the month and the final two longliners joined the fishery mid-month. Early catches were reasonable.


One vessel anchored on the Hope Point anchorage for ten days after the ship failed inspection for not having immersion suits aboard or having biodegradable panels fitted in the pots it would be using to target Toothfish. Biodegradable panels are required in fishing pots in case the pots are lost at sea. Lost pots may continue to catch fish (ghost fishing), so biodegradable panels are built in. The panels rot quickly to minimise ghost fishing. Immersion suits and biodegradable twine were later delivered to the waiting vessel, enabling it to comply with licence requirements and start fishing The remaining longliner fishing in the South Sandwich Island Fishery completed its TAC (Total Allowable Catch) on May 8th and then sailed up to join the South Georgia Fishery. By the end of the month ten longliners were operating in the South Georgia Fishing Zone (SGFZ).


Two longliners transhipping, with the harbour launch to the right. Photo Steve Artis.
Two longliners transhipping, with the harbour launch to the right. Photo Steve Artis.



The first Krill trawler of the season. Photo Anjali Pande
The first Krill trawler of the season. Photo Anjali Pande

Two trawlers fished for Icefish in the SGFZ. On May 29th the first Krill trawler of the season arrived for inspection and licensing.


Royal Navy vessels were patrolling in the area at the end of the month. Exercise 'Cape Reach', a joint military and civilian exercise testing disaster response plans, will form part of the patrol. We will report on this visit and exercise next month.







New SG Publications Website Launched

A South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands publications database website has been developed by the Centre for Remote Environments (which encompasses Project Atlantis) with help and research by Professor David Walton. The site can be used to search a bibliographic database of approximately 700 publications from 1998 to 2008.


The site is located at http://www.sgpublications.gs.






SG Patrol Ship Assists During Ship Fire

The burnt out Korean trawler "Ocean 8" before she sank. Photo Stephen Luxton.
The burnt out Korean trawler "Ocean 8" before she sank. Photo Stephen Luxton.

The South Georgia Fishery Patrol Vessel "Pharos SG" stood by to assist emergency services in the Falkland Islands whilst Korean trawler "Ocean 8" was on fire in Berkeley Sound. A fire started aboard the "Ocean 8" on May 4th and the vessel burnt for several days. On May 11th "Pharos SG" was standing by to assist the emergency services when another vessel they were using had to leave the scene. "Ocean 8" stayed afire until May 19th when it sank. All 36 crew members were safely rescued.








Commissioner Addresses South Georgia Association AGM

The Commissioner's annual address to the South Georgia Association (SGA) was read out at their Annual General Meeting in London on May 23rd.


Read by Gerry Adamson of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Commissioner's address stated that 2007 had been a "significant year for the South Atlantic, being the 25th anniversary of the conflict with Argentina."


After the busiest year yet in terms of visitor numbers and with no indication that visitor numbers will decrease, the Commissioner said that GSGSSI continues to "monitor visitor numbers closely. A new tourism management policy document has been discussed with the industry.....We continue to hope that as many people as possible will have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of South Georgia but this must be managed to ensure that the very features which they come to see remain unspoilt." Amongst other things, the Commissioner said that although the high costs of a potential rat eradication project "preclude us from attempting this, we welcome the interest of the South Georgia Heritage Trust in continuing to explore options for an Island-wide rat eradication. In the meantime, we are focussing government efforts on creating the right conditions to enable the work to go ahead by strengthening measures to prevent re-invasion or invasion by other species."


You can view the whole of the Commissioner's address to the SGA Iin Word format) here . The Tourism Management Policy document is available as a pdf download on this website. Click here.



Fisheries: New Stamp Issue


The new 'Fisheries' stamp issue was released on May 1st. The issue is the first in a series entitled “The Waters of South Georgia” and comprises four stamps and a First Day Cover.


The waters around South Georgia teem with marine life, thanks to the rich mixing of cold and warm currents at the polar front. Krill, the basic building block of the Southern Ocean’s biology, gathers in large swarms and is fed upon by larger fish, penguins and marine mammals. The deep waters around the Island are home to strange species, which only in the last few decades have become a target for fishermen.


Conserving the rich diversity and abundant fish stocks is the first objective of the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Protecting the seas is expensive, with Patrol Vessel costs running over £2m per annum, and research costs nearing £1m. To fund this work, the Government allows carefully controlled and responsible fishing vessels to operate annually under licence. The fees from the sale of these licences provide the majority of the territory’s revenue.


Quotas for fishing are set annually by the international body the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and take into account the size of the stock and also any other species of wildlife which depend on the fish for food to make sure that the ecosystem is not unbalanced by commercial fishing.


There are three commercial fisheries:


Toothfish and longliner.
Toothfish and longliner.


Toothfish: Fished mainly by vessels setting long lines of hooks (often reaching 10km long, with over ten thousand hooks) in waters 1-3km deep, the Toothfish is the most valuable of all South Georgia species. It can grow to 2m in length and weigh up to 200kg. Fishing takes place only in winter, when there are fewer breeding birds in the area, but nonetheless stringent requirements to protect seabirds are in place on the vessels. The South Georgia Toothfish fishery has received international recognition for its sustainable management in the form of certification from the Marine Stewardship Council. Thanks to computer labelling and tracking of catch, consumers in the US and UK can buy Toothfish certified as sustainable from South Georgia.



Icefish  and trawler.
Icefish and trawler.


Icefish: This summer fishery operates with midwater trawlers which target the fish as they gather to feed in the water column. Icefish are small (around 30cm in length) and have firm white flesh. They are unusual in that they have no haemoglobin (red blood cells) in their blood, but instead a kind of ‘antifreeze’ which enables them to survive the cold water temperatures.



Krill with transshipping reefer and trawler.
Krill with transshipping reefer and trawler.


Krill: For most of the year huge krill trawlers operate in the far south waters of Antarctica but in winter when the pack ice forms they move north to the relatively ice-free waters of South Georgia to continue fishing for Krill. Krill is a small, shrimp-like creature which can be eaten by humans but is also used as food for fish farms. During the fishing season the trawlers go into Cumberland East Bay on the north-east side of South Georgia to transfer their catch onto larger reefer ships for transport back to the markets.



Fishery Patrol Vessel "Pharos SG" passing Shag Rocks.
Fishery Patrol Vessel "Pharos SG" passing Shag Rocks.


In 2006 the South Georgia Government chartered a new Fishery Patrol Vessel, the “MV Pharos SG”, to patrol the fishery. The vessel’s duties involve ensuring that unlicensed vessels do not operate in South Georgia waters as well as inspecting licensed vessels to check that they are fully compliant with all the conditions of their licences. She spends around two thirds of the year at sea around South Georgia, with brief returns to Stanley in the Falkland Islands to replenish her stores and refuel.


The Marine Stewardship Council logo features on the Toothfish stamp and the First Day Cover. Overfishing is a problem that affects us all. It threatens fish species, millions of jobs around the world and marine eco-systems. What can consumers do to help? Look out for the Marine Stewardship Council's (MSC) blue eco-label when shopping for fish. It identifies fish that has been caught in a responsible way and is only awarded to fisheries that meet the MSC's strict environmental standard. The MSC is an independent non-profit organisation that was founded in 1997 to find a solution to the problem of overfishing. Together with scientists, fishery experts and conservation groups, the MSC has developed an environmental standard to evaluate and reward sustainable fisheries. Independent experts check if the fisheries meet the MSC standard. Consumers can identify products from certified sustainable fisheries by looking for the blue MSC eco-label.


It’s easy to find fish and seafood from well-managed and sustainable fisheries - worldwide, there are over 1000 seafood products with the MSC's eco-label, and shoppers in the UK can choose from over 200 products. Consumers choosing fish with the MSC eco-label reward responsible fishing practices and contribute to a healthy marine environment. More information on the MSC and where to buy sustainable seafood is at http://www.msc.org


The First Day Cover costs £3.90. The Fisheries stamp issue was designed by Ross Watton and printed by 'BDT International' and can be purchased from the Philatelic Bureau http://www.falklands.gov.fk/pb/home.htm



Shackleton Exhibition Planned for Falkland Islands

The presence of replica lifeboat "James Caird III" in the Falklands has been the inspiration for a Shackleton Exhibition to be held in Stanley.


The replica of the lifeboat, sailed by Shackleton and four of his men from Elephant Island to South Georgia to save his crew after their ship "Endurance" sank in the Weddell Sea, is en route to South Georgia where it will be displayed in the new Carr maritime building. Leona Roberts, the Manager of the Falkland Island Museum, asked the South Georgia Heritage Trust for permission to show the boat when she discovered it was in the Falklands waiting to go on the last leg of the long journey from North America to South Georgia next spring.


The exhibition will also feature several other artefacts that have been loaned by the South Georgia Museum. These were carefully packed and sent up at the end of the summer season and include: a sledging compass from the "Nimrod" expedition of 1907-1909; a walking stick which belonged to Shackleton; a shard of wood from the ship "Endurance" and two others from an oar of the original "James Caird"; a 1923 edition of Shackleton's book "South" and a letter relating to the logistics of the "Quest" expedition signed by Shackleton. Other exhibits will come from the Falkland Museum's own collection.


The Shackleton Exhibition will run for ten days from July 1st to 10th at the FIDF Hall.

"James Caird III" will be central to the Falkland exhibition.
"James Caird III" will be central to the Falkland exhibition.
The South Georgia Museum has lent Shackleton's walking stick to the exhibition.
The South Georgia Museum has lent Shackleton's walking stick to the exhibition.



















South Georgia Museum Curator's Update

By Elsa Davidson, Curator, South Georgia Museum


Since returning to the UK my main concern has been building on the documentation of the collection, recording a variety of information and making this more accessible. This is ongoing and I have started adding a range of artefacts with information and images to the museum website. We are hoping that a wider online South Georgia collection can be created through collaboration with Sandefjord Museum (who I am meeting with shortly), Falkland Islands Museum and others in the US. This would form a searchable on-line database which would really increase accessibility.


An inventory of library books in the church began last season and I have recently purchased UV filters for the windows to limit light damage.


I recently met with Sir Gerald Elliot (former Chairman of Salvesen) and George Cummings (Chairman of Salvesen ex-whalers club) to increase contacts with the industry. I am hoping to work with a number of people over the summer to find out more about the lives of people working on the Island and how we can best incorporate this into the museum displays.


I am also working on a booklet on the history of the museum and collection which will be available for visitors to buy in the gift shop as this was one of the most requested items.


An example of one of the items recently added to the website, a goblet shaped shooting trophy from 1952.
An example of one of the items recently added to the website, a goblet shaped shooting trophy from 1952.
The library at Grytviken is being catalogued and preserved.
The library at Grytviken is being catalogued and preserved.























South Georgia Coin Release

Oldest Reigning British Monarch


On December 21st 2007 Elizabeth II became the oldest reigning monarch, surpassing Queen Victoria who died aged 81 years, seven months, four weeks and one day on 22 January 1901. Queen Elizabeth, who celebrated her 82nd Birthday on April 21st 2008, has even outlived her Great-great Grandmother Victoria. To celebrate this momentous occasion Pobjoy Mint has struck a notable coin on behalf of the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.


However, Queen Elizabeth II still has several years to go before becoming the longest reigning monarch. Queen Victoria remains the longest serving monarch, she ruled the Empire for almost 64 years. Providing Queen Elizabeth is still on the throne on 9 September 2015, she will take Queen Victoria’s place.


The coin design consists of the four most significant existing effigies of Queen Elizabeth II. The effigies are layered in date order starting with a full profile of the current Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS FSNAD effigy from 1998 until the present day and the earlier effigies layered behind as follows: the Raphael Maklouf effigy from 1985 until 1997; the Arnold Machin effigy from 1968 until 1984; and the Mary Gillick effigy from 1953 until 1967. The wording ‘Oldest Reigning British Monarch’ appears in the surround of the design.


The design has been approved by Buckingham Palace and the obverse of each coin carries a fine effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS FSNAD and is available in Uncirculated Cupro Nickel and Proof Sterling Silver (limited issues), the proof version being struck four times to achieve the lustrous Pobjoy Proof finish.


The coins, which both have a face value of £2, can be purchased from the Pobjoy Mint website http://www.pobjoy.com




Dictionary of Falklands Biography

Advertised as "An invaluable companion to the history of the South Atlantic." the 'Dictionary of Falklands Biography' is a collection of biographies describing people concerned with the history of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and is available in June.


Over 480 names are included, covering the period from the first discoverers in the sixteenth century up to the eve of the Falklands Conflict of 1982. It includes all forms of notable people from great explorers like James Cook and Ernest Shackleton to the decidedly eccentric, also naval commanders, philatelists, farmers, sailors, whalers, sealers and many many more.


Edited by former South Georgia Commissioner (and thus also Falkland Islands Governor) David Tatham, the entries are written by 120 contributors, many of them world experts on their subjects. The biographies included shed new light on many subjects relating to the Falklands and South Georgia, including the exploration of South Georgia and the rise and fall of the whaling industry in South Georgia.


The book is more than 400 pages long and is illustrated partly in colour, with many paintings and photographs, some from private collections, not previously published.


The Dictionary of Falklands Biography will soon be available to buy from the Falkland Island Government Office in London, and from various outlets in Stanley, Falkland Islands in July. You can also order a copy from: The Editor, DFB, South Parade, Ledbury, Hereford, HR8 2HA. Price (including postage and packing) is £42.00 to addresses in the UK, €62 to addresses in Europe and US$100 to addresses in America, South America and Australasia.


We hope to bring you a review of The Dictionary of Falklands Biography next month.



Bird Island News

By Gorfou, Zoological Field Assistant at the British Antarctic Survey Base at Bird Island


May on Bird Island started with the Wandering Albatross census. We checked all this year's nests on Bird Island… a little less than 700 active nests with chicks at the moment. It’s not a big job when there are 6, 8 or more people on base, but now, with just four winterers, it takes more time and more organisation, especially when we can’t all go off base at the same time. We divide the island in four areas. Now we’ve got less work outside we all appreciate getting some fresh air and it’s also the opportunity to go to some parts of the island where we haven’t been for a while. For my part I went to the south-east end of the island, the mountainous area, and Farewell Point. On that side of the island, apart from maybe one or two chicks who did not survive April, all the other wanderer chicks were lively and looking bigger and stronger to brave the coming cold winter…


A Wandering Albatross chick after the big dump of snow.
A Wandering Albatross chick after the big dump of snow.


After a good clean up the Bird Island hot tub was reopened for a special event; the first week-end of that long period we call “winter”… when all the summer-only residents left and there are just four of us left until the first ship-call of the next summer. While we were having our usual three-course dinner on Saturday, the hosepipe connected to the tap was slowly filling the tank with hot water. With a temperature of almost 38ºC we all jumped in and closed the lid to keep the water warm when it was pouring with rain. That was the first public bath for Ewan, Derren and Felice since they arrived on BI. Like me they really appreciated it and would probably have stayed in longer but with the temperature getting close to 36ºC we headed back inside.


The same night we had our first big dump of snow of the winter with 50cm on the ground when we woke up on Sunday morning. We were all excited, like kids opening their presents at Christmas. Skis, snowboard and sledge, which had been quickly dusted and checked, were soon after kissing the powdery snow on the best slopes of Bird Island all the afternoon and the week after.


Snowy and icy beaches are very attractive for Leopard Seal looking for a cool place for resting in the sun or having a digestive nap after successful hunt. And so, the first Lep, as we call them, hauled up onto Freshwater Beach the first day after the big snow falls!! Ewan as a seal assistant was very impressed by his first close sighting of that 2-3 metres long seal, even if it was only for a very short time. He has been hunting Lep everyday with his camera as part of his photo identification job. One week later he was getting very excited when he discovered one Lep with a small device that had been recording its journey in the Antarctic Ocean since the last time it was seen and tagged on BI last September!! But it wasn’t so easy to recover the device on a wide-awake Leopard Seal.


Leopard Seal resting on Freshwater Beach.
Leopard Seal resting on Freshwater Beach.


Finally a few words about the Mollymawks... The very last chicks of Black-browed Albatross left during the first half of the month leaving behind them empty and quiet colonies. There are still a few Grey-headed Albatross chicks waiting for an unlikely last meal or maybe just for a windy day that will carry them away from Bird Island… Soon these colonies will also be empty and quiet until September.


Grey-headed Albatross chicks ready to fledge. All photos Fabrice Le Bouard
Grey-headed Albatross chicks ready to fledge. All photos Fabrice Le Bouard


Black-browed Albatross chicks on their nests at Bird Island in April (Flash required for video.]




South Georgia Snippets

By Anjali Pande


The wintry scene looking across to King Edward Point from Grytviken. Photo Steve Artis
The wintry scene looking across to King Edward Point from Grytviken. Photo Steve Artis


The month of May has been subject to the typical change-in-season kind of weather. Luckily the calm weather at the beginning of the month coincided with the busy fishery licensing period. By mid month howling winds and snowstorms caused massive snowdrifts around base, which we could only crawl over; even the JCB was struggling to move. This was followed by beautiful calm sunny days but unfortunately also days of rain in slightly warmer temperatures melting our beautiful skiing snow away.


Even the JCB struggled in the deep new snow. Photo Anjali Pande
Even the JCB struggled in the deep new snow. Photo Anjali Pande


It was a busy month, lots of boating and work to assist through the busy licensing period. Also a representative of Moody Marine paid the base a visit to assess the Icefish Fishery for Marine Stewardship Council certification and for the re-assessment of the Toothfish Fishery. His visit coincided with a flying visit by an MRAG (Marine Resources Assessment Group) representative who is also involved in fisheries research projects. The science team gave a tour of the science facilities and explained in some detail what science is done on base and how it all feeds into the running of the fishery.


One of the longliners reported seeing three or four Orcas killing another larger whale close to the side of their vessel.


Two of the KEP scientists had their birthday this month. Anjali spent hers in the hills with Andy and Rachel, determined to make the most of one of South Georgia’s most precious assets – the mountainous landscape. However bad weather did scupper the plans somewhat and they had to settle for an ascent of Orca Peak in a blizzard rather than getting to the top of Narwhal Peak as hoped. Jenn decided to go on a camping trip on her birthday, over to Ocean Harbour with Charles. She was rewarded with close encounters of the Leopard Seal kind. WOW! A cold, but enjoyable trip.


Jenn had a birthday encounter with a Leopard Seal at Ocean Harbour. Photo Charles Swift
Jenn had a birthday encounter with a Leopard Seal at Ocean Harbour. Photo Charles Swift


On another camping trip Mairi, Rachel and Charlie sat out a raging storm for one day at Sorling Hut before valiantly setting out on snow shoes, dragging a pulk, to the Ocean Harbour Col in tiring, deep and slushy conditions! Depoting the pulk at the Col, they battled their way through the elements to the old whaling station, to spend a cold night there before coming back for a pick up the next day. Mairi and Anj had a little mini break over to the cave in Maiviken, making use of some of the nicer weather and better skiing conditions we’ve had this month.


It was a hard job pulling a pulk over the pass to Ocean Harbour on snow shoes. Photo Charlie Main
It was a hard job pulling a pulk over the pass to Ocean Harbour on snow shoes. Photo Charlie Main
A cave with a view. Photo Anjali Pande
A cave with a view. Photo Anjali Pande


















Anj practices her medical skills on Bob.
Anj practices her medical skills on Bob.

Other exciting happenings in May: Doc School was the ever popular IV access, and there were many shrieks and groans and as we merrily stuck needles into each other with wild abandon!


Mairi started a series of slide shows and talks so we can each learn something about each other, even outside of the KEP environment. She began by giving a most enlightening talk about her time in Sudan. The following week, Charlie represented the scientists by showing some of her amazing photos taken on the “Sil” Research Survey last month.


Emma re-instigated Tuesday night Bridge games.







As the month ends we are expecting to be part of the Military 'Cape Reach' disaster management exercise which will involving several naval vessels. I am sure we will busy all weekend entertaining, boating and being part of various scenarios.


The old sealing vessels at Grytviken at sunset. Photo Anjali Pande
The old sealing vessels at Grytviken at sunset. Photo Anjali Pande



View of the Month

Don’t forget to see this month’s 'View of the Month' on the South Georgia Heritage Trust website.



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