South Georgia Newsletter, Jan 2010

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- Disclaimer: This newsletter is not produced by GSGSSI; it does not necessarily reflect their views.

Commissioner’s Visit

The Commissioner's flag flew over King Edward Point during the Commissioner's visit.
The Commissioner's flag flew over King Edward Point during the Commissioner's visit.

Commissioner Alan Huckle and his wife Helen visited South Georgia in January. Travelling with them was Jane Rumble, Head of the Polar Regions Unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and GSGSSI Senior Executive Officer Martin Collins.

The party arrived on the tour ship “Le Diamant”, visiting several of the tourist visitor sites en route to be dropped off at King Edward Point (KEP).

They had six days at KEP to meet with the people working here and see what they do and to tour the various buildings including the research station, whaling station, museum, church and hydroelectric power station.

Day two of the visit was a busy one. The group were taken by boat to see the reindeer-damaged vegetation in the Sorling Valley area. A reindeer exclosure in the area surrounds some very different vegetation compared to the heavily grazed area outside. It clearly shows the plant life that re-establishes when it is not subject to grazing and trampling. After a little sightseeing down near the magnificent Nordenskjold Glacier front, the party then went to look at the remains of the two fishing vessels grounded at the entrance to Moraine Fjord. The wrecks still pose some pollution problems as they continue to break up. They were then dropped onto the beach at Maiviken where Terrestrial Biologist Jon Ashburner, assisted by others from the research station, was weighing the young fur seal pups. The party walked back over the pass to Grytviken. That evening the Commissioner hosted a dinner for all the residents at Carse House.

The Commissioner's party ready to board the jet boats for a tour of Cumberland East Bay.
The Commissioner's party ready to board the jet boats for a tour of Cumberland East Bay.

On the 14th, there were three ceremonial events. The Commissioner officially opened the new Theodore Andersson photography exhibition in the Museum. There was also a toast to Shackleton at the explorer’s graveside. And, on behalf of the South Georgia Association (SGA), the Commissioner officially handed over three benches to the South Georgia Museum. The benches were commissioned by the SGA to be designed and built by wooden boat builder Thies Matzen. They are made from wood salvaged from the whaling station. The benches will be sited in the area in front of the museum.

Commissioner Huckle opens the new exhibition in the museum.
Commissioner Huckle opens the new exhibition in the museum.

The Commissioner handed over three benches from the South Georgia Association.
The Commissioner handed over three benches from the South Georgia Association.

The following day the visitors were invited for a day out on the yacht “Golden Fleece”. The yacht was operating in the Cumberland Bay area whilst the South Georgia Survey personnel and artists continued their work (see below). That evening the visitors were entertained to dinner by the research base personnel.

On the 16th they embarked the Fishery Patrol Vessel “Pharos SG”, and despite poor weather managed to visit and inspect Husvik and the British Antarctic Survey base at Bird Island on their way back to Stanley, Falklands.

Matt explains the way the hydroelectric plant works to Commissioner Huckle
Matt explains the way the hydroelectric plant works to Commissioner Huckle

The Commissioner visits South Georgia.

Mice Found In New Location

Introduced mice have been thought only to reside in one area on the south-west coast of South Georgia, however recent reports indicate that they may be occupying further sites on the Island. A report from an expedition staff member on a tour ship indicated mice may be present around the Gold Harbour area. A subsequent investigation by the researchers of 'South Georgia Surveys' seems to confirm the report. The new site is more than 100km from the known mouse infested site, and on the opposite coast.

The Government is very keen to know if mice are present in other areas of the Island. GSGSSI Environmental Officer, Darren Christie, states that: “It is extremely important for the Government to know where the mice are, so that their impact can be managed to the best of our ability. GSGSSI would be extremely grateful for the assistance of visitors in reporting potential sightings.” To this end an identification sheet has been produced which can be downloaded from this website. Rats are widely distributed around the Island, so the identification sheet highlights the things to notice when trying to distinguish rat and mouse sign. Anyone finding possible evidence of mice should take photographs and, if possible, collect things like droppings, hair and evidence of gnaw marks for later analysis. The sheet is carefully designed to ensure all relevant information is properly recorded. Details are also given for where the completed sheets and any samples should be handed in to GSGSSI.

Darren thanks anyone who is prepared to look out for mice sign whilst visiting the Island, an action he says: “...will be making a valuable contribution to the management of the island.”

The identification sheet can be downloaded here.

The mouse identification sheet highlights the difference between rat and mouse sign.
The mouse identification sheet highlights the difference between rat and mouse sign.

Fishing And Shipping News

Fishing trawler “Sil” has been research-fishing in the SG Maritime Zone. The vessel, which carried out some trawls in the Shag Rocks area before arriving to anchor in Cumberland East Bay(CEB), was inspected on January 16th. One scientist was embarked from the research base to join those who had already embarked in Stanley, Falklands. The vessel then continued the programme of research fishing and deep water benthic surveys for GSGSSI.

Damage to the nets meant the final planned section of the survey had to be cancelled.

South African research vessel “Agulhas” arrived on January 24th to drop 6 weather buoys which will be deployed by the FPV “Pharos SG” in the coming months.

“SA Agulhas” in KE Cove.
“SA Agulhas” in KE Cove.

Thirteen cruise ships visited this month. Including a vessel new to South Georgia, the 112 passenger “Plancius”.

One vessel “Clelia II”, had to cancel her visit after striking rocks with her propeller at Petermann Island in the Antarctic Peninsula. She is not expected to be running for the rest of the season.

Three more yachts arrived, two on charter. Private yacht “Aura” had not planned to visit and was intending to sail south of the Island en route to South Africa, but their wind vane steering system was damaged in strong winds so they decided to call in to make repairs. Despite on going problems with the engine the yacht sailed on January 20th bound for Cape Town.

“Plancius” made her first ever visit to South Georgia.
“Plancius” made her first ever visit to South Georgia.

Brian Young, Commander Of The SG Liberation Ships

Captain Brian Young.
Captain Brian Young.

Captain Brian Young, who commanded the ships sent to liberate South Georgia after the Argentine invasion in 1982, has died.

Born in England in 1930, he joined the Royal Navy in 1944. He learned to fly in the USA and flew Sea Hawk jet fighters from aircraft carriers, and saw action in the Suez war. Between 1958 and 1960 he worked with the RAF as an instructor before becoming a senior pilot of 804 squadron in the carrier “Hermes”. Later he commanded the Royal Navy's 766 “Top Gun” squadron at Yeovilton, UK.

Returning to more general service, his next commands included a counter mine squadron in Bahrain and the frigate “Danae”, and his attendance of a Senior Officer's War Course proved to be good preparation for the coming events in the South Atlantic.

In 1982 he was on his final appointment as captain of destroyer “Antrim” when he was chosen as commander of the ships sent to recover South Georgia after the Argentine invasion. After the successful action leading to the Argentine surrender, Young sent the famous signal: “Be pleased to inform Her Majesty that the White Ensign flies beside the Union Jack in South Georgia. Save the Queen”.

“Antrim” then moved to take part in the action in the Falkland Islands where it was bomb damaged in “bomb alley”, Falkland Sound.

After the war Captain Young was awarded a DSO, with special mention being made in the citation of his South Georgia command.

On retirement from the services he continued to work with the company Marconi GEC. He and his wife Sheila enjoyed country sports, often visiting Scotland for the fishing and shooting. He maintained his links with those he saw action with in the South Atlantic and was President of the 'Antrim Association'. Captain Young was 79 when he died on December 24th.

Full obituaries from the Telegraph and Times newspapers can be seen here and here.

Captain Young (centre) was President of the 'Antrim Association' seen here with Dame Margaret Thatcher.
Captain Young (centre) was President of the 'Antrim Association' seen here with Dame Margaret Thatcher.

Jane Cameron

Historian and Falkland Islands archivist Jane Cameron died on December 26th.

Jane worked as Falkland Island Government Archivist looking after the historical records of the Falklands and South Georgia. She was also a champion of older buildings. Her passion for preserving older buildings was put to good use when she visited South Georgia in 1999 to undertake some work for the South Georgia Museum. Whilst here she took the opportunity to survey the old government buildings at King Edward Point; this work, and her subsequent report, helped to save Discovery House and the old Gaol from demolition.

Jane, who was 59, died of her injuries following a car crash near Trelew, Argentina. She was there to work with a Dutch television crew aboard the sailing clipper “Stad Amsterdam” making a documentary about naturalist Charles Darwin.

Jane’s body was repatriated to the Falkland Islands where she was buried at Port San Carlos. A memorial service was held in Christ Church Cathedral, Stanley , on January 11th.

Major Earthquake In The South Sandwich Islands

A major 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck east of South Georgia on January 5th triggering a local tsunami warning. According to the US Geological Survey the quake was centred 685 km east of Bristol Island in the South Sandwich Islands, at a depth of 10 km.

Following the quake the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued an alert which stated that though there was no threat of a destructive widespread tsunami "there is the small possibility of a local or regional tsunami that could affect coasts" near the epicentre. In the event no such phenomena was reported. There is no mechanism for tsunami warnings of this sort to be spread to the small number of people living on the islands most likely to have been affected, such as South Georgia.

The South Sandwich Islands are a richly active area for earthquakes as they lie on a major fault line in the earth crust. There are numerous, but usually smaller, quakes in this region, such as the magnitude 4.9 earthquake just south of Visokoi Island on January 18th. The map below shows some of the seismic history in the region.

(Info and map USGS.)

Where the earthquake major occurred.
Where the earthquake major occurred.

Historic seismicity in the South Sandwich Island region since 1990.
Historic seismicity in the South Sandwich Island region since 1990.

In Search Of 'Black Smokers'

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) research vessel “RRS James Cook” is currently working around the South Sandwich Islands. The vessel is searching for 'black smokers' to investigate the peculiar phenomenon and the unusual biology that forms around them.

'Black smokers' are vents on the sea floor that release superheated water with a lot of dissolved minerals in it. A vent often shows as a tube-like structure, up to 10m tall, with a plume of dark grey hot water coming out like smoke out of a chimney stack, hence the name 'black smoker'.

The main tool the researchers are using is the remote operated diving vehicle ISIS.

It is only recently that biologist have begun to realise that there are ecosystems where life can exist without sunlight being the primary energy source. Hydrothermal vents are an example of this. The warm mineral rich water is the primary energy source providing for a huge variety of life in an area where no sunlight can penetrate. Animals that live around the vents have adapted to thrive in an incredibly harsh environment with normally toxic levels of some chemicals, high pressure, high temperature and total darkness.

Previous exploration of hydrothermal vents has discovered new animals such as massive tube worms and new species of bivalves, prawns, crabs etc.

You can follow the current “James Cook” cruise on the ship blog at

There are some fabulous photographs of the team working and the wildlife seen in the ocean around the ship, but all images that contain samples collected from around the vents have been carefully obscured.

Marine And Fisheries Scientist For GSGSSI

A new position is being created within GSGSSI for a Marine and Fisheries Scientist.

The successful applicant will become the fourth member of the small South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands government team based in the Falklands Islands. The job will include: conducting science in support of GSGSSI fisheries and marine environmental management; data collection and analysis; working on commercial fishing vessels as an observer; organisation and participation in research cruises; analysis of biological samples; and preparation of reports and liaison with GSGSSI's scientific contractors.

The new job was advertised through January on this website and applications closed on January 25th.

Disappointing Results For Wandering Albatross Survey

“Golden Fleece” sets out from KE Cove for survey work.
“Golden Fleece” sets out from KE Cove for survey work.

There were disappointing results when 'South Georgia Surveys' researchers, Sally Poncet and Ken Passfield, carried out the annual wandering albatross census on Albatross and Prion Islands in the Bay of Isles.

Long-term monitoring of the wandering albatross populations at Albatross and Prion Islands began in 1999. It had been hoped that results from counts in recent years indicated that the numbers of wandering albatross were stabilising and may even start to climb again. The birds breed on a two yearly cycle so this years’ figures are disappointing compared to when the same birds were breeding two years ago. Whilst the total number of wandering albatross breeding pairs recorded on Prion Island remained the same, at 33, it is a different story at Albatross Island; numbers there have dropped by 22 breeding pairs, a 15% decrease.

The researchers were delivered to Albatross Island on the December 31st by FPV ”Pharos SG”, where they spent a week working and camping. Charter yacht ”Golden Fleece” took over as support vessel on January 7th.

Further surveys on Prion Island are carried out throughout the year by personnel from the KEP science station. Last year (2009) the 31 eggs counted on Prion Island in January produced 27 chicks which survived through until at least October, when the last chick count was carried out prior to the birds' departure in November. This is a good survival rate and similar to that recorded for 2008 and on Bird Island.

Tourists have been prevented from visiting Albatross Island in recent years, however visitors are still allowed to visit Prion Island outside the main fur seal breeding period. A board-walk was installed to reduce visitor impact and all visitors must stay on it. As part of the monitoring work the researchers measure the distance of albatross nests from the board-walk. Luckily for the tourists one nest has been built just 4.5m away, in full view from the lowest viewing platform, and several others can be seen from the board-walk.

The current bird survey work at Albatross and Prion Islands is funded by GSGSSI.

(Info: Sally Poncet, South Georgia Surveys.)

Important Artefact Set To Return To South Georgia

The cabin in which Sir Ernest Shackleton died aboard his ship “Quest” looks set to become an important new artefact at the South Georgia Museum. The cabin was removed from the vessel a few years after the expedition and has been in Norway ever since.

“Quest” was originally built in Norway in 1917 as a sealing vessel called “Foca II”. A few years later Shackleton bought it for his forthcoming expedition and had it refitted at Southampton, UK. A new-deck house was added to make extra cabin space, including one for Shackleton and one for the ship’s captain. There are good records of what the cabin used to be like. It was Scout Marr's daily task to “scrub out the boss's cabin” aboard “Quest”. In his book 'Into the Frozen South' he gives the following description of Shackleton's cabin: “Don't, please, carry impression of a sumptuous state-room. This sea-bedroom was little better than a glorified packing-case; it measured seven feet by six, and when you were in you felt half-afraid to draw a full breath in case you carried something away or burst the bulkhead apart. The door of this cabin opened onto the afterside; and on the port side was the bunk, stretching the entire length of the room, with drawers beneath and a single porthole above. A small washstand stood against the forrard bulkhead; shelves well-fitted with books on the starboard side, and a small, collapsible chair completed the more elaborate addition, fixed to the forrard bulkhead, was a small white-enamelled cabinet fitted with an oval mirror in the door, and an emergency oil-lamp for use when the electric supply gave out. That's as good a description as I can give of this tabloid apartment, where you could do everything humanly possible without leaving one spot!”

The cabin leaked badly in rough seas and at times Shackleton had to abandon it to sleep on a wardroom settee.

The expedition was en route to the Antarctic when they called in at King Edward Cove where Shackleton died in his cabin on January 5th 1922.

The expedition continued despite the loss of it’s leader, returning to London later that year. Afterwards “Quest” was sold to Ludolf Schelderup, a Norwegian sealer, and refitted in 1924 at the Rognan shipyard in Norway. The deck-house was removed, taken ashore, and split up for use in various locations as summerhouses, storage sheds etc. The section that formed Shackleton’s cabin was kept by the refitter Johan Drage at his farm.

In 1980 the cabin was given to the local museum in Saltdalen. It was restored and opened to the public, however in recent years it has been somewhat neglected and has not been on show. Last year Stig-Tore Lunde of South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) Norway became aware of the important artefact's presence in Saltdal. He made contact with the original donor of the cabin, Ulf Bakke, and the Saltdal Museum and Saltdal Kommune (the municipality). In November 2009 all parties agreed that the cabin could be transported to Grytviken to become part of the South Georgia Museum.

The process of returning the cabin to South Georgia has already started. On January 21st the cabin was transported to Sandefjord, Norway, where it will be restored. Hopes are that the cabin will then be transported to South Georgia in the 2011-12 season.

You can see the SGHT’s report about this important artefact and donate towards the successful conclusion of this project on the SGHT website here.

Shackleton's cabin aboard the “Quest”.
Shackleton's cabin aboard the “Quest”.

Artists For Albatrosses

Wildlife artists John Gale and Chris Rose visited South Georgia on a five and a half week expedition on charter yacht “Golden Fleece”. The artists wanted to draw and paint the wildlife and landscape of the region.

The principal aim of the trip was to raise awareness for the need for albatross conservation and to this end the project will culminate in an exhibition in London, promoted by the RSPB and the ‘Save the Albatross Campaign’. The exhibition will include field work the artists produced whilst at the Island, though the main body of work will be studio paintings resulting from the trip. Each artist will donate a significant painting for auction at the exhibition launch as well as a percentage of sales to the ‘Save the Albatross Campaign’.

Despite relentlessly wet working conditions whilst at South Georgia, the artists did manage to produce a large body of field sketches and paintings, though they said a few more dry, sunny days would have been welcome!

Field work and the progression of studio paintings will be able to be seen on the artists’ websites after their return in mid February.

John Gale:

Chris Rose:

One of the artists working on deck. Photo Ruth Fraser.
One of the artists working on deck. Photo Ruth Fraser.

Sketches of a light-mantled sooty albatross
Sketches of a light-mantled sooty albatross

Bird Island News

By Ewan Edwards, Seal Zoological Field Assistant at the British Antarctic Survey Station, Bird Island.

After the chaotic midsummer period when seasonal festivities coincide with one of the busiest fieldwork periods for the scientists on Bird Island, there was little time for relaxing. This is the time of year that science projects dictate our schedule, with everyone chipping in to help the assistants and visiting scientists achieve their goals.

With only six weeks to fit in as much as possible, Richard Phillips and Norman Ratcliffe continued the work they began in December; the majority of which was GPS-tracking and monitoring the dive behaviour of both flying seabirds and penguins. Nine bird species were fitted with small electronic tags which either transmit a position, record where the bird has been, or log the depth to which it has dived. The outcome of this is that we may be able to use this information to help prevent birds from dying as fishing by-catch.

In addition to the seabird tracking, Mick and Ewan deployed satellite transmitters on female Antarctic fur seals to see where they are going on their week-long foraging trips. Because these devices transmit their location (rather than storing it for download at a later date) it is possible to see, in almost real-time, exactly where the seals are feeding. Early results suggest that our seals are heading towards Shag Rocks (200 miles west of Bird Island) to feed on krill. This work was concurrent with that of Ian Staniland who was doing similar deployments from a field camp at Wilson Harbour on the south coast of mainland South Georgia.

A fat and healthy Antarctic fur seal pup. Photo Ewan Edwards
A fat and healthy Antarctic fur seal pup. Photo Ewan Edwards

Richard and Norman departed on “Pharos SG” mid-month, along with Encarna Gomez-Campos, who had been here working on fur seals. Pharos also brought us some visitors for an afternoon; Alan Huckle, the Commissioner of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and his travelling party. They were treated to a few hours of classic Bird Island weather – hail, rain and 50kt winds – for a walk over to Hibitane House, a hut overlooking one of the grey-headed albatross study colonies and the Goldcrest Point macaroni penguins (AKA Big Mac).

A grey-headed albatross chick, soon after being left unguarded by its parents. Photo Ewan Edwards
A grey-headed albatross chick, soon after being left unguarded by its parents. Photo Ewan Edwards

After the largely clement weather of the early part of the summer, January has brought with it some fierce storms; the most severe of these began early in the morning of the 13th. North-easterly winds of over 60kts were recorded at the base, and sadly some wandering albatrosses, incubating eggs on some of the higher areas of the island, were blown from their nests. The wind even dislodged a field hut on Wanderer Ridge, which had stood solidly in that exposed position for several decades. Later in the month, everyone on base helped dismantle and remove the debris from the hut.

Wanderer Ridge hut lies on its side following a stormy night. Photo Joe Corner
Wanderer Ridge hut lies on its side following a stormy night. Photo Joe Corner

Final numbers at the Special Study Beach showed that fur seal pups were born in far lower numbers than the long-term average, but towards the end of January it appears that most pups that have made it this far are doing very well. Mick and Ewan, with assistance of Joe and Claudia, have tagged three-quarters of the pups which were born this year with bright green flipper tags. In a few years these pups will start to return to the study beach and will be individually identifiable by their tags.

It appears that the low numbers of seals may have had a significant impact on some of the scavenging birds. Stacey reports that very few of the northern and southern giant petrel chicks in her study area are surviving. Giant petrel chicks rely heavily on meals of carrion scavenged on the beaches by their parents, and with so few seals around this food has been sparsely available. Brown skua chicks have also had a hard time this reason, although one chick has benefited from its location in (grey-headed albatross) Colony B, where its parents have had a ready supply of albatross chicks with which to feed it.

The skua chick in Colony B, well fed unlike many of the other skua chicks around the island. Photo Claudia Mischler
The skua chick in Colony B, well fed unlike many of the other skua chicks around the island. Photo Claudia Mischler

This will be my last South Georgia website diary as I depart in April after 30 months on Bird Island. I hope you have enjoyed reading my notes from this special place.

Ewan leaves Bird Island soon after two and a half years working there.
Ewan leaves Bird Island soon after two and a half years working there.

Punishment For Good Cause

The South Georgia Half Marathon is due to be run on February 17th or 18th, and for the first time the runners are doing it for more than just the chance of winning the trophies or the satisfaction of completing what is possibly the toughest regularly run half marathon course in the world. This time they want your money! And of course it is all in a good cause.

The South Georgia Half marathon route takes the runners over the top of Brown Mountain, back to sea level, then up over Deadman’s Pass, descending to Maiviken hut then back over; it is all rough ground and encompasses a total height gain of more than 500 meters!

There are currently 13 people planning to complete the course, a few are regular runners but most are not, so there is an earlier start time for half the field who have declared themselves ‘runklers’ (a kind of walking/running).

This year we have decided that it's time to put all that pain and agony to a good cause. We are supporting The South Georgia Heritage Trust. A page has been set up on ‘JustGiving’; a simple, fast and totally secure way to support our efforts. We would like to raise £500 for the habitat restoration fund. Help us make a donation by clicking on the link here.

South Georgia Snippets

The reports submitted following expeditions to the Island can now be downloaded from this website. You can read the expedition reports for the past few years by going here.

A mystery penguin seen at Hercules Bay is confounding even the experts.

The bird was spotted amongst the macaroni penguin colony by naturalists working as staff on cruise ship “Polar Star”. There was hot debate on board as to what the bird was, some claiming it to be a royal penguin, whilst other said it was surely just an aberrant macaroni.

The bird was said to be slightly larger than the surrounding macaroni penguins with a more massive bill and a white chin and throat, it also has a different pattern to the yellow feathers above the eye. The opinions of two bird experts were sought. One agreed that though the penguin obviously suggested a Royal Penguin, which only breeds at Maquarie Island near New Zealand, and despite the white chin and heavy bill, it was actually not a royal, which have a very distinctive "look and feel" about them; it was a 'white-faced' macaroni, almost certainly a male.

But the other expert begged to differ. He said the bird in the photo was indeed a royal, and reminded us that macaroni and royal penguins were once thought to be the same species. He also said the only way to be sure would be to get a feather sample and have it DNA analysed!

Do you know what the bird is? If you want to join the debate leave a comment on this website and we will pass it on.

The mystery penguin. Photo David Shaw.
The mystery penguin. Photo David Shaw.

The bad-weather summer continues with more than our fair share of snow and gales. When it is not blowing the skies have been heavy with low cloud; weather locally known as 'mank' and more often associated with Bird Island than Kind Edward Cove with its normally celebrated microclimate. The poor weather has begun to get everyone down and the only way to cope is to make the very best of every bright spot. A patch of sunlight sees an unbalanced reaction as unsuitably summery clothing and flip-flops are quickly donned, or folks head out for a walk or out for an early evening beer at Hope Point. People have started talking wistfully of the wonderful winters here and wishing the disappointing summer away.

During a visit to King Edward Point on January 14th, Sally Poncet of 'South Georgia Surveys' gave a presentation on their current survey work and some recent work for the SGHT toward rat eradication. She recommended a cautious approach to this, with a trial area being baited and then monitored for a couple of years to see if the techniques worked in this environment. Later the artists travelling with her on the yacht “Golden Fleece” allowed people to look through the sketch books they have been working in during the voyage.

A spectacular iceberg lodged itself in the area around Hobart Rocks mid-month. Locals were often to be heard commenting as the berg turned over revealing new and beautiful aspects. It was also attracting the attention of roosting penguins. Once it had settled in one position for a while gentoo and chinstrap penguins climbed up and peppered its valleys and foothills. Chinstraps are a rare sight around KEP so the one that came up on the beach on the 15th was much photographed.

The berg turned in the water showing new and beautiful facets.
The berg turned in the water showing new and beautiful facets.

Kayaker and adventurer Hayley Shephard is en route to the Island aboard the yacht “Northanger” to attempt a solo circumnavigation of the Island. Her two kayaks are already here and she should arrive in early February. There are several links from the website where you can follow her adventures in the weeks ahead.

Burns night was celebrated at KEP on January 25th with cullen skink, haggis neaps and tatties and cranachan for dinner, all worked off with traditional dancing afterwards. Though one base member has the full tartan regalia, others put up a good show towards the theme wearing odd bits of tartan printed material with sporrans were fashioned from wigs, hats and even a large paintbrush.

There was more themed eating and clothing next day to mark Australia Day. A traditional barbie was followed with an Australian themed quiz and poetry recital by Aussie George. Meanwhile an Australian teenage single-handing sailor Jessica Watson was sending messages home from close off our shores during her attempt to solo-sail around the world. According to the 'Australian Sunday Morning Herald', Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he had spoken to Ms Watson when she was in the seas off South Georgia. She told him that her Australia Day message to the nation was "live your dream". However, Mr Rudd urged other young would-be explorers to finish school first before embarking on a similar round-the-world venture!

A three person team from the British Geological Survey arrived on the 29th to start a two year project to install a new geomagnetic observatory at KEP. Their work is progressing very well and we hope to bring you a report on the new observatory next month.

Moulting king penguins.
Moulting king penguins.

Many king penguins are up to moult, and locals are delighted that maybe as many as seven kings are incubating eggs at the newly forming colony at Penguin River. Only three or four pairs have laid here together before. The elephant seals have also been returning to moult and are collecting in the smelly wallows behind the beaches. Meanwhile the fur seal pups are beginning to moult into their adult fur.

Fur seals in the breeding season

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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