South Georgia Newsletter, March 2011

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

UK Government Increases Funding To South Georgia

The UK Government has announced it is to increase funds for South Georgia and the other UK Overseas Territories. On March 10th the UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague, announced the increase of the Overseas Territories Programme Fund to £7m per year and a special one off payment of £1 million to GSGSSI this year.

In a statement made on March 10th, William Hague said: “We will continue vigorously to uphold the principle of self-determination and to ensure the continued security of all the Overseas Territories. We set this commitment out clearly in the Strategic Defence and Security Review. We want to help the Territories plan their future in a competitive and unpredictable world. We will help Territories that are struggling economically to avoid unnecessary financial dependence on the UK. We will help Territories that now rely on UK financial support to reduce their dependence and pursue the path towards economic sustainability. We will ensure a sustained and robust British presence in our uninhabited Territories to protect them for future generations.”

The Foreign Secretary also said: “In addition I have reallocated resources in the current financial year to help rectify some of the budgetary weaknesses which have emerged in some Territories in recent years.” Included in this section was £1m to the GSGSSI “to strengthen their reserves in the face of recent reductions in fisheries revenue”. There was also £100,000 that will ultimately go to the Antarctic Heritage Trust to be used to support the Trust´s work repairing and maintaining heritage sites in the British Antarctic Territory. William Hague said “Maintaining British heritage sites is part and parcel of demonstrating UK sovereignty in Antarctica.”

Information from the FCO website, you can read the full text of the statement here.

Phase 1 Of SGHT Habitat Restoration Programme Completed

By Ruth Fraser

Helicopter with under-slung bait hopper over Moraine Fjord. Photo Martin Collins
Helicopter with under-slung bait hopper over Moraine Fjord. Photo Martin Collins

The first year of the hugely ambitious South Georgia Rat Eradication Programme has now been completed. After years of preparation and consultation, the first season of work, to clear four distinct areas of South Georgia of rats, has been achieved in only 26 days.

Eight weeks had originally been allowed for 'Phase 1' to allow for the erratic weather conditions on the Island. Greene Peninsula, Thatcher Peninsula and Mercer Bay were baited first. The recently infested Saddle Island (on the North West of the Island) was the final area to be baited during this phase.

As for how effective the attempt to eradicate rats in these areas has been - the signs are good. There has been no evidence of live rats in the last few weeks and the team are optimistic the trial has been 100% successful.

The two Bolkow helicopters worked perfectly throughout 'Phase 1' and the team are now preparing to finish up with some ground-survey work and are investigating possible landing sites around the Island that may be used for 'Phase 2'. Once these surveys are completed, both helicopters will be “mothballed” and prepared for storage in the hangar at Grytviken – ready for 'Phase 2'.

The team of eleven involved in the project are in celebratory mood. They have worked extremely hard to ensure a smooth operation and are all tired, but happy that this first stage of the project has gone so well. A recipe of excellent teamwork and a lot of luck with the weather, along with substantial support in kind from both the Government (GSGSSI) and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has meant that SGHT are keen to move forward with 'Phase 2' as previously planned. There is still a mountain to climb to raise the funds needed to clear the remainder of South Georgia, but everyone has been encouraged by the tremendous support received from so many sources.

There are always many people involved in a project of this size, and the fieldwork, advice, expertise and support from both the Government and BAS has been gratefully received and has been essential to the success of 'Phase 1' – as it will be in future years. Bell Laboratories (who supplied the bait Brodificoum) and One Ocean Expeditions (who generously supplied transportation of the team and helicopters from the Falkland Islands and equipment from New Zealand) were also an essential ingredient to the successful eradication.

Here’s to 'Phase 2'!

If you would like to be involved in this project and to help raise funds for 'Phase 2', then why not sponsor a Hectare? For more information go to:

Habitat Restoration Project's Busy Month

Aerial baiting above KEP. Photo Samantha Crimmin.
Aerial baiting above KEP. Photo Samantha Crimmin.

Aerial baiting by the SGHT Habitat Restoration team started on March 1st. The first area treated was Greene Peninsula, which despite some poor weather preventing flying some days and losing one of the two main bait hoppers, was completed by the 11th.

The lost hopper dropped off the hook whilst underslung from the red helicopter on it's first day of baiting as a result of a malfunction of the hook-release cable. It dropped into shallow water just inside King Edward Cove. Boats were soon on the scene but were just too late to get to it before it sank. The location was marked and the next day two local divers searched for it but were unable to find it in poor visibility before their limited air supplies ran out. Air tanks were sent on the next sailing from the Falkland Islands and this time divers located the hopper, attaching a line so it could be towed across the Cove and lifted by crane onto the “Pharos SG”. The hopper was too badly damaged to be usable again on this phase of the HR project but can be repaired for future use. Meanwhile the yellow helicopter was able to continue with the straight line baiting whilst the red helicopter used the special deflector hopper to bait along the coastlines.

Divers were needed to recover the hopper; all the HR action is being filmed by two filmcrews. Photos Samantha Crimmin.
Divers were needed to recover the hopper; all the HR action is being filmed by two filmcrews. Photos Samantha Crimmin.

Stormy weather again prevented flying but baiting commenced on the next area, Thatcher Peninsula (which includes KEP and Grytviken) on the 13th. Because of the presence of buildings in these areas, which may preclude some rats from having access to bait, a party hand baited in and around the built up areas. Other parties went out in boats to bait coastal caves. Poison pellets in the Bore Valley dam area were removed to reduce exposure to the drinking water source, though the pellets are not very water soluble or dangerous to humans unless ingested in substantial quantities.

Hand baiting coastal caves by boat. Photo Samantha Crimmin.
Hand baiting coastal caves by boat. Photo Samantha Crimmin.

A few days after the Thatcher was completed, the team moved their attentions to the Mercer Peninsula. When weather prevented flying, the HR team were on short notice should the weather improve, allowing short better-weather windows to be utilised and keeping the programme on course to complete in good time.

Baited is loaded into the hopper at Grytviken. Photo Pat Lurcock.
Baited is loaded into the hopper at Grytviken. Photo Pat Lurcock.

The hopper in action over Greene Peninsula. Photo SGHT.
The hopper in action over Greene Peninsula. Photo SGHT.

By the time the Mercer Peninsula baiting was complete the Project had baited a larger area than any previous rat eradication projects worldwide.

The final area to be baited in 'Phase 1' was offshore Saddle Island. As this is remote from the helicopter base in Grytviken it was decided to wait until the “Pharos SG” was in the area to act as a support vessel before baiting would commence. Bait and helicopter fuel had been loaded onto the vessel before it left on its scheduled return to the Falkland Islands, allowing it to sail straight to the Saddle Island area on March 23rd on its return. They depoted four drums of fuel and some bait ashore in the Wilson Harbour area, though it was late on the 25th before the weather allowed the helicopter to reach Saddle Island.

Post-eradication survey work was quickly started by GSGSSI and HR staff in all the baited areas. Dead rats seen were collected for genetic analysis and to prevent them being eaten by scavenging birds. As expected a small number of pintail ducks and skuas were found that had died either from directly eating the poison bait or from secondary poisoning after eating poisoned rats. Early signs indicate that non-target species losses will not be excessive.

Once the baiting for “Phase 1” was complete the HR team worked towards returning for “Phase 2”. The weather deteriorated in the last week of the month but short better-weather windows were used to reconnoitre possible forward stations for baiting areas which will be further away from Grytviken than for the current phase. They also prepared the garage facility, in one of the old whaling station buildings, for the storage of both helicopters.

Two film crews have been filming of the HR Project, a German crew for 'GEO' and a Korean crew for MBC.

One of the species most at risk from the baiting are the South Georgia pintail ducks, so up to fifteen ducks were fitted with tiny VHF radio transmitters on leg rings so their movements and fate post baiting could be monitored. Whilst some ducks will die as a result of eating poison bait, there is no overall concern for the species as ducks will, in the absence of rats, breed sucessfully and migrate in from un-baited areas.

Postal Services Ordinance Consultation

A draft Postal Services Ordinance has been published on this website. GSGSSI will welcome comments on the draft Postal Services Ordinance. The 0.2 MB document can be downloaded here.

Fishing and Shipping News

The cruise ship season is drawing to a close. “Fram” in Fortuna Bay.
The cruise ship season is drawing to a close. “Fram” in Fortuna Bay.

The South Georgia tourist season is drawing to a close with just one cruise ship left to visit in early April.

Five cruise ships visited during March, including “Polar Pioneer” which was supporting a party of nine adventurers on a guided 'Shackleton Crossing' from King Haakon Bay to Stromness. The crossing was successful and afterwards the guides reported that, though they had had the best weather they had experienced on the route so far, they had also had the worst ice conditions that they had ever seen on the Crean Glacier, above Possession Bay.

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) ship “RRS Shackleton” made the final call to the two South Georgia bases for this season, arriving in King Edward Cove on March 25th. The vessel is one of the few that visits the Island that could load the huge Volvo digger that has been on the Island since being bought in for the 2003 Remediation Project, when it was used to dismantle dangerously unstable parts of the old whaling station at Grytviken. The vehicle was the heaviest thing the ship had lifted with it's crane other than the crane 'load test'.

The Volvo is the heaviest cargo that has ever been lifted aboard “RRS Shackleton”. Photo Robert Paterson.
The Volvo is the heaviest cargo that has ever been lifted aboard “RRS Shackleton”. Photo Robert Paterson.

The start of the toothfish season was heralded with the arrival of longliner Argos Georgia at KE Cove on March 28th Mar. After inspection and licensing she sailed for the South Sandwich Island fishery.

Five yachts were around the Island this month. The private yacht “Wanderer III” sailed for St Helena on March 8th after a stay of just over two years around the Island. The tiny historic wooden yacht was reported to have safely reached Tristan da Cunha by the end of the month.

“Wanderer 3” sailed for Tristan da Cunha after a two year visit to the Island. Photo Samantha Crimmin
“Wanderer 3” sailed for Tristan da Cunha after a two year visit to the Island. Photo Samantha Crimmin

Continuous Plankton Recorder Comes Home

A Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) was towed for the first time by the South Georgia Fishery Patrol Vessel “Pharos SG” in March. The device, which was originally designed in South Georgia by Alister Hardy, collects plankton samples.

Alister Hardy was Chief Zoologist to the 'Discovery Investigations', based in South Georgia, in the 1920s. Whilst there he designed and built the first Continuous Plankton Recorder to collect and store plankton samples collected across large distances. He trialed it in the Southern Ocean using their research vessel “RRS Discovery”, which was Cpt Scott's old ship.

Later, when working at University College Hull, UK, Hardy designed a smaller 'MK II' version and arranged for it to be towed behind merchant ships. In this way information on plankton distribution could be collected whilst the ships sailed shipping routes throughout the world's oceans. The modern CPR has only minor modifications from Hardy’s original design. The simple, robust, reliable and effective machine continues to be used worldwide, adding to one of the longest running marine biological data series in the world.

The CPR In its stainless steel housing can be towed in rough weather behind large vessels up to speeds of 25 knots. Water from just below the sea surface flows into the CPR through a small hole and is filtered between two fine silks. The internal mechanism is driven by an impeller that winds the silk onto a reel in a storage tank containing fixative (formalin) for preserving any plankton in the water until it can be analysed. The silks are marked every 10 nautical miles and using the tow log, including GPS positions, it is possible to record where, along the survey route, the plankton was collected. Samples are analysed at the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAFHOS) in Plymouth. First the silks are examined visually for their colour; the degree of “greenness” of the silks is an indicator of any phytoplankton blooms. Closer examination under a microscope allows counts and species identification of the collected phytoplankton and zooplankton.

In March, the CPR was deployed from “Pharos SG” for the first time just as it left Stanley, Falkland Islands. It was deployed from the back of the vessel and plankton was continually sampled for the entire 750nm journey (with one change of internal cassette midway) until the vessel entered Cumberland Bay. The CPR will be deployed every other month on the same route to gather seasonal data on plankton species composition and abundance. The data will allow examination of any inter-annual changes in the biomass or make-up of the plankton community and will give information on changes in plankton communities across the Polar Front. As plankton forms the basis of the food chain this information can also be used in relation to fluctuations in fish, seabird and marine mammal numbers.

Fittingly, on this sailing the “Pharos SG” was also carrying the new stamp issue commemorating Alister Hardy and his pioneering work to the Island ready for its March 15th release. An image of an early CPR, showing both the external and internal mechanisms, features on one of the stamps (see below).

GSGSSI thanks all at SAFHOS, who will analyse the SG plankton samples, for their help getting the SG CPR towing project under way, and for their assistance with the Alister Hardy stamp issue.

Fur Seal Teeth Recovered From Yacht Passenger

Falkland Islands Government Customs Officers recently recovered a number of fur seal teeth (and other small bones) which had been removed from South Georgia and imported into the Falklands without permission from either Territory. The teeth have been returned to GSGSSI staff who greatly appreciate the actions of the Customs Officers. Fifty-four teeth from the Antarctic fur seal, which is listed as an endangered species under CITES appendix II, were recovered from the visitor, who was identified as a passenger on a visiting yacht.

In order for GSGSSI to observe the future operation of the yacht, it will be required to make Grytviken its first landing at the beginning of its next return visit. GSGSSI will also be requiring the yacht to carry an approved Government Observer.

Sir Alister Hardy - New Stamp Issue

The pioneering work of Sir Alister Clavering Hardy was recognised in a new four-stamp stamp issue released on March 15th.

Sir Alister Hardy (1896-1985) was an eminent marine biologist famous for his work on plankton and fisheries, but also an accomplished artist, inventor and writer of popular science.

He was educated at Oundle School and Exeter College, Oxford where he initially studied botany. The First World War interrupted his studies and Hardy took up a commission with the Northern Cycling Battalion patrolling the coastal defences of Lincolnshire. He later transferred to the Royal Engineers as a camouflage officer, which included a period as a flying observer. After the war he returned to Oxford to study zoology during which time he met his future wife Sylvia Garstang.

Graduating in 1920, Hardy worked briefly at the Marine Laboratory in Plymouth then took up a scholarship to work at the Stazione Zoologica in Naples in 1921. In August 1921 he was appointed as Assistant Naturalist at the newly established Fisheries Laboratory in Lowestoft where he worked on the feeding strategy of North Sea herring (70p stamp) and developed a simple “plankton indicator” that enabled fishermen to detect plankton and improve their catches.

In April 1924 Hardy was appointed Chief Zoologist to the 'Discovery Investigations', which were established to assess the status and natural history of whale stocks in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean. The expedition utilized Captain Scott’s first Antarctic vessel, “RRS Discovery”, which was refitted for scientific work (£1.15p stamp). The refit took longer than expected and Hardy used the time to help design the shore laboratory on South Georgia (Discovery House) that is still standing today. “RRS Discovery” eventually sailed from Dartmouth on September 24th 1925, arriving in Cumberland Bay on February 20th 1926.

For six weeks the vessel undertook scientific stations around South Georgia, collecting oceanographic data and sampling Antarctic krill (euphausia superba; the main food of the whales and illustrated top left on the First Day Cover) and other zooplankton. The work was conducted in sea conditions that were often extreme, making sampling arduous and dangerous. After a busy season “RRS Discovery” returned to Cape Town for the austral winter, returning in October 1926, when she was joined by another vessel, “RRS William Scoresby”. The two vessels were tasked with undertaking a survey of the whaling grounds off South Georgia and Hardy transferred to the “William Scoresby”, where he was the scientist in charge.

Following the successful survey of the whaling grounds, Hardy rejoined “Discovery” and sailed south for the South Orkney and South Shetland Islands. Here, in addition to midwater nets, they dredged the seafloor to investigate the diverse benthic (bottom) fauna of the Southern Ocean. The vessel continued south, along the Antarctic Peninsula, before returning across the Drake Passage to Cape Horn and north to Britain. Although Hardy took up an academic post in Britain, the 'Discovery Investigations' continued on “RRS Discovery II”, resulting in 37 volumes of scientific reports as well as Hardy’s own popular account 'Great Waters', which was published in 1963.

Recognising the need to sample plankton over large spatial and temporal scales, Hardy designed and built the first Continuous Plankton Recorder 'CPR MK I' (60p stamp), which he first trialled on “RRS Discovery”. Later, when based at University College Hull, Hardy designed a 'MK II' version, which was considerably smaller in size and could be towed behind merchant ships, enabling information to be collected on plankton distribution from shipping routes throughout the world.

As well as being a dedicated and talented scientist, Hardy was an excellent communicator and in addition to 'Great Waters' was the author of the two volumes of 'The Open Sea' in the 'New Naturalist' book series. Throughout his life Hardy was also a prolific and gifted water-colourist, whose pictures gave a powerful dimension to his books. “A busy day at the whaling station at Grytviken” (95p stamp) was painted, on February 21st 1926, from the deck of “RRS Discovery” near the jetty at Grytviken and shows the carcasses of whales awaiting flensing and the discoloured water from the blood of the whales.

In 1928, having returned from the Southern Ocean, Hardy was appointed as the first Professor of Zoology at the University of Hull, where besides a full teaching programme he continued work on the plankton recorder, developed 'CPR MK II', and worked on his 'Discovery Reports'. In 1940 Hardy was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and in 1942 accepted the Regius Chair of Natural History in Aberdeen.

In 1946 Hardy was appointed Linacre Professor of Zoology in Oxford. After a period of stagnation during the war, he brought new life to his old department with an emphasis on whole-animal biology, and soon it was a thriving centre for research in ecology, animal behaviour and genetics. Hardy was knighted in 1957 and retired in 1961.

Throughout his life, while not conventionally religious, he was convinced of the importance of man’s spiritual nature. While a student he made a vow that, should he survive the war, he would devote his life to attempting reconciliation between religion and evolutionary biology. This was put on hold during his scientific career, but soon after retiring from the Oxford chair he founded the Religious Experience Research Unit (now named after him), and devoted the rest of his long life to this project. In the year he died he was awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize for his work in this field.

SAHFOS continues Hardy’s pioneering research into plankton distribution and abundance. SAHFOS was established as a charitable foundation in 1990 and continues to operate the CPR throughout the world’s oceans.

South Georgia stamps can be bought from

(Text by Dr Martin Collins)

New Book On The South Georgia Surveys

Putting South Georgia On The Map

'Putting South Georgia on the Map' tells for the first time the full story behind Duncan Carse’s expeditions to South Georgia in the 1950s. Carse was born in 1913. By the time he was 37 he had sailed around the world as apprentice on a square-rigged sailing ship, spent months in the Antarctic pack ice on the “RRS Discovery II”, been awarded the Polar Medal as the youngest member of the British Graham Land Expedition, been appointed to the BBC as an Announcer, served with the RNVR during World War II, and finally had become famous throughout Britain as the radio voice of ‘Dick Barton – Special Agent’, a BBC radio thriller with a daily listening audience in the millions. But early in his life Carse developed a consuming ambition to lead a trans-Antarctic expedition, and to succeed where Sir Ernest Shackleton had heroically failed with his 'Endurance' expedition of 1914-1916. This ambition led him in 1950 to abandon his radio acting career to organise the 6-man South Georgia Survey 1951-52, which he hoped would boost his leadership credentials. But both it and the following 4-man 1953-54 survey ran into serious problems, so that when, in 1953, Carse was forced to compete with Vivian Fuchs for the leadership of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition it was Fuchs who was selected. Although bitterly disappointed, Carse organised the final, and highly successful, 8-man South Georgia Survey of 1955-56. Finally, in 1958, and as a direct result of Carse’s efforts, the first accurately surveyed map of South Georgia (DOS 610) was published, at a scale of 1:200,000, it remained the definitive map of the Island for almost half-a-century.

'Putting South Georgia on the Map' is a large-format (A4) 216-page book containing a full account of all the South Georgia surveys and is available in three versions: Soft Cover, Hard Cover and a Limited Edition. All three have the same content. The Limited Edition, (of 100 copies) is supplied in a slipcase, and each copy is numbered, and signed by the author.

The prices posted surface mail (in Australian dollars) are: Soft cover A$50; Hard cover A$ 60 and Limited Edition A$ 90 (Prices A$10 less for Australia).

For payment details go to or for further information email the author/publisher here

Magnetic Observatory Up And Running

By Christopher Turbitt

Chris Turbitt  using the fluxgate-theodolite to take bearings of the sun. Photo Tony Swan, BGS
Chris Turbitt using the fluxgate-theodolite to take bearings of the sun. Photo Tony Swan, BGS

British Geological Survey (BGS) scientists completed the installation of the South Georgia Magnetic Observatory at the end of February. The minute changes in the strength and direction of the Earth’s magnetic field are now being continually monitored at King Edward Point (KEP). These data are compiled by BGS Edinburgh with data from 160 other observatories around the world, and also with data collected by ship, aircraft and satellite, to model the magnetic field generated in the liquid outer core of the Earth. The magnetic field models produced by BGS are used in navigation - such as the variation corrections added to Hydrographic Office charts - and by scientists studying processes in regions as wide ranging as the deep Earth to space-weather.

We know from the orientation of the magnetic field frozen into rock samples that the Earth’s magnetic field has reversed polarity on many occasions in the Earth's history, with the last reversal occurring some 800 000 years ago. Globally, the magnetic field of the Earth has weakened by 6% over the past 100 years. As highlighted in the January edition of this newsletter, this weakening is most notable in the South Atlantic, where the magnetic field is particularly weak and weakening rapidly – a phenomenon known as the South Atlantic Anomaly. This may be the early indications of a field reversal, although any reversal is thought to occur over thousands of years.

The Earth’s magnetic field provides us with a protective barrier against the solar wind - a stream of high energy particles radiating from the sun. Observatories can detect the effect of the solar wind on the magnetic field of the Earth, most notably during magnetic storms which can occur after particularly violent events on the Sun. Magnetic storms can be accompanied by auroras at high latitudes and also by increased hazard to satellites, aircraft and ground-based infrastructure such as electricity networks. As the Sun will reach its maximum activity in the next five years as part of an 11-year cycle, there is significant interest in science, industry and government in the potential hazard from space-weather.

BGS scientists are due to return to KEP for a maintenance visit in early 2012, with Alastair Wilson & Rob Webster from the KEP BAS staff making regular calibration measurements of the magnetic field in the meantime. In a scientifically important region where there are very few suitable locations for magnetic observatories, the site at KEP will hopefully provide scientists with a continuous, undisturbed data set over many, many years.

Installing the Magnetic Observatory. The far hut is the observation hut with the fluxgate-theodolite inside; used to the direction of the magnetic field to within about 1/600 of a degree.
Installing the Magnetic Observatory. The far hut is the observation hut with the fluxgate-theodolite inside; used to the direction of the magnetic field to within about 1/600 of a degree.

Peat Sampling

Two scientists from the Australian University of University of New South Wales visited the Island this month to collect peat samples which they will analyse to study long term global changes in climate, vegetation etc. Chris Turney, an Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellow and Professor of Climate Change, hopes to visit the Island to do more fieldwork next year and will write about their project in next month's newsletter.

The scientists also took the opportunity to collect peat samples in the Falklands whilst passing through the islands en route to and from South Georgia.

South Georgia Snippets

As normal there have been several earthquakes of around 5 on the richter scale in the South Sandwich Island area in March. More notably one more than ten times larger, measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, occurred on March 6th at 56.406°S, 27.029°W and a depth of 54 miles, NNE of Visokoi Island.

GSGSSI Senior Executive Officer (SEO), Martin Collins, was working on South Georgia in early March. Environmental Officer, Darren Christie, visited shortly afterwards. Both officers were there to assist the smooth running of the SGHT Habitat Restoration Project. Both Officers visited Greene Peninsula and other local areas to monitor the rat eradication operations and their short term effect. GSGSSI seabird specialist Andy Black has also been working at KEP in recent months and has been monitoring bird populations in the local areas both before and after the HR baiting.

Darren also assessed the current situation with invasive plants and efforts to control them.

Using the SCUBA equipment bought in to aid the recovery of the dropped HR Bait hopper, CEO Martin Collins and Government Officer Keiron Fraser, assisted by other KEP staff, did some underwater repairs to the KEP slipway. More than fifty bags of grout were placed under slipway which has been undermined and eroded by wave action. The divers also carried out an underwater inspection of the KEP jetty.

An unusual wildlife event was witnessed on March 1st when an early morning runner spotted two snow petrels on the ground near the Grytviken church. These birds are more commonly seen flying or nesting or snow-bathing in the high mountains, or else out at sea, often catching an up-draft from larger icebergs. Recently these beautiful white birds have been seen flying off KEP, but it is unusual for them to land on land at sea level.

Unusually snow petrels were seen on the ground near the church.

The tiny Wilsons storm petrels have also been much in evidence flying above KEP and dancing and and feeding on the waters of the Cove.

As expected, the king penguins that laid the first recorded penguin egg at KEP failed in their attempt at parenthood. Though there were many people watching the birds on Webcam 1 and wishing the birds success rearing a chick, the birds were probably inexperienced as parent birds. Locals saw them lose the egg a couple of times before recovering it to the normal brood place on top of the feet with a skin flap lowered over it. Just into the second week of March they lost the egg for the final time and a skua was seen tucking into a good meal as a result.

There was a strong South Georgia representation running the Falkland Islands Stanley Marathon on March 20th. Commissioner Nigel Haywood, CEO Martin Collins and Museum Handyman Hugh Marsden all ran the full marathon whilst a team of four others (Executive Officer Richard McKee, First Secretary Ric Nye, Fisheries Scientist Jude Brown and her husband Steve) took part as a relay team.

Congratulations go to veteran runner Hugh, who came in 2nd overall, and Martin who finished fourth.

Another sign of the end of the tourist season was the departure of the Museum seasonal staff, the last of whom left aboard the FPV “Pharos SG” on March 13th. The museum was opened for the last few cruise ships of the season by KEP resident and SGHT employee Ruth Fraser.

Museum staff Sue, Tony and Julia head home after a successful season. Photo Robert Paterson.
Museum staff Sue, Tony and Julia head home after a successful season. Photo Robert Paterson.

While the boats were out supporting the HR project for post-eradication survey work, the opportunity was taken to collect some litter (plastic and old fishing net) from the vicinity of the wrecks near Discovery Point. This sort of rubbish can be a hazard to wildlife.

Captain Eric Kesteloo, in charge of the beautiful sail training ship “Bark Europa”, showed himself to be a brave sailor when he took the classic sailing ship through the narrow tide-torn Stewart Strait (between the main island and Bird Island) before sailing on to enter King Edward Cove on the morning of the March 21st. The vessel, which is registered in the Netherlands, berthed at the Tijuca jetty. Passengers on board had a wet and wild day for their visit to Grytviken but if the weather was not hospitable, the ship was, inviting all the locals aboard to have look around the interesting vessel. “Bark Europa” spent about six days around the Island visiting many of the main wildlife spots, often experiencing calm and sunny weather with low swells to aid landings. There was more bad weather though on the night of March 23rd , afterwards Captain Eric wrote: “We came through a wild night, with winds registering gusts of 70+, which we rode out on two hooks. Before hauling back and repositioning at dawn, we had to unfoul both from the sea bed. The starboard anchor had fluked a steel cable and the port anchor came up with a rock jammed between the bill and the shank. This island is something else!”

Better weather followed and the brave Captain sailed into Larsen Harbour by moonlight, something he said he would not have dared to do if he had not been there before. The following morning they witnessed a large calving of the Risting Glacier at the end of the Drygalski Fjord. The vessel sailed from the south end of the Island on March 26th; next stop Tristan da Cunha.

Bark “Europa” sails out of King Edward Cove. Photo Robert Paterson.
Bark “Europa” sails out of King Edward Cove. Photo Robert Paterson.

On March 17th KEP Locals celebrated St. Patrick's day (Patron saint of Ireland) appropriately with Guinness cake, Celtic music and quaffing of fine black stout. Tommy went the extra mile, dying his hair green, white and orange, the colours of the Irish flag.

A special ceremony to celebrate the committed relationship of two crew members of “RRS Shackleton” was held in the Grytviken church on March 25th. For the wedding-like ceremony “Groom” Tim Patterson, and “Bride” Julia Forde were piped in by Robert Paterson. Captain John Harper officiated, Bosun's Mate Ray Davis was Best Man and the ship's dentist Penny Granger was maid of honour. Chief Cook Danny McManamy gave Julia away. There were readings by other members of the crew and FIDs. Afterwards the happy couple left the church to the sound of KEP Base Commander Rob Webster playing the fiddle and the church bells were rung. Chief Officer Ralph Stevens had organised a Brazilian BBQ for everyone that evening after which the ship sailed at midnight.

Though the ceremony has no legal standing as a marriage, the couple wanted to celebrate their union in this way whilst they were surrounded by friends in a very special place. They plan to follow up with a legal marriage when they get back home to the UK.

The “wedding” party. L to R: Captain John Harper, Ray Davis, “Bride” Julia Forde, “Groom” Tim Patterson, Penny Grainger and  Danny McManamy. Photo David Bailey.
The “wedding” party. L to R: Captain John Harper, Ray Davis, “Bride” Julia Forde, “Groom” Tim Patterson, Penny Grainger and Danny McManamy. Photo David Bailey.

For unusual and beautiful sights you only need to look to the skies above KEP. Keen amateur photographers Sam Crimmin, Robert Paterson and Alister Wilson have been busy with their cameras capturing some fantastic sights. Sam caught a wonderful combination of a sunset and a rainbow on March 22nd, whilst Robert photographed a rare fog-bow on the 27th.

Nor do the photographers let lack of daylight stop their camera action, as seen in Alister's depiction of the Milky Way, and Sam's star track above the anchored cruise ship “Prince Albert 2”.

Dates for your diary:

A polar exhibition, including content on Shackleton, opens on April 8th at the National Maritime Museum (NMM) in Falmouth, Cornwall, UK. 'On Thin Ice: Pioneers of Polar Exploration' will run at the NMM until October 9th 2011.

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