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South Georgia Newsletter, April 2007

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25th Anniversary of the Liberation Commemorations
by Emma Jones, Government Officer

His Excellency Alan Huckle, Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands made his inaugural visit to the Territory during 12th April – 14th April. Arriving on “RFA Gold Rover”, together with his wife Helen, his visit was timed to coincide with events to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Liberation of South Georgia from Argentine forces. Also visiting to take part in the events were veterans Keith Mills and Guy Sheridan who were responsible for the defence and liberation of South Georgia respectively. Their wives Liz and Molly accompanied them on this return visit.

The commemorative events took place on the morning of Friday 13th April. Padre David Norfield conducted a short and simple ceremony to accompany the unveiling and blessing of the commemorative plaque placed at the base of the King Edward Point flagpole; situated in the same location as in 1982. His Excellency provided the story of the plaque giving a brief history of the idea behind it’s conception, before removing the rocks holding the covering flag in place to unveil the plaque reading “To Commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Liberation of South Georgia on 26th April 2007 ‘From the Sea Freedom’”. Braving the gale force winds and icy temperatures to attend the ceremony were: 1982 veterans Guy Sheridan and Keith Mills, their wives Molly and Liz, Commanding Officers from “HMS Edinburgh” and “RFA Gold Rover”, ship’s company from both those vessels, Master and crew from FPV “Pharos SG”, Fishery Officer John Adams (also a 1982 veteran), Government Officer Emma Jones and many of the BAS station personnel.

 

Braving the icy temperatures and gale force winds, visitors and locals gather for the unveiling.   His Excellency the Commissioner Alan Huckle unveils the commemorative plaque.

The next event took place in the old whaling church at Grytviken, a more sheltered venue but still very cold. The Padre led a reflective service that was introduced by Guy Sheridan and during which lessons were read by Government Officer Emma Jones and His Excellency.His Excellency hosted a drinks reception for invited guests in Carse House later that afternoon and later, during the evening, locals and crew from FPV “Pharos SG” were treated to Keith’s personal account of defending South Georgia from invading Argentine forces and Guy’s account of commanding Operation Paraquat, which resulted in the liberation of the Island.

 

    1982 veterans Keith Mills, John Adams and Guy Sheridan
Photos by Ainslie Wilson

As this was the Commissioner’ first visit to South Georgia, he also welcomed the opportunity to see first hand as many as possible of the environmental management issues facing the territory.

His Excellency and his wife Helen were flown by helicopter to Cape Harcourt in order to see first hand the destructive effect that reindeer have on the native flora and fauna. On their return, Guy and Keith were flown over “their peaks”; mountains named after them in recognition of their achievements in 1982. Veterans Ian Stanley and Tony Ellerbeck also have peaks named after them and Margaret Thatcher has a peninsula.

His Excellency was also taken by jet boat to Sorling beach to view the reindeer exclosure and see again the difference in plant life between the areas reindeer can reach and those they cannot.

The Huckles and Mills had a dramatic departure from the Island when the “RFA Gold Rover” returned to the mouth of Cumberland Bay East to meet the jet boats an hour before dark. The Huckles and Mills’ were then transferred, in a fairly lumpy sea, to the seaboat alongside the ship and winched aboard.

 

The Huckles and Mills say farewell to South Georgia   An easy transfer onto “RFA Gold Rover” for the visitors.

Guy and Molly Sheridan were lucky to stay on in King Edward Point for a further 3 days during which time Molly, an artist, was able to add to her already large collection of South Georgia sketches and Guy made a long awaited climb to the top of Mt Hodges accompanied by Base Commander Andy Barker and Dr Melanie D’Souza.

 

A Time for Reflection

The Argentine submarine “Santa Fe” lying alongside the KEP jetty in 1982. Photo by Guy Sheridan

The Commemoration of the Liberation of South Georgia was a time of discovery and reflection for all currently in South Georgia. For many, the events of ‘82 were far removed in time and distance, and the anniversary provided an opportunity to hear about the events first hand. For Keith and Guy it was a time to finally meet face to face and to be able to pay tribute to the men who fought alongside them.

Before leaving on “HMS Edinburgh”, Guy took the time to share his thoughts on the Commemoration.

“Standing at the foot of Felix Artuso’s grave in the cemetery at Grytviken after the service in the Norwegian Chapel was a poignant moment. The cold wind and flurries of snow were replicas of the autumn weather that so dominated the events 25 years ago when the tranquillity of this exquisite island was shattered on the 2nd April and again on 25th April 1982. Mr Artuso was buried with full military honours and his simple grave provoked the thoughts of how much worse it could have been, however, his death was one too many.

Those quiet moments at the cemetery and the congregation in full voice in the chapel provided the opportunity for us all to know that South Georgia remains the gem that it is. The commemorative plinth, with the engraved plaque, stands below the flagstaff at King Edward Point and on it is one word which means more to all of us; freedom. Keith Mills and his men defended it so gallantly and the reminder that is so often gained at a price lies in that simple cross in the Grytviken cemetery – Felix Artuso, RIP.

It is difficult to describe how wonderful it has been to return and I know I speak for Keith and Liz and Molly too. Our gratitude goes to the South Georgia Government for inviting us to share in the anniversary of the Liberation, and to all those at King Edward Point who made our stay so memorable.”

The “Instrument of Surrender” which Guy Sheridan signed in 1982 after liberating South Georgia. Photo by Guy Sheridan

 

South Georgia Toothfish Season Opens

Government Officer Emma Jones has been preparing documentation for the main toothfish fishing season which starts in South Georgia waters on May 1st. Eight longliners are expected for the beginning of the season, although two boats, a potter and a longliner were inspected and licensed earlier in the month and have been fishing around Shag rocks and South Sandwich Islands. All fishing vessels being issued licenses to fish in South Georgia waters must report to King Edward Point for an inspection by the Government Officer. They have to show compliance with South Georgia licensing regulations and CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) conservation measures on such things as waste management, marking of fishing gear, de-ratting measures and precautions to minimise seabird mortality. The flag state safety certificate must also be checked, ensuring that safety measures are in place such as life rafts and life jackets for the whole crew.

 

GO Emma Jones measures a bird scaring streamer.   Inspecting the integrated weight line on an autoliner. Photos by Ainslie Wilson

Scientific Observers onboard fishing vessels used the port visits as an opportunity to meet the BAS scientists who work at KEP. Scientists here act as a link between MRAG (Marine Resources Assessment Group) and the observer, providing equipment, assistance with data collecting and information on missed briefings.

 

South Georgia Hydro Project Update by Gordon Liddle

I think it is known that the GSGSSI has long harboured an ambition to restore Hydroelectric power to South Georgia and reduce or remove the dependence on fossil fuels for power, heating and lighting. Over the last couple of years rough estimates of cost were produced and an environmental impact assessment were carried out.

The Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands decided that the next stage should be to carry out a detailed study of the dam itself before making a final decision on how to progress. To that end a road was built to the dam from Grytviken to allow access for the heavy plant required to dig out the surrounding soils, expose the dam itself and subsequently to repair and rebuild as necessary. The other need was to see the wet face of the dam and to do so meant lowering the level of Gull Lake. That was achieved by using siphon pumps and large pipes laid over the dam and into the natural drainage stream below.

Those tasks were completed successfully as were taking soil samples to look at surrounding porosity and concrete core samples to understand better the present construction and its strength.

Design engineers are now studying this year’s findings to decide exactly what is needed and what options might be used to provide a twenty to forty year guarantee through repair and strengthening.

The detail for next year is not finalised but the hope is to carry out all work except the installation of the turbine itself (due to the long lead in time needed to build this and the need to let the water clear and settle after the rest of the work) in the 2007/08 season and then to install the turbine in late 2008 or early 2009 and turn on the power.

Studies have shown that the catchment and rainfall will produce enough power to run Grytviken and KEP although backup diesel power will be retained to cope with any hard winter freezes that could reduce water availability. These are shorter and much less frequent than thirty or forty years ago.

 

 

New Stamp Issue

The sheetlet version of the new 25th Anniversary of the Liberation of South Georgia First Day Cover.

A new stamp issue and two First day Covers were released on April 25th to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Liberation of South Georgia on April 25th. The four stamps, designed by Ross Watton, depict four peaks named after individuals who played a leading role in the liberation of the Island. In the foreground of each stamp is an element inexorably linked with each heroic individual.

25p Ellerbeck Peak 684 metres / Wasp helicopter
50p Stanley Peak 1263 metres / Wessex 3 helicopter
60p Sheridan Peak 955 metres / 42 Commando Royal Marines
£1.05 Mills Peak 627 metres / Royal marines Detachment, HMS Endurance

There is also a sheetlet of the four stamps with a border where silhouettes of the ships that served as part of Operation Paraquat are depicted.

Mint stamps are in sheets of 20 with a central gutter that features silhouettes of some of the same ships.

The First Day Covers, one with stamps and one with the sheetlet, both cost £3.20 and feature a painting of a Royal Marine with the Union Flag and M Company 42 Commando RM flag flying above King Edward Point after it’s recapture.

 

Shipping News

Visiting ships in the early morning. Photo by Ainslie Wilson

“HMS Edinburgh” and “RFA Gold Rover” were both anchored off Hope Point for the duration of the 25th Anniversary events. With assistance from KEP jet boats and boat crew, personnel from both ships were transported ashore to attend the commemoration events as well as to explore the local area.

One trawler arrived on the 26th to fish for icefish.

The eight longline vessels made a total of eleven port calls this month, mainly for inspection and licensing.
One vessel came alongside to drop of the pots they had been using before the longline season opens on May 1st.

“RRS James Clark Ross” visited Cumberland Bay East briefly twice to uplift and return electrician Andrew Chase for passage to Bird Island as well as to deliver cargo to the base.

 

FPV “Pharos SG”, dressed overall, was alongside for the duration of the commemorative events.   The jet-boat leaves the side of a visiting longliner. Photos by Ainslie Wilson

 

 

7 Peak Challenge

Panorama showing the location of the 7 peaks. Photo by Andy Barker

In the early days of the new BAS team at King Edward Point, bagging peaks in the quickest time in a completely ‘non-competitive’ manner became the main pastime. Mt Duse, directly behind the base and a mere 507m took a pounding as base members attempted to summit and return to base in a time that was enviable to all. The record is held by Leif Poncet who completed it in 46 minutes return to Grytviken. Andy Barker holds the BAS record of 49.5 minutes return.

In an effort to sort the bimblies from the hard core, Martin Collins issued the ultimate challenge; 7 peaks in one day. Poor weather conditions stopped the first attempt on Boxing Day. Helen Taylor and Andy Barker made the first attempt on 13th January and spent the day navigating in the mist. They completed five peaks but stopped on Petrel 1 due to increasing winds and horizontal snow.

Finally on Good Friday the ‘Triple A’ team consisting of Andy, Andrew and Anjali set out to conquer. The route took them up Brown Mt and onto Narval, back down Hodges Bowl onto Orca, then followed the ridge to the top of Hodges. From there they went along the ridge to scale Petrel 1 and Petrel 2. These were the most technically difficult of the lot, particularly in the icy conditions with a light dusting of snow. Backtracking a little, they came down via Hodges Lakes and across the plateau to summit Duse, the last peak and surprisingly difficult given the conditions. Ten and half hours later, the team returned pleasantly weary and in a completely non competitive way, gloated to all who would listen and celebrated with a pub crawl along the length of the pitroom corridor.

Andrew and Andy on top of Mt Hodges. Photo by Anjali Pande


Bird Island News
Report by Fabrice at the BAS base on Bird Island.

At the beginning of the month, with Fabrice away in Port Stanley (FI) for dental treatment there were just three of us on the island so things were very quiet. Fabrice was soon returned to us with tales of his two-week fun filled excursion of which we were all a little envious. With a lot of friends descending onto Stanley from other bases, Fabrice scored a lot of gifts and goodies including an Easter egg for each of us. It was good to have the full team back

On April 12th His Excellency Alan Huckle, Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands made the first landing of his tour of South Georgia, along with his wife Helen and veterans Guy Sheridan and Keith Mills. The weather behaved itself and we were able to get out across the island taking in the majority of the wildlife before the party continued their journey on the mainland. It was a good opportunity for us to familiarise ourselves with our recently appointed Commissioner and a real bonus to meet the two veterans, who’s actions 25 years ago secured the future of our base here at BI and at KEP. We all enjoyed the event very much. Thank you for the lovely Easter cake. It did not last very long.

The visitors on Bird Island. L-R: HE Commissioner Alan Huckle, Helen Huckle, Molly and Guy Sheridan, Liz and Keith Mills.

Later in the month “JCR” delivered KEP electrician Andy Chase who quickly got to work on some pre-winter maintenance jobs. Andy has been full of enthusiasm and a great help on base. We even formed a band with Andy on piano, myself and Rob on guitar, Don on drums and Fabrice on slide whistle and recorded our first (and last) music video. We will be sorry to see him leave and the band split up but surely KEP will be suffering from Andy withdrawal.

On the day of the “JCR” ship call we had an impressive dump of snow, a sign of things to come.

 

Black-browed Albatross chick flexing its muscles in preparation for fledging. All of the black brows will be fledging over the next month. The season has been extremely successful for them with a very high proportion of chicks surviving to fledging age.   Wandering Albatross chick. These have a long way to go before they fledge in November, surviving the harsh winter on the nest with meals supplied by each parent at intervals of up to a few weeks.

Big Mac is now almost empty, the Macaroni Penguins heading to sea for some time off before next season. Fabrice who wrote this month’s Bird island news.

 

South Georgia Snippets

Two public holidays this month have provided recreational time for base personnel.

Gareth, Martony, Charlie and Ainslie chartered the Ice breaking research vessel “Quest” for a fishing expedition in Cumberland Bay. Several likely spots were tested resulting only in loss of tackle before finally locating a successful spot. Two Rock Cod and two Crocodile Fish were reeled in, photographed and released alive back into the sea.

 

    Catch of the day: Crocodile fish caught by Head Boatman Martony Vaughn

 

Andy, Charlie, Charles and Jen made the most of a stunning morning to climb Mt Duse in an attempt to recreate Hurley’s famous photo.

Charles with pipe and Andy in knitted white jumper perched precariously on the rock with a view over Grytviken for the photos. Photo by Charlie Main

Mel, Ainslie and Anjali experienced all the weathers that South Georgia can throw on campers when they went to Ocean Harbour for a camping trip. Hot on their heels as they tromped across the Barff Peninsula was a storm that lasted well into the next day and meant that they viewed Johannson Loch through sleet and wind. It was a delight to wake on the 2nd morning to find a foot of fresh snow had fallen, the sky was blue and the sun was shining! Snow shoeing back over the Barff was a joy with fantastic views back over Ocean Harbour on one side and down onto the Nordenskjold Galcier on the other.

The highlight this month was a group day trip to Drygalski Fjord on board “HMS Edinburgh”. Despite sleet, wind and almost zero visibility, the outstanding hospitality and the opportunity to learn about life on board a warship made it a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Most people braved the sleet and wind to view the Risting Glacier from the bow of the ship although it didn’t take long before numb fingers and noses sent people scurrying back into the warmth and conviviality of the ward room!

“HMS Edinburgh”’ in front of the Risting Glacier in Drygalski Fjord. Photos by Ainslie Wilson

Although the migration of visitors through King Edward Point has slowed considerably, there are still a few comings and goings. Rob Smith arrived on ‘Pharos SG’ after spending the summer as a Field Assistant based in Rothera, to spend 10 days helping Miriam prepare the museum for it’s winter shutdown.

Sarah and Pat Lurcock returned from their holidays and Pat was straight back to work, along with Fisheries Patrol Officer Roy Summers assisting Emma Jones with the final inspections and licenses.

April is the month for the last farewells to be said to those summer visitors who must return to the outside world. Both Rob and Miriam were farewelled on “Pharos SG” on the evening of the 15th. Ainslie, who has been running the Post Office for the summer, cancelled the last postcard, licked the last stamp and wrote the last website newsletter before handing back the keys to the moneybox to Sarah. She is currently in denial about leaving and will no doubt need to be dragged kicking and screaming onto the ship at the last minute.

Andrew Chase, the Electrician, did the tropical island winter break thing and escaped to Bird Island where he spent 7 days carrying out technical maintenance jobs on the repeater, generator and electrics. He made the most of the opportunity to get to know the BI team, who are KEP’s nearest neighbours, as well as getting out into the hills to view the Wanderer chicks, still wearing their down jackets and the adults performing the courtship dance.

The seven Light-mantled Sooty Albatross chicks that have been closely followed by base members are all going strong. With all their adult feathers and only small tufts of down left the chicks will be taking to the air for the first time. Those that are on narrow ledges, 100 ft above the rocks have no room for last minute nerves or a dodgy take off. They will need to get their first flight right!

Ski fever has taken hold within camp as winter well and truly arrived for the last two days of the month: there is the clomping of ski boots up and down corridors; talk of resurrecting ski jumps and a ski tow up the side of Gull Lake road; and the first skiers out, the experts getting back into their rhythm and the amateurs trying out simple maneuvers and staying upright – or not as the case may be!

 

Susanne Fundraises for SGHT

On 11th May, Susanne Monka will begin the TGO challenge to raise funds for South Georgia Heritage Trust.

Susanne found out about SGHT through the February page of the BBC Wildlife calendar, and decided she would like to help raise funds for the island because of her long-term wish to support charities involved in the preservation of the polar regions. She chose SGHT because of its aim to educate people about South Georgia, as well as for its conservation projects. Susanne would love to visit South Georgia some day so she is getting good practice for South Georgia terrain by climbing Scottish peaks!

During the TGO challenge, Susanne hopes to do a Highland walk from the west coast to the east coast of Scotland. Challengers plan their own routes and need to understand navigation, survival techniques, campcraft and general hillcraft. Except for three nights, where Susanne will stay in a bunkhouse or youth hostel, she will use her tent or stay in a bothy.

To sponsor Susanne on this exciting journey, click here.

 

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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