South Georgia Newsletter, April 2010

From South Georgia Website

Jump to: navigation, search

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

GSGSSI Financial Statements For 2008

The Financial Statements for GSGSSI for 2008 have just been published on this website here. The format of the accounts have changed from the previous cash basis to a more modern resource accounting basis. The new format includes fixed assets, debtors, stock and creditors. The accounts show a surplus of £1,271,000 for the year ending December 31st 2008 and a General Revenue Balance of £12,680,000.

Overall revenue for 2008 was just over £1 million more than the estimate at £5,974,355. By far largest income (69%) was from the sale of fishing licences at just over £4 million. Tourism landing charges (16%) and customs and harbour dues raised more than £1.1 million, with the third most important specific economic activity for the Island being the sale of stamps and seignorage on coins, raising £141,000. The extra revenue was mainly from fishing licence revenue and landing charges.

Total expenditure was within the budget of £4.7 million. The greatest expenditure (66%), at nearly £3 million, was spent on fisheries management. Half a million was spent on the running costs of King Edward Point. After depreciation expenses, the other major expenses were the provision of medical services, and the environmental programme.

Comment Invited On Plans For Rat Eradication

The South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) propose to start the Habitat Restoration Project in 2011. The SGHT have now submitted an Operational Plan and Environmental Impact Assessment for the first phase of rodent eradication to GSGSSI. Two documents can be downloaded from this website here and GSGSSI is now inviting comment on the plans.

The eradication of rodents from South Georgia was identified as a high priority in the GSGSSI 'Plan for Progress'. Over the last five years the SGHT have been developing plans and raising funds to undertake the eradication. The presence of glaciers on South Georgia, which isolate sections of the Island, means that the eradication can be undertaken in stages. However the rapid retreat of many of the glaciers increases the urgency of undertaking an eradication programme.

GSGSSI says it is “fully supportive of the principal of the eradication” but as GSGSSI has a regulatory role they “...need to be satisfied that the proposed work will be undertaken safely, with risks minimised, and with minimum impact on the environment.”

Stakeholders are invited to comment on the detail of the operational plan and the environmental impacts of the proposed work by May 12th. Comments should be emailed to the Environmental Officer Darren Christie.

Field Visit For Eradicators

The Habitat Restoration Project Manager, Professor Tony Martin, and helicopter pilot Peter Garden visited South Georgia to assess the infrastructure available and get a feel for the areas where the first eradication attempts will be made.

The two SGHT staff wanted to look at the facilities at King Edward Point (KEP) and Grytviken and visit the Greene and Thatcher Peninsulas, which are the first target of the rodent eradication project.

After the visit, in an interview with the Falkland Islands newspaper 'Penguin News', the two men said they were confident of the success of the Habitat Restoration Project. “If it’s done right, the probability of success is over 95%, and we will do it right,” Prof. Martin said. “The rats have been responsible for two centuries now for the deaths of many millions of sea birds. They’ve had an absolutely profound impact on the wildlife and the whole ecology of the island. This project will really transform South Georgia as a wildlife haven.”

The bait they will use will be 'Brodifacoum'. It is particularly effective for exterminating rats because after the rats first ingest it, the symptoms don’t become apparent for a week, unlike other toxins which can be immediate. This prevents a rat which takes a non-lethal dose learning from its mistake.

Peter Garden is a pioneer in the eradication of pests from New Zealand. He will pilot the helicopter spreading the poison bait and will use a GPS system “which allows us to guarantee we can get the bait everywhere; the key to the success,” he said.

Talking about the ambitious eradication project Prof. Martin said: “Literally in the last few years it just seemed to be a wonderful dream. Now the pace has picked up. With the right team, plan and money, it’s a transition from being a dream to something we’re going to do, and do soon.”

Tony Martin (l) and pilot Peter Garden on a field visit for the rodent eradication project. Photo Ruth Fraser.
Tony Martin (l) and pilot Peter Garden on a field visit for the rodent eradication project. Photo Ruth Fraser.

Fishing And Shipping News

The two longliners licensed to fish for toothfish in the South Sandwich Island (SSI) Maritime Zone continued through April. CCAMLR issued a Closure Notice for the SSI northern area for April 14th by which time they judged that the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the area would be taken.

One vessel completed its TAC for the SSI area and left for Stanley, Falkland Islands, to unload and bunker. The vessel then sailed back to South Georgia ready for the start of the SG fishery, leaving one vessel fishing in SSI waters up until the end of the month.

The main South Georgia toothfish fishery opened on April 26th. By April 23rd longliners started arriving in Cumberland Bay for inspection and licensing ready to start fishing when the fishery opened. By the end of the month five vessels were fishing, with the remaining four expected in the first few days of May. During the busy licensing period, the two Government Officers at KEP were assisted by the Fishery Officer from the GSGSSI fishery protection vessel.

One icefish trawler returned to the fishery after repairs, it left the SGFZ again on April 11th.

The last cruise ship of the summer season was the "Professor Molchanov" which visited Grytviken on April 1st with 50 passengers aboard.

One of the facilities available to tourists visiting South Georgia is the boardwalk at Prion Island.

Both of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) vessels visited Cumberland Bay this month. The "RRS Ernest Shackleton" visited KEP on April 3rd for a couple of days during which they loaded waste and cargo. The "RRS James Clark Ross" called on April 20th to collect one passenger and load further cargo.

Several yachts remain late in the season. A total of six yachts have been around the Island this month, five are private vessels and one is on charter.

On the 13th two private yachts departed, “Hollinsclough” for Tristan da Cunha and “Hinayana” for Cape Town, South Africa. “Hollinsclough” arrived back a few days later to make repairs after receiving damage to her electronic self-steering system. At month-end she is waiting for suitable weather to depart again.

Charter yacht “Seal” arrived on the 23rd. Motor yacht “Polar Bound” departed for the Falkland Islands at the end of the month.

Latest Stamp Issue: London 2010 Festival Of Stamps

By John H. Youle, Editor of Polar Post.

The Post Office of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is marking its participation in the London 2010 Festival of Stamps with a souvenir sheet of 10 different stamps on a “stamp on stamp” theme. The Post Office on South Georgia opened in December 1909 and each of the stamps in the sheet represents one decade in its history.

1909-1918: The Post Office used Falkland Islands stamps until 1944. However, in 1911 Innes Wilson, the Postmaster, had proposed that the Island issue its own postage stamps. This was supported by the authorities on the Falkland Islands and an ‘essay’ (a stamp that was designed but never issued) was produced for the 2½d foreign rate. The order for the stamps was cancelled on December 19th 1911 following instructions issued by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Two sepia essays were produced by De La Rue depicting an engraved head of King George V based on a portrait by the Australian sculptor Bertram Mackennal.

1919 to 1928 and 1929 to 1938: There were a number of occasions when the Post Office ran out of stamps, in particular the 1d and 2½d values needed for the basic Inland, Commonwealth and Foreign rates. This led to several different provisional solutions: 2d stamps were overprinted locally in January 1928 with a metal hand stamp; 2½d and 2d stamps of the Whales and Penguins issue were bisected in October 1930 to act as 1d stamps. (Bisects had also been used in March 1923. Special hand stamps reading “Paid at/At South Georgia” were used from October 1911 to February 1912 on postcards and envelopes without stamps.)

1939-1948: At this time South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands were one of the Falkland Islands Dependencies. In December 1943 the United Kingdom Government sent a secret military force south under the codename “Operation Tabarin” to establish bases on other FI Dependencies: the South Orkney Islands; the South Shetland Islands and Graham Land. All the Dependencies were issued with their own postage stamps by overprinting the current ½d to 1/- King George VI values of the Falkland Islands. The 1/- value issued for South Georgia depicting Mount Sugartop represents this period.

1949-1958: From February 1946 to July 1963 South Georgia used stamps inscribed “Falkland Islands Dependencies”. This period is represented by the 1d stamp issued on June 4th 1953 for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

1959-1968: Following the ratification of the Antarctic Treaty by the United Kingdom in 1960, the political decision was taken to form the South Orkneys, the South Shetlands and Graham Land into a separate UK Overseas Territory – The British Antarctic Territory - while South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands remained dependencies of the Falkland Islands. South Georgia issued a new definitive series on July 17th 1963. The 5/- value depicting elephant and fur seals represents the definitive series which was overprinted with decimal values in 1971 and remained the definitive issue until 1980.

1969-1978: On January 17th 1975 South Georgia celebrated the bicentenary of Captain Cook taking possession of the Island in the name of King George III. Commemorative stamps were issued on April 26th 1975. The 8p value depicts Cook’s ship “Resolution” in ice floes with the mountains of South Georgia in the background.

1979 - 1988: Grytviken, King Edward Point and Leith Harbour were occupied by Argentine Military Forces from April 3rd to 25th 1982. Following liberation, the Falkland Islands Dependencies issued a £1 stamp with a £1 charity surcharge in favour of the South Atlantic Fund. The stamp depicts a map of South Georgia. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands became a distinct UK Overseas Territory on 3rd October 1985.

1989-1998: Times have changed on South Georgia. The last land-based whaling station closed in 1965. The Island is a wildlife paradise and strict conservation measures are now in force. The wildlife has been depicted on many stamps over the years. On March 12th 1992 a set of stamps was released relating to Teal ducks which breed on South Georgia. The 20p value shows an adult and two ducklings. The stamps also bear the Panda Logo © of the World Wildlife Fund WWF ®, now referred to in many countries except the USA and Canada as the World Wide Fund for Nature.

1999 to date: The name 'Sir Ernest Shackleton' will forever be associated with the Island. His heroic boat journey in the “James Caird” from Elephant Island to the west coast of South Georgia in 1916 and his subsequent crossing of the Island are legendary. Sir Ernest died on board the “Quest” in King Edward Cove on January 5th 1922 and is buried in the local cemetery. In August 2009, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands issued a new definitive series commemorating his life; the £5 value is depicted here.

The sheetlet of ten 65p (airmail letter rate) stamps (£6.50) was designed by Andrew Robinson and was released on April 12th. There is also a First Day Cover for the issue priced £7.50.

These and other South Georgia stamps can be purchased from the Philatelic Bureau, Falkland Islands; their South Georgia page here.

Fee Increases

GSGSSI has published details of increases to visitor fees and other charges made to visitors the Island. A visitor fee is charged to all people over 16 years old visiting the Island (with the exception of professional staff and those listed in the visitor management policy). The charge will increase 5% to £105 for the next two years, with a further £5 increase scheduled in 2012.

From the 2011/12 season there will be an additional 50% charge to the visitor fee per passenger for visits extending beyond 3 days.

The document 'Information for Visitors to South Georgia ' can be downloaded from this website here.

GSGSSI Official Visitors

Several GSGSSI officers usually based in the Falklands visited the Island during April. Executive Officer Richard McKee and Environmental Officer Darren Christie accompanied the two visiting SGHT staff assessing the area for the first stage of the SGHT Habitat Restoration Project. All the Falkland-based GSGSSI personnel try to visit the Island regularly.

Environment Officer Darren Christie, who designed the Biosecurity Building, was able to discuss the general management of the facility with the Government Officers.

Darren also looked in detail at the spreading bittercress problem. The spraying regime against the invasive plant continues.

South Georgia Building Supervisor David Peck also visited to make plans for alterations to the Old Gaol at KEP and Little Villa at Grytviken to make them more useful functional buildings. Some work was done on the funnel on the sealing vessel “Dias”. The funnel has rusted through where it joins the vessel's deck and strong winds had blown it off its seating in recent months. The funnel has now been stabilised with the use of additional wire braces.

Also visiting was the SG & SSI Registrar General John Rowland and his wife. John Rowland oversees and advises GSGSSI on all matters concerning Registrar duties. Whilst at KEP John was able to meet with SG Registrar Ruth Fraser and undertake an audit of the documents held by the Registrar.

Visiting GSGSSI personnel, left to right:: Environmental Officer Darren Christie; Buildings Supervisor David Peck and  Executive Officer Richard McKee, with Government Officer Keiron Fraser, and SGHT's Habitat Restoration Officer Tony Martin and helicopter pilot Peter Garden. Photo Ruth Fraser.
Visiting GSGSSI personnel, left to right:: Environmental Officer Darren Christie; Buildings Supervisor David Peck and Executive Officer Richard McKee, with Government Officer Keiron Fraser, and SGHT's Habitat Restoration Officer Tony Martin and helicopter pilot Peter Garden. Photo Ruth Fraser.

Bespoke Biosecurity Facility Operational On South Georgia

By GSGSSI Environmental Officer Darren Christie

Our custom-built biosecurity facility is now fully operational, and is in use on a daily basis. Building was completed last year, but equipping the building has taken rather longer, with equipment being brought in from New Zealand, America and the USA.

When the idea of having a dedicated building was conceived, it was found that there were no plans available for a biosecurity facility, as the majority of such buildings have been built around existing structures. Because of this limitation, GSGSSI have made their blueprints available for use by other Overseas Territories.

Thanks to an enormous amount of hard work by the Government Officers, and all those on the Island, the use of the facility is now part of everyday life. The building was designed to provide a consolidated space where all biosecurity procedures can be carried out, with the hope that it would simplify and streamline the additional work required to stop the establishment and spread of invasive species.

Biosecurity has come on a long way on the Island over the past 3 years. The extent of that progress was highlighted last year when IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) adopted South Georgia’s procedures for all of their operations.

With the SGHT Habitat Restoration Project due to start next year, further efforts will have to be made to ensure that the Island remains free of the rats that will have been cleared at such great expense. The advances made by the Government over the past three years have provided the groundwork from which further refinements will be made.

The role of every individual who visits South Georgia in preserving its incredible wildlife should not be underestimated. By complying with the biosecurity measures, individuals are making a real and lasting contribution to the conservation of the Island.

Darren Christie outside the Biosecurity Building.
Darren Christie outside the Biosecurity Building.


Unfortunately, in the March edition of this newsletter, in the piece entitled '£380K in Science Grants', we neglected to say that the South Georgia Heritage Trust are contributing £13,000 to the project to begin mapping the benthic biodiversity of the South Georgia waters.

Bird Island News

By Stacey Adlard, Penguin Zoological Field Assistant at the British Antarctic Survey Station, Bird Island.

April signifies the end of the summer season for both staff and wildlife alike on Bird Island. It has been a busy month for departures with adults and young of many species disappearing in large numbers. Humans have also been leaving the island this month, and migrating north to their homelands.

The macaroni penguins that have been moulting at Big Mac and Little Mac for the last few weeks, started leaving for the winter at the beginning of April. By April 22nd all 80,000 macaronis had vanished, leaving the colony eerily quiet after a busy and successful summer of chick rearing. The Macaroni’s will remain at sea until they return to breed once more in October.

The northern giant petrel and black-browed albatross chicks have been busy fledging this month. They will leave the island and not return for several years. Claudia has been deploying small GPS devices on some of the black-browed albatross chicks and will receive daily updates on their location for several months until the batteries die. We deployed tiny GLS’s onto some of the giant petrel chicks, attaching them to coloured leg rings. The birds will hopefully wear these until they return to breed, when we can retrieve them and download the data to see where they have been.

The BAS ship “RSS Ernest Shackleton” called on 7th April for 'last call'. It took away all our waste and a lot of cargo, and brought us more frozen food and fresh fruit and veg. It also took away Derren who had been on the island for two and a half years as the albatross assistant. The remaining winterers all went on board to visit the dentist and see what was on offer in the shop. A week later our final departing person, Ewan, also left. He left on the sailing yacht “Seal”. Ewan has also just finished two and a half years on Bird Island as the seal assistant. Both will be greatly missed. The departure of Ewan brought us down to our winter quota of 4 people. We do not expect any more ships now until October.

Ewan departs on “Seal”.
Ewan departs on “Seal”.

At the end of the month we had an unusual visitor. This was a cattle egret. It seemed to enjoy hanging around the base with the sheathbills and stayed for a few days.

Visiting cattle egret on the generator shed roof.
Visiting cattle egret on the generator shed roof.

Once everyone had left we enjoyed a couple of lovely snowy days which made a refreshing change from what seems like weeks and weeks of constant grey fog and drizzle. Sadly the snow soon melted, but it is encouraging to know that the clouds still know how to snow properly!

That’s all for this month, as we look forward to the onset of winter: the streams and ground freezing solid; icebergs; leopard seals and all the other interesting things it brings. Meanwhile the longer evenings and less busy work schedule allows more time for inside activities - one night it seemed a good idea to dye our hair purple!

Home, after an early season dump of snow.
Home, after an early season dump of snow.

South Georgia Snippets

The Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Mr Alan Huckle, hosted a cocktail party at Government House, Stanley, FI, on April 26th to mark the 28th anniversary of the liberation of South Georgia. The Commissioner welcomed all present, many of whom have a connection with the Island. This event replaced the more normal celebration of Possession Day in January as the Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer Dr Martin Collins were both visiting South Georgia at that time.

South Georgia Liberation Day also coincided with the opening of the SG toothfish season. Speaking at the event Dr Collins mentioned several of the recent developments on the Island such as the Hydroelectric Power Plant, and the up and coming rat eradication programme. With the heightened biosecurity programme in South Georgia in recent years in mind, and Stanley overrun by a plague of earwigs, the Commissioner proposed: “A toast to South Georgia and no earwigs there”.


Chief Executive Officer Martin Collins (l) and Commissioner Alan Huckle (r) at  the Liberation celebration in Government House. Photo SAINT
Chief Executive Officer Martin Collins (l) and Commissioner Alan Huckle (r) at the Liberation celebration in Government House. Photo SAINT

Seventeen year old Abby Sunderland skirted the Island in early April during her attempt to solo navigate the globe. She was brought up on the water and began single-handing when she was 13. On her website, where you can follow her sailing blog, she says she had the idea to solo circumnavigate before her older brother Zac, who took the record as the youngest to achieve the feat in 2009. A young Brit took the title shortly after. Now Abby hopes to set a new record as the youngest solo circumnavigator.

She set sail from the west coast of the USA in late January on the yacht "Wild Eyes", an 'Open 40' racing yacht.

By April she had rounded Cape Horn and was heading north again. On April 7th she wrote: “It's been a nice day out with plenty of wind and nice big swells all behind me. I've had about 25 knots today but it hasn't been very steady. It's been all the way down to 15 knots at some times and I have had gusts almost up to 40 knots.....I've been able to head north a little more lately. It will be nice to get up into warmer water. I had been warned about the waters around South Georgia Island. I had been keeping a good eye on my water temperature gauge for any drops in temperature. Any sudden drops could have meant an iceberg in the area. The sea temperatures have been around 45F and the air about 50F during the day.”

Abby continued her sail north but suffered damage to the main self steering gear as she approached South Africa. Considering it too dangerous to continue with her non-stop circumnavigation with a fault in such a key piece of equipment, she had to make the hard decision to call at Cape Town for repairs. In her blog she said: “It's one thing to sail across an ocean with one well-working auto pilot, it's another to keep going with one that is not at all reliable...It would be foolish and irresponsible for me to keep going with my equipment not working well....I gave it my best shot and made it almost half way around the world. I will definitely keep going, and whether or not I will make any more stops after this I don't know yet. I admit I was pretty upset at first, but there is no point in getting upset. What's done is done and there is nothing I can do about it.”

But she stressed she was not ending her trip, only the non-stop and unassisted attempt. She will continue on to hopefully still become the youngest solo circumnavigator.

Follow Abby's fortunes on her record seeking sail at

The South Sandwich Islands are very geologically active at the moment. Several earthquakes bigger than 5 on the Richter scale were recorded during April. The largest was 5.7 on April 25th 125 Km NNW of Visokoi Island.

A Date for your Diary: There will be a photographic exhibition at the Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool, charting the extraordinary story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s famous Antarctic expedition. The exhibition runs from July 16th 2010 to January 3rd. The Exhibition, entitled 'Endurance: Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure', will feature over 150 images taken by expedition photographer Frank Hurley. There will also be a full-size replica of the “James Caird”, the lifeboat sailed to South Georgia in search of rescue.

This is a travelling exhibition brought to the UK for the first time by New York’s 'American Museum of Natural History'.

The visits of the two BAS vessels made for a socially active time. For KEP residents the “RRS Ernest Shackleton” alongside meant it was time for their annual check-up by the on-board dentist. Any unpleasant experiences for those folks were offset by fun and games in the evenings. Meanwhile the ship's crew had a chance for lots of walking, a little tourism, and also enjoyed the combined partying. The ship hosted a fun night with a BBQ and horse racing in the boat shed.

Photo Ruth Fraser.
Photo Ruth Fraser.

Winter is settling in at South Georgia with the first convincing snowfalls making us think of sharpening edges on skis and snowboards ready for when it start consolidating.

Wildlife has thinned to the odd penguin or seal after the plethora of beasts and birds on all the beaches through the summer months.

The snowy conditions also remind us that mid-winter, the main celebration of the year, is fast approaching and that projects to make midwinter presents should be off the drawing board and being acted upon soon.

Last month we alerted you to the BBC project watching the fortunes and wanderings of a wandering albatross pair at Bird Island. You can find out how they are fairing and see video clips of the nest here.

The chick Eriksson was left alone on the nest by the end of April so both parents could forage to feed the growing chick. Amazingly the male bird was actually spotted at sea by biologist Jon Ashburner. Jon, who usually works at KEP, was at sea on a fishing vessel doing some observer work. He spotted a wandering albatross with a satellite device and managed to identify the colour ring on the bird's leg, and it turned out to be Erik! Track the parent birds on the map here.

View Of The Month

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

To subscribe to the SGIsland News Alerts list click here

  • © Copyright GSGSSI 2013.