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   News and Events 

South Georgia Newsletter March 2005

(To subscribe to the SGIsland News Alerts list click here)

Fishing Vessel Arrested

The Guinean flagged vessel 'Elqui' was arrested in the vicinity of Shag Rocks by the fishery patrol vessel 'Sigma' on the 2nd March on suspicion of illegal fishing. Sightings of a longliner had previously been reported by cruise ships 'Explorer 2' and 'Grigory Mikheev' which were passing through the area. The 'Elqui' was escorted to Stanley for further investigation and was charged with three offences: entering South Georgia waters without reporting to the Government Officer at King Edward Point, having unstowed gear on board and fishing without a licence. The defendants pleaded guilty to the first two charges and not guilty to the third. A trial date has been set for 18th April.

Elqui

Caption: 'Elqui' arriving at Stanley. Photo by H. Hall

 

His Excellency the Commissioner Visits

His Excellency Howard Pearce, Governor of the Falkland Islands and Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and Mrs Pearce visited the Island between the 2nd and 12th March. The bulk of South Georgia's administration takes place in Stanley but it is always appreciated when members of the Stanley based Government and the Commissioner in particular manage to spend time on South Georgia itself. It allows them to familiarise themselves with the issues on the ground and to consult with the people who live and work here thus gaining an invaluable insight that would otherwise be missing.

The biggest change locally since the Commissioner's last visit in February 2004 is at the former whaling station at Grytviken. The clean-up works are almost complete with the asbestos and fuel oils taken care of and all buildings in a dangerous state of disrepair removed. The 'footprint' of the station remains, the machinery is now exposed and visible and next season, with the addition of signage, the whaling station will be open once more to visitors. The Commissioner expressed his admiration for the Morrisons team 'whose hard work and enthusiasm were second to none.'

The Commissioner was delighted to meet the (nearly all) new BAS team at King Edward Point and to discuss a variety of issues with them in addition to their scientific work in support of the commercial fishery. He also spent time with Museum Curators, Tim and Pauline Carr and accompanied the Government Officer, Ken Passfield at work. The visit was not all work, with a walk to Maiviken and a trip around to Cumberland Bay West in glorious weather in the harbour launch 'Prion' taking place.

The Commissioner and Mrs Pearce travelled down on the cruise ship 'Grigory Mikheev' and back on the 'Polar Star.' As well as giving a decent length of 8 days at King Edward Point, this also gave them the chance to observe cruise ships at work and to visit other sites on the Island.

 

 

His Excellency the Commissioner and Mrs Pearce outside the whaling era jail at KEP

Commissioner + wife

 

 

RFA Grey Rover

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker 'Grey Rover' visited Cumberland Bay in early March, in support of the warship HMS 'Dumbarton Castle'. RFA 'Grey Rover' is a regular visitor to the Island, having been coming here since the mid-eighties. The ship's company enjoyed an excellent couple of days of fine weather and all were able to get ashore.

 

 

RFA Grey Rover anchored off Hope Point

 

South Georgia Half Marathon

The second annual South Georgia half marathon took place on Saturday 5th March. Described by His Excellency the Commissioner as 'Probably the toughest half marathon in the world' the gruelling 13 mile course takes in a run over Brown Mountain (332m) as well as going to Maiviken hut which involves a further climb from sea level of approximately 180m over the perhaps appropriately named 'Dead Man's Pass'.

The half marathon was inaugurated in 2004 by BAS doctor Jenny Corser and this year was organised by scientist Jamie Watts with the assistance of marshals Dave Peck and Sarah Clarke. 10 runners and walkers took part in the half marathon. It was won by Morrisons' chef Andy Peterson in a time of 1 hour 49 minutes, 6 minutes faster than last year's winning time.

 

 

Andy Peterson at halfway point, not even appearing to be out of breath. Photo by D. Peck

 

Field Training

BAS General Assistant Paul Torode is spending a month at King Edward Point to brush up the Field Skills of the wintering team and to inspect the huts and equipment used for recreational travel. This has meant fun afternoons dangling off ropes at Hope Point and a last set of summer field trips to the Barff Peninsula. Paul is on his way North from Halley and he has spent the summer in the Antarctic as Field Assistant to a geologist in the Theron Mountains, 250 miles South of Halley.

Abseiling at Hope Point. Photo by P. Torode

Cape George. Photo by P. Torode

 

Last Visitors of the Summer

Europa

The 3 masted barque 'Europa' visited South Georgia on the 19th to 22nd March. The weather was stunning for their arrival. 'Europa' is 185 feet long and was built in 1911. She spent much of her life as a lightship in the North Sea and was restored in 1994 and now plies the seven seas with up to 50 charter guests. She has spent the summer operating in the Antarctic Peninsula and called at South Georgia en route to Tristan da Cunha and Capetown. She was under the command of Captain Klaas Gaastra who has been with the ship since the restoration. As the ship is not a full member of IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tourism Operators) they are only allowed to land passengers at Grytviken, although they may zodiac cruise at other sites around the Island. They spent two days alongside at King Edward Point and enjoyed some good walks in the local area.

The last cruise ship of the summer, the Russian vessel 'Professor Multanovskiy' also visited on the 19 th , also en route from the Antarctic Peninsula to Tristan da Cunha.

Detailed visitor statistics are under production for the 2004/5 season, but provisional figures until the end of March are:

•  Cruise ships - 39 visits from 19 ships

•  Yachts - 18 visits from 15 yachts

•  Other - 1 visit from 'Europa'

 

Gambo

Gambo

The yacht 'Gambo' made her second visit to South Georgia with a party of five climbers and two crew aboard. After an initial foray into the hills around King Edward Point, they went up to Husvik, where bad weather affected their plans although they still made an ascent of Admiralty Peak. At the end of March they returned to King Edward Point and made an attempt on Mt Paget, at 2,934m the highest mountain on the Island. The party split into tortoises and hares, with the hares making a lightweight dash for the summit but they were beaten back by the weather. The tortoises persevered but were also defeated by the weather and came back off the mountain several days later than the hares.

King Edward Point residents were treated to the international premier of 'You've been Gambo'd', cameraman Tim Hall's excellent film of the 'Gambo's' last visit to South Georgia in 2003.

 

KEP Notes

The human population of King Edward Point took a nosedive at the beginning of the month with 11 summer staff and short term visitors leaving over the space of 6 days. Postmistress Ann Prior left at this time after spending the summer here. This leaves the place feeling very empty, with only 12 people remaining at the Point. The BAS wintering team of 9 is in place, along with the Government Officer. The other two are Paul Torode and Museum assistant Nick Atkinson who will both be leaving in early April. Long serving South Georgia stalwarts Government Officer Pat Lurcock and Postmistress Sarah Lurcock will be returning in time for the busy winter fishing season.

A Leopard seal, a relatively unusual sight at this part of the Island, was around King Edward Cove for a couple of days at the start of the month.

The weather has been variable with some glorious warm days alternating with periods of snow and rain.

 

(To subscribe to the SGIsland News Alerts list click here)

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