On 29 January the cruise ship POLAR STAR ran aground on a rock whilst leaving King Haakon Bay , close to Cape Rosa . The vessel had been forced to alter from its intended track due to the presence of ice. The ship then proceeded directly to Grytviken for an inspection. Fortunately, at the time, a team of salvage divers were working on the partially submerged former seal catchers at Grytviken. The divers conducted a hull inspection of the POLAR STAR and undertook repairs to a number of cracks which they identified.
The location of the grounding was: 54 11,03' S 037 26,16' W and this information has been passed to the UK Hydrographic Office.
Unfortunately it was then necessary for the ship to drydock, which resulted in the cancellation of her March visit to South Georgia .
The Icefish season will soon be drawing to a close. A total of 5 trawlers from the Falkland Islands , St Helena , Chile and Korea have been fishing this season for a total allowable catch of 2,887t.
Toothfish license applications will soon be submitted to the Director of Fisheries, prior to the start of the season at the beginning of May.
RSPB arachnid specialist, Alastair Lavery, has recently conducted a very successful study of the spider population in the Falkland Islands . In conjunction with this, Sarah Lurcock plans assist him by obtaining specimens from South Georgia . Alastair hopes to confirm that South Georgia's 4 endemic species of spider (Forster, 1970), are the same as 3 species found in the Falkland Islands and another found in Patagonia.
A new definitive set of stamps were issued on 06 February. Designed by our own Stephen Ellis, the 16 x 40p stamps depict important events and dates between 1906 (HMS SAPPHO visits Grytviken) to 2003 (Grytviken remedial work). The series has been split into four sets of four - each set has a backgound skyline of the island as seen from different locations.
WHALING STATION REMEDIATION PROJECT
This has been going on a-pace with massive amounts of asbestos removed and buried. Several buildings that were on the point of collapse, or close to it, have been dismantled and there is now a clear indication of what the whaling station area will look like in the future.
Previously the visitor could, at best, have only seen the rusty corrugated iron walls of the buildings, but now it is possible to see the items that were hidden inside - the boilers and plant, centrifuges and other items of the industrial machinery. We believe that this will make a much more interesting exhibition when the whaling station area is re-opened, hopefully at the end of the 2004/5 summer season.
Albatross, Dias and Petrel
Alabtross and Dias have been refloated.
It is GSGSSI's intention to remove the asbestos from the three vessels. There are presently specialist contractors carrying out this work throughout Grytviken and so despite some technical problems, and those of access, it is hoped to carry out this task. A channel will then be dug into the beach and float the Dias and the Albatros alongside her into the channel and then back fill it. The result will be the two vessels "floating" in the beach, preserved for the time being for visitors to see
GSGSSI does not have the funds to refurbish the ships but they want to stabilise them so that if money is found for further preservation work it can take place. The hulls are not strong enough for them to be patched and maintained afloat. The work that GSGSSI is undertaking on these two vessels will cost by completion something approaching three quarters of a million pounds. The Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands provided funding from their very limited resources. No money has come from UK or any other sources. GSGSSI places a high priority of saving the important heritage that remains on South Georgia .
FUTURE WHALE SCULPTURE - Grytviken
Following interest from the tourist industry, Sculptress Helen Denerley has recently visited Grytviken. Helen, who is from Aberdeenshire, is renowned as one of the UK 's foremost metalwork wildlife sculpters. Helen has undertaken a feasibility study to investigate the possibility of creating a lifesize whale sculpture with scrap metal from the former whaling station.
In the 2004/5 season it is hoped that the sculptor Helen Denerley will create a 112 foot blue whale sculpture at Grytviken to commemorate the 54,000 whales flensed here, the 175,000 whales killed in South Georgia and the 1.75 million animals that died in the Antarctic as a whole.
The blue whale is the largest animal ever to have existed on earth. The largest blue whale ever recorded was 112 feet - 34 metres and was, very sadly, flensed on the plan here at Grytviken.
The Grytviken Whale will be made out of scrap metal from the whaling station and arch over the track between the whaling station and the cemetery so that people walking there will pass underneath the statue.
Funding for this project is currently being sought. Very positive interest has been shown from one of the expedition companies and it is hoped that decisions will be made soon so that a fund raising campaign can be started.
||During her two week visit to South Georgia in January - February, acclaimed Scottish sculptor Helen Denerley created this small - 34 inches long - sculpture to give an idea of what the finished, full size sculpture might look like. It is perhaps poignant that two flensing irons are incorporated in the construction. The model is now on display in the museum.
British Schools Exploring Society Expedition - December 2003. Brigadier David Nicholls Royal Marines retired, led a 30 strong expedition including 21 Young Explorers (ages 18 to 24) to Chile , the Falkland Islands and South Georgia . HMS ENDURANCE supported the Expedition. In South Georgia they were based in Husvik and carried out three objectives:
- Search for the stove left by Sir Ernest Shackleton.
- Ascend previously unclimbed peaks in the Wilckens range.
- Undertake a programme of science.
While at Husvik the Expedition spent time cleaning up the Manager's Villa and Radio Shack. A collapsed Reindeer flora exclosure was dismantled and renovation work was done on the Husvik and Leith Cemeteries.
- Search for Shackleton's Stove - Pat Lurcock, the Marine Officer was responsible. He established a base camp in Fortuna Bay and then took his group up to a forward camp just below Break Wind Ridge. Pat then spent 10 days searching for the stove using a metal detector. About 2.5 metres of snow lay on top of the glacier ice. It turned out to be too much for the metal detector to penetrate and thus the stove was not found.
- Wilckens Range - David Nicholls took responsibility for this phase. A midway camp was established at Admiralty Peak . Two groups of Young Explorers and leaders skied up the Nuemayer Glacier to the Khol-Larsen Plateau at 3,000 feet (26 kilometres from Husvik) and established a camp there on two separate trips. The two groups managed to climb four previously unclimbed peaks. The second group had to make a quick departure as a forecast of bad weather was received. During the descent shortly before leaving the Neumayer Glacier, close to Gulbandson Lake , David was dragged backwards into a 15 metres crevasse by the rescue sledge he was towing. It slipped off a snow bridge. Fortunately David was uninjured although he landed upside down and was initially trapped in a deluge of glacier melt water, it took about an hour before he climbed out of the rather wet, cold and shocked. A change of clothes followed (clothes from others in the party as David's were at the bottom of the crevasse) and then the descent continued.
The peaks climbed were:
The first group enjoyed excellent weather and succeeded in climbing 3 Virgin Peaks around 4,000 feet in the Wilckens Range over two days. The peaks climbed were as follows:
South 54 degrees 11.723 minutes - West 036 degrees 56.607 minutes
South 54 degrees 11.681 minutes - West 036 degrees 55.837 minutes
South 54 degrees 11.956 minutes - West 036 degrees 55.501 minutes
A second group succeeded in climbing a fourth virgin peak again around 4,000 feet. The team also did the second ascent of the first peak achieved by the Endurance Fire. The details are:
South 54 degrees 11.539 minutes - West 036 degrees 56.738 minutes
Science - Jean Sinclair, the Expedition's Chief Scientist was responsible for a wide ranging programme, less the collection of vascular plants that was led by Doctor Deirdre Galbraith:
- Cetacean Surveys between the Falkland Islands and South Georgia (27 th - 30 th November & 26 th - 30 th December 2003) - partner: Deborah Thiele, Whale Ecology Group - Southern Ocean (WEG-SO), Deakin University , Australia .
- Beetle Studies in South Georgia (1 st to 25 th December 2003) - partner: Prof Bill Block, Emeritus Fellow of British Antarctic Survey A carnivorous species of beetle, Trechisibus antarcticus , was accidentally introduced to South Georgia , probably during the whaling era prior to 1960. This beetle preys on the larvae of the native herbivorous beetle Hydromedion sparsutum , which has reacted by producing larger eggs and larger larval hatchlings, which are less prone to predation. Four sites, at Husvik, Stromness, Harbour Point and Leith , were last surveyed in 1996. By repeating collection of tussock grass litter specimens from these sites, for later analysis by Bill Block, expedition members provided an updated "snapshot" of the progress of evolution. An opportunistic collection of beetles was also made along the Busen Peninsula to investigate the spread of Trechisibus antarcticus.
- Fur Seal Surveys in South Georgia (1 st to 22 nd December 2003) - partner: Dirk Briggs of British Antarctic Survey Dirk Briggs asked expedition members on the ground to take photographs of fur seal beaches around Husvik and along the south coast of the Tonsberg Peninsula, to be compared with aerial photographs taken from Lynx helicopters from HMS Endurance. He also asked for seal pup counts to investigate whether the peak pupping date differs from Bird Island . For consistency, the Chief Scientist carried out all these counts - 6 days between 4 th and 21 st December for Husvik North and 9 days between 1 st and 21 st December for Husvik (between Manager's Villa and jetty). He also asked for skin tissue samples to be taken from any fur seals found dead, to be used in DNA analysis of populations. Due to the risks associated with biological specimens and sharp blades, only the Chief Scientist took these samples - 4 were obtained. The kit was passed to scientists from the Seal Mammals Research Unit, who took over the Manager's Villa on 25 th December, so that they could continue with the search for samples.
- Reindeer Genetics in South Georgia (1 st to 25 th December 2003) - partner: Fiona Lovatt Fiona Lovatt, the original Chief Scientist, had previously collected skulls and skin samples for DNA analysis of reindeer from the Barff herd on South Georgia and the source herds in southern Norway. To further advance the study, the expedition was asked to collect skulls and skin samples from the Busen herd (from the Busen / Lewin Peninsula, past Husvik, Stromness and Leith to Fortuna Bay), which has separated from the Barff herd by glaciers since three males and four females were introduced in 1925. Expedition members collected 26 skulls and 24 samples for DNA analysis, with both skulls and skin obtained from 16 animals. As with the seal tissue, only the Chief Leader took tissue samples, often ably assisted by YEs.
- Alien / Introduced Plant Surveys in South Georgia (1 st to 25 th December 2003) - partner: Bob Headland of Scott Polar Research Institute. Bob Headland asked expedition members to look for introduced species of plants. Unfortunately, due to the risks from metal debris and asbestos, especially during high winds, we were not allowed to enter whaling stations, where the majority of alien plants are found, as they were brought in, either accidentally or on purpose, during the whaling era. However, we were able to survey the area around the Manager's Villa and Radio Shack at Husvik, and to record locations of easy-to-spot flowering dandelions along the Busen Peninsula and around Husvik.
- Midge Genetics in Chile and South Georgia (October & December 2003) - partner: Dr Pete Convey of British Antarctic Survey. Expedition members collected midge larvae and adult insects from freshwater and damp habitats around Seno Skyring in Chile and near Husvik in South Georgia . The aim was to find samples of Eretmoptera murphyi and related species. As species are very difficult to differentiate, any larvae or adult midges / flies were collected, to be identified by Pete Convey on return to the UK . He warned that they "are quite hard to find in natural habitats, so don't be disheartened if it takes you a while to get your eye in, or you fail to find any at all!" The expedition collected some 30 small pots of specimens.
Native Plant Surveys and Collections in South Georgia (1 st to 25 th December 2003) - inspired and led by Dr Deirdre Galbraith
The project involved the collection and transportation of native plants of South Georgia back to the United Kingdom for scientific and educational purposes. The task involved the identification, collection and transportation of live specimens of native vascular flora of South Georgia to the University of Dundee Botanical Gardens, Scotland where they now form a central element of a wider collection of plants that have adapted to harsh conditions in the Polar Regions . The collections are being maintained for educational purposes relating to plant conservation, as a potential resource for physiological research, as a link to the Discovery Centre and for public interest.
The secondary aim involved the collection of native plant tissue material for the DNA bank at the Jodrell Laboratory, Royal Botanical Gardens , Kew . A 5g collection of fresh leaf tissue was required from each plant and dried in silica gel after collection to allow subsequent DNA extraction in the lab. The material will then be incorporated into the Kew DNA bank. The genetic material would not only provide an important stock should any of the plants become endangered but also be used in the ongoing molecular research.
The plants appear to be doing well in their new home at the University of Dundee 's Botanical Gardens in Dundee .
New Signs for Whaling Stations.
||HMS ENDURANCE provided support in December to GSGSSI by lifting under their helicopters the newly acquired signs to each of the whaling stations. AWG personnel having been transported from Grytviken in MV Dorada erected the signs outside the stations. Each sign warns visitors of the dangers from hazardous substances remaining in the stations and prohibits entry without authorisation.
The South Georgia Government has agreed to take over future responsibility for building maintenance and exterior paintwork of the church, museum, curators' cottage and the surrounding outbuildings. This summer the church has been repainted and some minor structural repairs undertaken. Additionally builders Dave Peck and Paul Chapman have done other remedial work including new steps outside several of the museum's outbuildings and cottage and refurbished some doors. Temporary repairs were done to museum floors.
New floors for two or three rooms will be laid before the 2004/5 summer. Next season it is also planned to do major work on the roofs, replacing several of them including that of the museum and curators cottage.
Steve Massam has been doing brilliant work since he arrived on 10th January. He comes to the museum on a Shackleton Scholarship with additional funding provided by a generous donation from Mike Thorne and Leila Shakkour.
His prime task was to produce a replica from a 1.65 metre Patagonian toothfish and this is being cast at the moment. He has also made moulds for several other commercial and interesting fish species which visitors to South Georgia would never otherwise have the opportunity to see. GSGSSI believes it is very important to explain to people how important a well-managed fishery is to provide the Government with funds with which to protect the fishery and other natural resources.
Steve has also produced several birds which just needing finishing touches. The largest is a grey-headed albatross which died from internal injuries and many broken bones after a heavy impact - presumably being swept into the land by violent winds. This bird had been ringed on Bird Island in 1958, by Lance Tickell, and its whole history documented since. Other birds prepared include a blue petrel and an Antarctic prion - clearly showing the differences between them which are often difficult for bird watchers to pick out on the wing. There is also a South Georgia diving petrel, common diving petrel, and plans for a pipit and a wandering albatross chick.
Otherwise it has been a very busy season with over 40 cruise ships visiting by early March. Funding for museum budget is now dependent entirely on shop profits and donations and the museum has been fortunate this year that people have spent well and donated generously. Rosy Thomas and Andy Whittaker, assistants to the curators, have provided valuable assistance to the museum this summer.
BEACH CLEAN UP
The beach clean up is ongoing from the two wrecked fishing boats. British Antarctic Survey personnel, museum staff and others have all spent some of their free time gathering together sacks of debris which continues to appear on our hitherto pristine beaches locally. However it would appear from reports from cruise ships that it is not widespread and most of the other areas on the island are not affected.
SG HALF MARATHON
Dr Jenny Corser, organised a South Georgia half marathon. It was a grueling course with ascents of Brown Mountain and Deadman's Pass from sea-level and a return to King Edward Point back over Deadman's Pass from the Maiviken Hut. Thirty five competitors started, and 31 completed the course. Ex Royal Marine/museum assistant Andy Whittaker and BAS marine biologist Richard Mitchell crossed the line with arms linked in 1 hour 50 minutes 35 secs. Dr Jenny Corser was first woman home in 2 hours 7 minutes.
Massive amounts of ice at sea and in Cumberland Bay , more than we have seen over the past 12 years. In December two 35 mile long icebergs closed on to the coast of South Georgia ; these are now breaking up.
That wraps up the news and events for February 2004