expeditions have visited South Georgia this austral summer:
· Greg Mortimer led a team of clients over the Shackleton
crossing. He experienced some difficult weather conditions, which
forced them to go firm in their tents for a while.
· A US TV team, "Beyond Endurance" aimed to climb
and ski down as many of South Georgia's peaks as they could in
a month. On their first outing on Nordenskold they lost all their
tents in high winds and were forced to operate from their yacht.
They did managed to ascend and descend Mount Norman from Larsen
· Crag Jones made the first ascent of the highest peak
of the Three Brothers. (See Below).
· An amateur radio expedition, led by Declan Craig, set
up and transmitted from South Sandwich Islands before then establishing
light transmitters at Husvik, using Braveheart as the support
vessel. (See Below)
Brothers First Ascent: Crag Jones Solo
|Crag Jones a member of
a three-man climbing party that included Skip Novak and his
yacht 'Pelagic' made the first ascent, solo, of the highest
of the Three Brothers peaks at the north west end of the Allardyce
mountain range on 25 January as part of a combined climbing
and filming expedition. The camerman was Al Hughes.
Crag reports: " The action
was not too hairy. Everything was well under control! A bit of
a battle up the headwall to the col, granted, but not anything
that was not reversible under the conditions."
The Brothers, which had
been the highest unclimbed peak in the northern half of
South Georgia, actually consist of four peaks whose summits
are 1,466, 1,783, 1,837 and 2,008m above sea level; it was
the highest that was climbed by the 'Pelgaic' expedition.
'Pelagic' left Stanley
in the Falkland Islands for South Georgia on 29 December
and the three climbers went ashore at Husvik from the yacht
on 11 January.
Shortly after they set up camp
on the Neumayer Glacier the weather deteriorated and they were
forced to wait there for two days. Once conditions improved, and
after caching the skis and pulks, two heavy carries of equipment
from the first camp were made on successive days, at the end of
which they had established themselves in the glacial valley on
the north-west side of the highest Brothers peak. Again, bad weather
brought about by a succession of quick moving low
pressure systems intervened and, except for a short period when
one false start was made, they were kept tent-bound for five days.
Finally on 25 January, the last
day before 'Pelagic' was scheduled to pick them up from Husvik,
the trio left the tent at 0300 in a white out, the forecast indicating
that a short clearing spell could be expected later that morning.
At the base of the mountain, however, Novak and Hughes decided
to proceed as the weather had not abated; Jones went on with the
the weather cleared later in the morning as predicted and
by mid-day Jones had reached the summit of the top pyramid
via its north-east ridge. He had first tried to ascend via
it's south-west ridge but that route was unsuitable and he
was forced to traverse across hard ice and some wind slab
snow below the pyramidal summit, before making the final successful
climb from the north-east. By 1700 that day he had returned
to the field camp, the weather breaking again a short time
later when high winds and rain were experienced.
Observations conducted during
the climbing program indicate that the second and third highest
of the Brothers' peaks were technically difficult to climb, particularly
in the conditions that existed, as the lack of snow exposed large
areas of loose rock in the higher areas.
'Pelagic' returned to Stanley
on 8 February as planned. The group disembarked there and the
yacht then sailed to Ushuaia, Argentina, where a Dutch party embarked
to film in the Antarctic Peninsula region.
Amateur Radio Expedition
Declan Craig's amateur radio
expedition successfully transmitted and received messages from
the South Sandwich Islands and South Georgia using low powered
equipment. The expedition returned to Stanley in the Falkland
Islands on 9 February on board the 36-m vessel 'Braveheart'. During
their month-long expedition the twelve operators involved made
a total of 70,428 contacts from both islands with 'hams' from
all around the world via voice, morse code and teletype transmission
Declan Craig, said the expedition
was "an experiment in the use of low-powered, 'microlight'
equipment] from a tough location", and had achieved all of
its goals "in record time". He said that his group had
shown that such expeditions could achieve "excellent results"
without "large amounts of high-powered equipment" as
has sometimes been the case with such ventures in the past. Ham
operators were challenged in their attempts to tune into what
was, as a result, a relatively "weak-signal operation",
and Declan said that the high number of contacts recorded around
the world was a credit to the "skills and persistence"
of those who made contact.
The expedition left Stanley
in the Falkland Islands on the New Zealand-registered 'Braveheart'
on 12 January with 12 hams from Canada, Ireland, The Netherlands,
Switzerland and the United States, and a crew of 5. The vessel
headed directly for the island of Southern Thule in the South
Sandwich Islands, completing the 1,820-km journey in five days
in moderate seas.
Operations were conducted on
Southern Thule from 18-22 January, the hams working from a tent-based
field-camp on Hewison Peninsula, the island's south-eastern point.
Access to the Peninsula from the sea was reported to have been
difficult, personnel having to negotiate a steep, "dangerous"
13-m climb directly after leaving the inflatable rubber boats
that ferried them
A 'human chain' was used to
ferry all equipment up the cliff-face and on to the camp site.
A similar reverse operation was necessary when they departed;
it being conducted in 55-knot winds and a 3 m swell. During 80
hours of operation on the island over 26,000 contacts were made
and frequent periods of high winds, rain and snow encountered.
In addition to the weather, camping conditions were made "very
uncomfortable" as the tents and much of the equipment used
quickly became covered in penguin guano. Two tents were used for
accommodation and another two for radio operations.
'Braveheart' then travelled
to South Georgia where it waited for 11 days between 25 January
and 4 February while ham and other activities were conducted on
shore. That operation was based in the Manager's House at the
old whaling station at Husvik. Close to 43,000 contacts were made
seven-and-a-half day period. Team members slept on 'Braveheart'
when not on duty or napped on shore for short periods. Those involved
also took time for day hikes into the surrounding countryside.
While in Stromness Bay, Braveheart's
skipper Robert Williamson and owner Nigel Jolly assisted the crew
of the Russian scientific vessel 'Atlantida' to free its anchor
that had been become fouled on old mooring gear on the bed of
the Bay. Captain Williamson, who is also a professional deep-sea
diver, descended to a depth of 42m and successfully freed the
anchor from the obstruction. The yachts 'Joshua' and 'Baleno',
the latter with a family of three on board, were also in Stromness
Bay whilst 'Braveheart' was there. 'Joshua' was engaged in rat
eradication and other work, while 'Baleno' was on a recreational
Due to the difficulties involved
in the landing at Southern Thule, a smaller range of equipment
was sent ashore there than at South Georgia. At both locations
electricity to power the radios and provide heat for the operators
was generated using four small one-kilowatt generators. Four small
radio units were used for transmissions from Southern Thule and
six on South Georgia; relatively simple antennas being erected
on both islands. Transmissions from Husvik were possible over
a greater range of frequencies due to the additional range of
equipment taken ashore there.
The five-day voyage back
to the Falkland Islands from South Georgia on 'Braveheart' was
reported to have been "rough and unpleasant" with 8-m
swells being met for some of the time as the vessel headed west
into the prevailing winds.
record number of visitors are planned to go to South Georgia
this austral summer. Some 36 cruises are scheduled. In the
future visitor numbers may continue an upward trend. The
table below shows the numbers for the last three year.
Cruise Ship Voyages to South Georgia
Next year the US tour operator
Orient Lines is planning to visit the island with their ship Marco
Polo, carrying up to 550 passengers. Passengers will land at Grytviken
to visit the museum, the church and the cemetery where Sir Ernest
Shackleton is buried. They also plan to conduct Zodiac cruising
in Elsehul, Gold Harbour and Royal Bay to view wildlife at these
|The New Applied Fisheries Science Research
Station at King Edward Point that opened on 22 March 2001
is working well. The building has had very few teething problems.
The British Antarctic Survey
Team has been busy with fish science to support the development
and management of the fisheries within the South Georgia Management
Zone. In particular science is targeted towards five commercial
resource species (Patagonian tooth-fish, Antarctic Krill, Mackerel
ice-fish, Seven star flying squid and Stone crabs). The scientists
have also found time to get out and repair the BAS hut at Maiviken.
Brown rats introduced to South Georgia by sealers some 200 years
ago have devastated the numbers of burrowing petrel colonies and
the endemic South Georgia Pippit in about two thirds of the island'
coastline tussac fringe and many offshore islets. Sally Poncet
is leading a study to eradicate the blighters. Last year experts
from New Zealand's Department of Conservation started a two year
research programme. A small baiting trial commenced in November
2000 on Grass island in Stromness Bay. Six baiters broadcast poison
by hand and oil-soaked pine-wood "gnaw sticks" were
positioned to monitor the presence of rats after baiting. Pre
and post baiting surveys of abundance and distribution of the
island's bird population were done to check if any birds had died
from eating the rat poison. Results of monitoring 3 weeks and
3 months after baiting show there was no measurable impact on
the bird population and no evidence of rat activity. Research
continues into the feasibility of a rat eradication programme
in more extensive mainland areas.
At the end of the Research station towards the pier at King Edward
Point is the new Post Office. Conveniently it can be entered through
the long corridor in the Research Station or from a door on the
external veranda. Sarah Lurcock sells stamps and collects mail
from cruise ship passengers, contractors, scientists, visiting
military personnel and other visitors. The new office is a considerable
improvement on the old post office that was so insecure that it
was close to being blown over in the wind.
Pat Lurcock, the South Georgia Government Marine Officer, is as
busy as ever doing the sharp end admin of the South Georgia fisheries,
all the cruise vessels that visit and the few expeditions that
come to explore the hinterland. About 20 fishing vessels, registered
in various countries including the Falkland Islands, Chile, Uruguay,
Spain and South Africa, are licensed to fish within the 200 miles
nautical zone. His new office just beside the post office is packed
with radios, computers and records. It enjoys a lovely view out
over King Edward Cove and on a sunny day he can look out across
the bay to the Allardyce Range and the snowy peaks of Sugar Top,
Paget, Roots and Nordenskjold.
Morrisons who built the new Research Station in an impressively
short time last year have been back again this year. Under the
capable management of Pete Willmot, the team has been taking down
old buildings at King Edward Point and refurbishing Discovery
House. Pete said that Shackleton House came down with no problem.
All it needed was a nudge! The team has had to cope with
more asbestos extraction from most of the buildings than
King Edward Point now looks really attractive with the
removal of old buildings that include Shackleton House,
Quigleys, Customs House, Old Post Office, Harbour View,
Store House, Generator Shed and the old Fuel Tank. A newly
painted Discovery House and refurbished Larsen House and
Jail look very smart indeed.
Albatross & Petrel
SEABULK CONDOR on charter to MOD and on loan to GSGSSI is at Grytviken
with a team from OSRL (Oil Spill Response Ltd) who are pumping
fuel oil from the wrecked sealers Albatros, Dias, and Petrel.
It has been gradually leaking out and there has been potential,
as the ships deteriorated, for tons of the stuff to escape into
the sea. If all goes well, the ships will be left completely empty
of the heavy, tar-like, fuel oil and an environmental problem
nipped in the bud. The have already completed Petrel.
museum celebrates its 10th Anniversary this year. It has flourished
in the capable hands of Tim and Pauline Carr. The South Georgia
Museum is an important element of many visitors' understanding
and enjoyment of their visit to the island. Originally set
up purely as a whaling museum, in 1992, it has since diversified
so that its exhibits now illustrate most aspects of South
Georgia's history and natural history, as well as items of
Recently, Tim has refurbished
the fence of the Grytviken cemetery and he has made a new cross
for Felix Artuso, the Argentinean Petty Officer killed on the
submarine Santa Fe in 1982 and for the men lost on the fishing
vessel Suder Havid in 1998. He has also repaired the wooden and
copper grave marker for teh sealer Johan Anderson who died in
1838 in Prince Olaf Harbour.
HMS ENDURANCE had a very successful visit to the island in December
and completed hydrographic surveys of Fortuna Bay and Larsen Harbour
in Drygalski fjord. Her helicopters conducted aerial surveys of
Macaroni Penguin Colonies, visitors' sites and assisted Project
Atlantis to gather imagery for this web site. She also supported
a successful reconnaissance for a British Schools Exploration
Society expedition planned for 2003/4.
David Tatham, previously Governor of the Falkland Islands and
Commissioner of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, and
Bob Burton, a historian and previously the South Georgia museum
curator, have formed the South Georgia Association at a founding
meeting in September last year. The Association, which provides
a focus for all those with an interest in the island, published
its first newsletter in November 2001.
A new Marine Life issue of South Georgia stamps was made released
on 22 October 2001. These can be purchased through the Falkland
Islands on the web site www.falklands.gov.fk
The first coins minted to be legal tender for South Georgia and
South Sandwich Islands were issued in 2000 to commemorate Her
Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother reaching her 100th birthday.
This coin has a face value of £2 and depicts her coat of
arms garlanded with marguerites. A series of "Famous Explorer"
coins has also been minted. Coins are available from the Pobjoy
Mint web site at www.pobjoy.com.