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   News and Events 

South Georgia Newsletter, September 2007

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50% Rise in Cruise Ship Passenger Numbers for Busy Season Ahead

The busy tourist season will start next month. Photo by Patrick Lurcock

The busy tourist season will start next month. Photo by Patrick Lurcock

The tourist season starts next month with five yachts due to arrive at the Island in the week from October 11th. At least three of the yachts are bringing expedition groups.

The first cruise ship “Nordenorge” arrives on October 25th with a potential 300 passengers. She heralds the busiest cruise ship season ever. Licences have been granted for sixty cruise ship visits licenses so far, with about another seven expected to apply.

Total passenger capacity for the season will reach about 9400, which, with an average occupancy rate of 86%, will probably translate into about 8000 actual cruise ship tourists. This is a more than 50% increase in passenger numbers compared to last season.

The busiest month will be January with approximately 17 cruise ships visiting during the month. The cruise ships are generally fairly evenly spread throughout the season, which runs up to the end of March. A quiet few days in the third week of December will give breathing space before the arrival of six large cruise ships (between 100 and 200 passenger capacity) to Grytviken between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

The largest cruise ship visiting this season will be the 720-passenger capacity “Prinsendam” in early February. Another large ship, the 550 passenger capacity ship “Discovery”, will make three calls to Grytviken during the season. Cruise ships that are not IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) members, which includes any ship over 500 passengers, may only land their passengers at Grytviken.

GSGSSI is currently undertaking a tourism management policy review which may see future passenger landings restricted (at any site) to vessels carrying no more than 500 passengers.

 

Fishing and Shipping News

The last of the krill trawlers finished fishing at the beginning of the month, leaving just one icefish trawler fishing in the South Georgia Maritime Zone (SGMZ).

The toothfish season finished at the end of August, so the last longliners all made their way to Stanley, Falklands, to have their catches verified. All of the licensed vessels in the South Georgia fishery are required to have an end of season catch verification inspection, and those vessels which belong to the Marine Stewardship Council Group Scheme also have chain of custody inspections, to enable them to market their catch as coming from a certified sustainable fishery. It was impressive to see five SG longliners fill all the available berths at the dock in Stanley early this month.

A key element of the stock assessment for the South Georgia Toothfish fishery is the tag and recapture programme. Each vessel has an Observer aboard, and part of their work is to tag Toothfish and return them to the sea – aiming to tag and return three fish for every two tonnes caught.

This season the ten Observers tagged over 5,000 fish in the SGMZ, and 583 tagged fish were recaught. The tagging programme has been running for a number of years, so the recaptured fish will have been tagged over a number of years. The number of tagged fish recaptured provides vital information for assessing stock levels, and helps understanding of the fishes’ movements within the zone and their growth rate.

 

Feliti Kami (right) is presented with his prize by Falkland Island First Secretary Paul Martinez, South Georgia Executive Officer Richard McKee to left. Photo by Dean Jurasovich

To encourage fishermen to look out for the tags, they are given ten dollars per tagged fish they deliver to the Observer. Additionally, each finder goes into the annual prize draw for $1000. The 2006 season's winner of the prize draw was Feliti Kami from Tonga, a fisherman on the New Zealand flagged longliner “San Aspiring”. Falkland Island First Secretary, Paul Martinez, took great pleasure in presenting Feliti with his prize money and thanked him on behalf of South Georgia Government for his diligence.

 

Feliti Kami (right) is presented with his prize by Falkland Island First Secretary Paul Martinez, South Georgia Executive Officer Richard McKee to left. Photo by Dean Jurasovich  

 

Exciting Artefacts in the New SG Museum Maritime Display
By Alison Neil, Director South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT)

Over the coming season, the South Georgia Heritage Trust is hoping to expand the South Georgia Museum with a new maritime display in the building situated next to the main Museum. South Georgia has a great marine history and there are many treasures on the Island.

One boat, which has had a long and distinguished history, is the “Alert”, only the bow of which remains. The “Alert” was a wooden launch used by the Discovery Investigations to survey inshore around South Georgia in the 1920s and 1930s in order to improve the navigational charts for vessels working in and around the bays. She ended her days in the Falklands and sadly was burnt on a beach, probably by owners who did not know or appreciate her historic value. Luckily Sally Poncet learnt of this and was able to rescue the remains - the front few feet of the bow - and shipped them to South Georgia.

At that point there was no room to display the remains in the Museum, though the lettering making up the name was removed and displayed in the section that tells of the Discovery Investigations. The lettering will now be reunited with the bow and we will tell the full story of this fascinating boat in the new maritime display.

“Dias” as she is today at Grytviken.

Visitors to South Georgia may have noticed the three ships, sealers and whale-catchers “Dias”, “Albatros” and “Petrel”, at the Grytviken jetties. “Dias”, originally named “Viola”, was built in 1906 at Beverley in East Yorkshire for the Hellyer Steam Fishing Company of Hull. Throughout her career the ship has participated in fishing, whaling, sealing, war and exploration.

“Viola” was one of fifty or so trawlers built for the Hellyer Fleet. Later, requisitioned by the Admiralty, she was involved in the First World War. Armed with a gun, she patrolled the waters around Shetland and the Northeast of England.

In the 1920s “Viola” was sold and renamed “Dias”. The ship came down to South Georgia in 1927 to be used as a seal catcher. “Dias” was also used to assist several expeditions, including the Kohl-Larsen Expedition of 1928/9 that took the first cinema film of the Island. Today, apart from this little ship, all physical trace of the once mighty Hellyer fleet has disappeared. “Dias” is now the oldest surviving former steam trawler, with her steam engines still intact, in the world.

“Dias” as she is today at Grytviken.  

Lyle Craigie-Halkett, a reclamation expert who has salvaged several South Georgia vessels, put SGHT in touch with Dr Robb Robinson in Hull. Robb, despite his house being severely flood-damaged in the recent rains that hit Hull, offered to loan the “Viola” bell and a ship's model to South Georgia Museum for a season. We hope that displaying these two exhibits, and photos and pictures of “Dias’s” past in the maritime building, will raise awareness of its history and help Robb in his mission to restore the ship.

Water colour painting of the ship when she was “Viola”

Water colour painting of the ship when she was “Viola”

Bob Wallace, a traditional boat builder who created the “James Caird” replica used in the 1999 IMAX film 'Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure', has built a full-size replica of the “James Caird” lifeboat used by Shackleton in his rescue of the crew of the “Endurance”. With help from South Georgia Museum supporters and friends in the US, SGHT have raised the funds to purchase this replica, referred to as the “James Caird III”, and bring it to the South Georgia Museum during the next tourist season, with help from Quark Expeditions. The lifeboat will be a central exhibit in the new maritime display, bringing the exploits of Shackleton and crew to life for all South Georgia visitors. The lifeboat will also form an integral part of SGHT's goal to educate young people about South Georgia's connection to Ernest Shackleton and polar exploration.

The first “James Caird” replica built by Bob Wallace was used in the IMAX film, here seen off Cape Rosa. Copyright of WGBH.NOVA.IMAX

The “James Caird III” which will soon arrive in South Georgia to form a central part of the new Museum maritime display. Photo by Bob Wallace

The first “James Caird” replica built by Bob Wallace was used in the IMAX film, here seen off Cape Rosa. Copyright of WGBH.NOVA.IMAX

The “James Caird III” which will soon arrive in South Georgia to form a central part of the new Museum maritime display. Photo by Bob Wallace

For more information see the South Georgia Heritage Trust website: www.sght.org and the South Georgia Museum website: www.sgmuseum.gs

 

New Curator for the Museum

A new South Georgia Museum Curator started work this month for the SGHT.

In her previous job Elsa Davidson was working at the National Museum in Edinburgh. On joining SGHT her first task was to continue work started by outgoing Curator Niall Cooper, on the new maritime display. Having created a new harbour gallery for the Aberdeen Maritime Museum in the past, she will bring valuable experience to this task.

Elsa, who comes from Skaill in the Scottish Orkney Islands, is expecting to know quite a few of the cruise ships that will visit South Georgia this coming summer as many of the same ships visited Skaill House in Orkney where she worked for a few years. She also has a lot of contacts who know about South Georgia’s whaling and maritime past, and is looking forward to seeing the plans for the maritime display come to fruition over the coming summer.

The rest of the Museum team will be Miriam Iorwerth, returning for her second season, this time as Shop Manager, and Museum Assistants, John Fowler and Sarah Greenwood. John lives in the Falklands and has had a varied career as a headmaster, editor of Penguin News and head of Falkland Islands Tourist Board. His fluency in several languages will be useful with the diverse nationalities of tourists who visit the Island. Sarah has been working for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in Cambridge as a facilities manager and has been the manageress of two successful gift shops in the past. The Museum team should arrive on South Georgia in late October.

The taxidermist and artist Steve Massam is expected to return to the Island again later in the summer to continue work on various museum displays and help develop the range of gifts made for sale on the Island.

 

Annual Fisheries Science Cruise

The crew of the FPV “Dorada” empty the trawl net.

In a change from the norm, the annual Fisheries Science Cruise was conducted in winter this year. The Fishery Patrol Vessel (FPV) “Dorada”, a fully functioning trawler, was chartered from the Falkland Islands for the research cruise. The three BAS scientists from King Edward Point joined four scientists who travelled down from the UK for the three and a half week research period.

The focus of the research was stock levels of Mackerel Icefish and Toothfish in the SGMZ. Up to five trawls were made a day, and all the catch analysed. Normally conducted in summer, the scientists were interested to see the different results obtained in the winter. They found the species composition, and the fishes’ diets and maturity stages, differed markedly from summer results.

The weather made for challenging working conditions. At one point the ship exceeded its previous record roll angle, throwing scientists and their samples across the laboratory. A couple of times the ship had to seek the shelter of land when winds exceeded 80 knots making it unsafe to continue trawling.

The crew of the FPV “Dorada” empty the trawl net.

On their return to KEP, Chief Scientist Anjali Pande said the work had been hard but inspiring, and had helped to put into context the routine work they do in South Georgia. Many samples came ashore with them and will be worked up in the coming months, and they also bought back some new inhabitants for the KEP research aquarium, including octopus, skate and crabs.

Assistant scientists Charlotte Main (left) and Jennifer Lawson measuring a small tagged skate. Photos by Anjali Pande.

Assistant scientists Charlotte Main (left) and Jennifer Lawson measuring a small tagged skate. Photos by Anjali Pande.

 

Bird Island News
By Donald Malone, Zoological Field Assistant at the British Antarctic Survey Base at Bird Island.

Grey-headed Albatross.

September has been a month of “all change” at Bird Island with the wildlife and new people returning as the winter period comes to an end, along with a noticeable change in the weather as well. We had the first Skuas start to appear back at start of the month, and it wasn’t long until there were gangs of them on the beaches squabbling over any little morsels they could find! The Grey-headed Albatross were the first of the mollymawks to return around the middle of the month. One week after the first one was seen, the colonies were full off birds, all chattering away noisily to each other and arguing over nest sites.

 

Grey-headed Albatross.

A little bit later the Black-browed Albatross also started to arrive back, so both species of the mollymawks have been keeping Robbo and the “Ringing Team” busy. This consists of Jaume Forcada and Andy Wood who have been regular visitors to the island through the years; Derren Fox, who has arrived to spend his two and a half year stint here as the new “Bird-Man”; and Chris Hill, who is actually here to concentrate on fixing some technical bits and bobs. They all arrived on the FPV “Pharos SG” towards the end of the month, the first ship we have had call in to us since April, bringing some very welcome fresh faces and food!

“Pharos SG” off Bird Island.

“Pharos SG” off Bird Island.

The first birds of the season to lay eggs were the Giant Petrels keeping Fabrice busy with daily checks for laying dates. They started off trying to melt the snow covering their nest sites, but a rise in temperatures has led to quite a thaw of the remaining snow and ice, leading to many of the petrels having eggs sitting in a puddle of water! This month has also seen the first of the King Penguins appear back on our shores after being absent for the winter, and the very distinctive honk heralding their arrival! This is the time of year when we are lucky enough to get three species of seals of very different sizes hauled out on our beaches: the winter visitors, the Leopard Seals, are still hanging around; the Fur Seals are present all year round, but we have started to see more and more returning to our shores over the last month, with lots of little cheeky juveniles bounding about the place; then we have been getting some of the huge male Elephant Seals haul out on the beaches, no pups up here so far but fingers crossed we will be getting some soon!!

Male Fur Seal in the ice.

Bull Elephant Seal and Gentoo Penguins on the beach. All photos by Don Malone

Male Fur Seal in the ice.

Bull Elephant Seal and Gentoo Penguins on the beach. All photos by Don Malone

 

South Georgia puts up a good show

The South Georgia entrants in the Falkland Island Craft Fair achieved impressive results with seven prizes awarded between the eight entries.

First prize in the ‘woodwork section’ was awarded to Martony Vaughan for his sundial. Sarah Lurcock was awarded second and third prizes in the same section for her wooden penguin sculpture and whale shaped cribbage board as well as the Morrison FI Ltd cash prize for overall winner of the ‘woodwork and metalwork section’.

The 1/8th scale whaling harpoon in brass won Gareth Wale first prize in the ‘metalwork section’.
Anjali Pande was awarded a “Highly Commended” in the ‘jewellery section’ for her ¼ size “friend”, a piece of climbing equipment to be worn as a pendant.,

First prize in the ‘handicraft section’ went to Emma Jones for the wood, glass and metalwork tea-light candle holder.

The craft show entries.

The craft show entries.

Anjali had further success this month, winning outdoor equipment worth £300 in a national photography competition in New Zealand. Anjali entered several photographs in the ‘NZ Alpine Club’ annual photography competition, winning “Champion” in the ‘Alpine Nature’ section and “Honours” in the ‘Photo-journalism’ section. Both winning photographs were taken at Salisbury Plain when she was on her way in to the Island to start her contract as Chief Scientist in November last year.

Winning photograph in the ‘Alpine Nature’ section. Click the photo to enlarge.

Winning photograph in the ‘Alpine Nature’ section. Click the photo to enlarge.

The photo that got “Honours” in the ‘Photo-journalism’ section. Photos by Anjali Pande. Click the photo to enlarge.

The photo that got “Honours” in the ‘Photo-journalism’ section. Photos by Anjali Pande. Click the photo to enlarge.

 

 

South Georgia Snippets

Mother and pup, one of the first six Elephant Seal pups born locally.

The change in the seasons has bought a stormy month, towards the end of which the high winds and warmer temperatures have started to strip away the winter accumulation of snow. Bare patches of ground can now be seen on the hillsides, but there is still not much beach evident for the returning Elephant Seals. Early in the month the big bulls were hauling out regularly. Hugely fat after a winters feeding, they only manage a few lumbering moves forward over the snow before having to stop to rest. Even when apparently sound asleep the bulls suddenly raise their heads and emit a deep rumbling roar. The first females came up slightly later, about the same time as the first Skuas were seen. By September 27th there were six pups born in a harem close to Horse Head, the other side of the bay from KEP.

Mother and pup, one of the first six Elephant Seal pups born locally.  

 

 

Elephant seals in Early Spring (Adobe Flash player required: here).

 

Several large icebergs have been trapped in Cumberland Bay, making an attractive backdrop to the early spring activity. The generally bad weather has not stopped a couple of groups getting out for late winter camping trips on the Barff Peninsula. Andrew, Pat and Anj came back with sore feet after traversing the whole length of the Barff from Cave Point to St Andrews, then back to Sorling Valley in just five days. Anyone outdoors has to take special precautions against very low ozone above the Island in spring. Despite several layers of high-factor suncream, red and blistered faces at KEP are evidence that you can’t overdo the precautions.

Anj, Andrew and Pat at one of their campsites during their traverse of the Barff Peninsula. Photo by Patrick Lurcock.

  Anj, Andrew and Pat at one of their campsites during their traverse of the Barff Peninsula. Photo by Patrick Lurcock.

Looking in vain for the partial eclipse of the sun.

There was a disappointment on September 11th when a partial eclipse of the sun that morning was totally obscured by low cloud. We had similar luck with the meteorite shower last month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking in vain for the partial eclipse of the sun.

Cameraman Andrew Chase and Director Gareth Wale on set! Photo by Mel DeSouza.

With all the bad weather, perhaps it is just as well we have had a project to keep us busy this month. With the three scientists away, the remaining handful of people at KEP decided to make a horror movie as a surprise for when they returned. For more than a fortnight several people filled every spare moment with filming, script writing and preparation of props. The surprise was almost scuppered when the scientists arrived back two days earlier than expected, but with some surreptitious filming of final scenes, and late night editing sessions, “There’s something about Olaf” was ready for its inaugural showing on September 19th. At nearly an hour long, it turned out to be really rather good for a total bunch of amateurs. Gruesome murders were chillingly realistic, and a final twist of the plot was unpredictable, so we were all very impressed with ourselves!

 

 

Cameraman Andrew Chase and Director Gareth Wale on set! Photo by Mel DeSouza.

Dressed to impress at the movie premier.

Dressed to impress at the movie premier.

 

 

 

View of the Month

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

 

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