South Georgia Newsletter, January 2012

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

Stromness Bay Fatality

On January 3rd a 63 year old female passenger, Eileen Madden Larrimore, from the expedition cruise ship “Clipper Adventurer” died from injuries sustained in a fall during the “Shackleton Walk” from Fortuna Bay to Stromness Bay. Mrs Larrimore's husband sustained minor injuries during the incident.

As the death occurred on South Georgia, the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Coroner, (who is also the Falkland Islands Coroner, based in Stanley), had initial jurisdiction and the vessel was asked to return to Stanley to assist the Coroner's investigations. In Stanley, jurisdiction was transferred to the Falkland Islands Coroner’s office and following an investigation conducted by the Coroner’s Investigating Officer, the vessel was released to continue its journey to Antarctica.

The inquest was opened and adjourned on January 13th by Coroner Carl Gumsley, who offered his sincere condolences to the family of Mrs Larrimore. The inquest is likely to reconvene in May or June.

The “Shackleton Walk” is just over 5km long and recreates the final leg of the epic walk undertaken by Ernest Shackleton, Tom Crean and Frank Worsley to seek help for the stricken crew of the “Endurance”. It is regularly undertaken by cruise ship passengers. In the 2010/11 season 1341 passengers from 29 vessels undertook the walk.

In a statement after the accident the GSGSSI have said they intend to review the management of passengers undertaking the Shackleton Walk to ensure that all sensible precautions are taken and risks minimised.

GSGSSI Financial Statement 2010

Analysis of GSGSSI finances in 2010 shows the vast majority, three quarters, of all revenue to GSGSSI is from sale of fishing licences. Landing charges made for tourists and other visitors to the island generate 16% of income and the other main income earner, generating 4% of GSGSSI's revenue is from sales of stamps.

The majority of expenditure goes on fisheries management (63%), which includes the cost of running the patrol vessl with the running cost of the base at King Edward Point (KEP) as the next most expensive (12%) and salaries accounting for 7% of expenditure.

You can download a pdf of the Financial Statement of 2010 here.

Fishing And Shipping News

“New Polar” in for inspection and licensing. Photo Patrick Lurcock.
“New Polar” in for inspection and licensing. Photo Patrick Lurcock.

Trawler “New Polar” conducted a two-day scientific toothfish survey in the Shag Rocks area under charter to GSGSSI. She then sailed on to Cumberland Bay, arriving January 27th, to drop four scientists and passengers ashore and to be inspected and licensed ready to start fishing commercially for icefish.

South African research vessel “SA Agulhas” called in on January 15th (see below).

January was the busiest month for cruise ships this season. Fifteen passenger vessels made calls to Grytviken but some of the visits were disrupted by high winds. Gusts of up to 80 knots were recorded in Cumberland Bay and caused some ships to drag anchor and move around seeking shelter. Safe transfer of passengers to shore and back in zodiacs was difficult at times and several ships had to delay their landings whilst waiting for the wind to drop.

On January 27th all 52 passengers and five of the staff from cruise ship “Polar Pioneer” were temporarily stranded ashore when persistent high winds forced the vessel to sail away from the Hope Point anchorage. Despite the wind it was sunny and the passengers settled in and around the South Georgia Museum and were provided with soup, snacks and hot drinks by the Museum team. After a few hours it became clear that weather conditions would not improve imminently so the passengers walked round to KEP where they were able to shelter in the bar and dining room and enjoy more food and drinks. At around 6pm the wind had dropped sufficiently for passengers to return to their vessel. Many of the passengers had enjoyed the adventure and were disappointed to be denied the opportunity to stay a night on shore.

Last Call Of “SA Agulhas”

The South African research and supply ship “SA Agulhas” made her last ever call to King Edward Cove on January 15th. She has been a regular visitor to South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SSI) in recent years both for the annual service of the South African weather station on Southern Thule (SSI) and to drop off weather buoys at KEP. The buoys are deployed in the Southern Ocean throughout the year by the “Pharos SG” whilst on patrol. The drifter buoys gather data from the large expanses of ocean in the southern hemisphere. Each weighs about 20kg and consist of the buoy, instrumentation and a drogue to slow the buoy down and ensure that it is not blown around by the surface winds too much. Each buoy lasts about 6 months to a year depending on battery life.

“SA Agulhas” is now around 30 years old and a new vessel has been commissioned to replace her. The new 134m long ship, the “SA Agulhas II” is currently being built in Finland. The icebreaker is a multi-purpose polar research vessel capable of carrying 100 passengers as well as a lot of fuel, cargo, two helicopters and acting as a research vessel. It will be able to steam at 16 knots in clear water and 5 knots in ice 1m thick. It will also have under-deck heating to keep the decks free of ice even in extreme conditions.

The new ship will visit South Georgia next summer. The future of the old ship is not yet decided but she may become a training vessel.

Ice blocked the normal landing beach on Southern Thule
Ice blocked the normal landing beach on Southern Thule

The servicing of the weather station at Southern Thule proved tricky this year as it was difficult to find a landing place for the tender. Ice blocked the normal landing beach and a heavy swell made landing conditions difficult elsewhere. They finally got in at Ferguson Bay to land two people, SA Weather Service Group leader Marumo Setlhare, and Senior Meteorologist Paul Lee who was just coming out after overwintering at the South African Antarctic Base SANAE. The Thule weather station comprises of a weather buoy attached to the wreckage of the old Argentine base which was destroyed after the occupants were removed following the 1982 conflict.

The South African weather station is attached to the wreckage of the old base.
The South African weather station is attached to the wreckage of the old base.

Marumo changing the weather buoy. Photos Paul Lee.
Marumo changing the weather buoy. Photos Paul Lee.

New Collaborators Fund To Develop Scientific Research

In order to stimulate new research on South Georgia and to develop new scientific collaborations, the GSGSSI is offering a number of small grants to work at the research station at KEP. The base at KEP is run by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) on behalf of the GSGSSI and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and undertakes fisheries and ecological research.

Two small grants (to a maximum of £25,000 each) are being offered for the 2012/13 or 2013/14 seasons. Though projects will be based at KEP, they could do fieldwork on the nearby Thatcher, Greene, Busen or Barff peninsulas. The fishery patrol vessel “Pharos SG” can also be used to support limited marine science in the waters around South Georgia. The KEP base offers: a refrigerated rough/wet laboratory; a dry/analytical laboratory; a dedicated communications room; comfortable accommodation; offices with excellent computing facilities; and a library. A large controlled temperature room that houses a re-circulating seawater holding facility for live specimens is also available. The base also has a variety of inshore boats.

The small grants are available to all areas of science but GSGSSI will favour proposals that: involve institutions and researchers who have not previously worked on South Georgia; include some matched funding; may lead to large research grants from other organisations; and address key environmental issues on South Georgia.

Grants are not available for work at Bird Island.

More information download here [.doc, 0.5mb].

Shallow Marine Life, New Stamp Issue

The shallow marine environment around South Georgia was first studied during the Discovery Investigations in 1925. As South Georgia is situated just south of the Polar Front, where warmer waters from the north meet colder Antarctic water from the south, the region is home to a unique assemblage of South Atlantic and Antarctic animals.

The diverse marine fauna and flora of South Georgia is under threat from climate change and introduced species. Water temperatures have increased by 1-2 degrees Celsius in the last 80 years and visiting vessels may carry non-native species from more temperate waters on their hulls, in their ballast water, or attached to marine structures. In the past such non-native species would be unlikely to survive in the cold waters, but rising temperatures increase the probability of survival. If non-native species survive and thrive they are likely to do so at the expense of the natural flora and fauna.

In November 2010 the Shallow Marine Surveys Group (SMSG) undertook a dive survey of the shallow bays of the north coast of South Georgia to investigate the shallow marine biodiversity and provide a baseline for future climate change monitoring. As part of this work photographs were taken of most of the species encountered. A selection of these images has been beautifully transformed into watercolour by Leigh-Anne Wolfaardt for reproduction as a set of six 70p stamps released on January 1st.

The first stamp features the predatory ten-legged sea spider Decolopoda australis, which is unusual in having 10 legs rather than the more typical 8, and is shown here feeding on sponges, anemones and bryozoans.

The pink cushion seastar, Odontaster validus, features on the second stamp. This brightly coloured and conspicuous member of the benthic community is found throughout the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic oceans.

The third stamp features the white tipped nudibranch, Flabellina falklandica, which, as its name suggests, also occurs in the Falkland Islands and throughout southern South America.

The branching sea cucumber, Heterocucumis steineni, which is featured on the fourth stamp, is common to rock wall habitats. Its highly branched feeding tree can be seen erupting from dense, colourful assemblages of colonial sea-squirts and sponges.

The iconic giant Antarctic isopod Glyptonotus antarcticus (fifth stamp) is a typical Antarctic species, which demonstrates the so-called “gigantism” characteristic of many cold-water species, growing up to 20cm in length and 70g in weight.

Finally the sixth stamp features the South Georgia top shell Margarella tropidophoroides, which is found only in South Georgia waters. Such endemic species are often found on isolated islands such as South Georgia.

The first day cover will contain the six stamps removed from the border. South Georgia stamps can be bought from

Veterans Visit

Chris and Siobhan Nunn on a veteran' visit.
Chris and Siobhan Nunn on a veteran' visit.

Chris Nunn, who as a Captain in 1982, led the Royal Marine land forces under Guy Sheridan to recaptured South Georgia from the invading Argentines, visited the Island during January. He and his wife Siobhan arrived on cruise ship “Sea Spirit” and were hosted at KEP during their ten-day visit.

By co-incidence, working aboard “Sea Spirit” was Damien Sanders, who was a civilian working for BAS at KEP when the Argentines took the Island. He had hidden at Harpon Bay during the invasion then returned to KEP and met Chris after the liberation. It was the first time the two men had met in 30 years.

Chris spent some of his time revisiting some of the sites he and his men had prepared and manned in case of re-invasion. He also bought several important artefacts to donate to the South Georgia Museum and gave an illustrated talk on his experiences in 1982 to the local community. Read below about his contrasting experiences of his visits to South Georgia thirty years apart.

82 Veteran's Reflections

by Chris Nunn OBE

Chris Nunn in 1982
Chris Nunn in 1982

On July 9th 1982, M Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines sailed out of King Edward Cove in South Georgia. The Company had taken part in the operation to recapture the Island from Argentine forces on April 25th and then received orders to remain to defend KEP and Grytviken against any counter-attack. As their Company Commander I knew that my thoughts then mirrored those of all the other 160 or so Royal Marines – we had no regrets at leaving the Island. For all of us, the time on the Island was a test both physically and emotionally. We had coped with the open-ended and uncertain operational commitment, coupled with enduring the harsh, mercurial weather that is unique to South Georgia. Therefore, we left with an over-riding sense of a mission well done and few backward glances. Our minor part in the conflict was over so we were on our way to rejoin our comrades and return to our families in the UK.

Little did I realise then that, while you can leave South Georgia, South Georgia never quite leaves you! Proof of this is that for the intervening 30 years a large framed map of the Island has hung on the wall of every office I occupied since. That map now hangs in my study in France alongside a similar one of Georgia in the Caucasus where fate conspired that I would spend my last appointment as the UK’s Defence Attaché to the region.

During a veteran’s visit to the Falkland Islands in 2010, I had a chance encounter with Richard McKee, Executive Officer of the GSGSSI Government, in the car park of Government House. He generously suggested that a return to South Georgia might be possible. Eighteen months later, with endorsement from the Government’s CEO, Dr Martin Collins, and after much work by Richard, plans were in place for me, accompanied my wife Siobhan, to re-visit Grytviken and KEP. Richard arranged our voyage from Stanley to South Georgia, courtesy of Quark Tours, on their cruise ship “Sea Spirit” leaving mid January.

After a smooth passage which was in stark contrast to the atrocious weather we experienced 30 years before, it was with mixed feelings that I saw Bird Island emerge from the sea fog. As we hove to near Elsehul, seeing the wild majesty of the terrain again was the catalyst that evoked the first tumble of impressions and memories from the past. There were many more to come in the next few days.

My first observation was just how green the coastal hinterland now is. Something tells me this is not just because of the slight seasonal difference between this January and April when we arrived in 1982. This perception contrasted with the reaffirmation that most of the time South Georgia is buffeted by strong and unpredictable winds – here nothing has changed, nor has the dangerous, penetrating wind chill that results!

How KEP looked in 1982
How KEP looked in 1982

In 1982, my first sight of the settlements in King Edward Cove was sitting in the door of a Royal Naval Lynx helicopter as it skimmed at wave height across West Cumberland Bay to land my group of black-faced commandos on the flat and boggy expanse of the Hestesletten. My most vivid memory then was of the bright red roofs of the KEP buildings, dominated by the large, long, green building that was Shackleton House nestling in the shadow of Duse Mountain and the shelter of Hope Point.

Our arrival this time was somewhat more stately! With Siobhan at my side, we stood on the foredeck of the ship, almost pinned to the superstructure by a strong and piercing cold wind under a bright, blue-grey sky. The white cross on Hope Point and the familiar outline of Brown Mountain, conjured up still familiar feelings of anticipation; this time they were a little less fuelled by adrenalin, nevertheless, they were still pretty profound.

Rounding the point into the cove the first sight of Grytviken was a surprise. The whaling station appeared to be much smaller than I remembered. The change is not actually in the surface area but because most of the old sheds and workshop have been dismantled to neutralise the danger from flying debris and asbestos. As a result, the height of the settlement is much reduced. This demolition programme has exposed the machinery originally housed inside. This has enabled the museum staff to provide visitors with a fascinating tour of the station explaining as they pass through the whole process of how the unfortunate whales were reduced from marvels of nature to commercial products for man.

The old Manager’s villa that was derelict in 1982, now stands proudly as the refurbished Museum and centrepiece of this historic site with the iconic church outlined behind it. Mount Hodges still provides a spectacular backdrop to the scene. The Museum is also the jewel in the crown of the South Georgia Heritage Trust under the enthusiastic directorship of Sarah Lurcock.

At first glance from the sea, KEP seems little changed, however, it is soon evident that Shackleton House has gone. In its place is a long, flat and grassy plateau on which stand 3 more white crosses in memory of soldiers who died while members of post-conflict garrisons. To me there is something cruelly perverse about such peacetime deaths when no British military personnel died during the 1982 re-possession. Without the dominance of ‘Shack House’ the effect is that the Base, with its recently new purpose built buildings, seems fore-shortened, but it still retains its previously familiar linear aspect. Only the Gaol and Discovery House remain from the settlement I knew.

Once ashore, the abundance of fur seals everywhere around the cove and amongst the settlements is immediately evident. Thirty years ago it was rare to see any fur seals among the plentiful elephant seals.

Walks to the sites of erstwhile defensive positions at Grytviken, Brown Mountain, higher Gull Lake and Maiviken all seem to be further from KEP than I recall. As the geography is constant, I reluctantly have to put this down to my knees, which are now double the age they were when they last trekked these routes! The changes in the atmospheric conditions that can ambush the unprepared still come and go as suddenly and as violently as they ever did.

A boat trip through a lumpy sea, nudging aside small growlers en route to the Nordenskjold Glacier again retraced familiar steps. From a distance the profile of the glacier appears significantly different. While still impressive, it no longer has the imposing vertical face of 30 years ago. The whole ice river appears reduced and compressed with a much more rounded and irregular frontage.

As I write, our time here is nearly over. Today we sail for Stanley in the FPV “Pharos SG” after a most memorable 9-day visit. This time I shall have a backward glance to cement the lasting impressions of what was then, and what is now. The most over-riding impression will be of Grytviken - a testimony to a by-gone age of man, caught in a time capsule surrounded by a savage landscape. A landscape that, on the one hand, is suffering from the effects of climate change; on the other is clawing its way back to its natural state becoming once more a safe habitat for threatened species on land, in the air, and under the sea.

Paradoxically, it is mankind that is the essential element of the two conflicting processes. Of the two, it is the SGHT, in concert with the GSGSSI Government, who spearhead the positive: preservation, conservation and restoration programmes. These are best exemplified by the on-going, and so far successful, rat eradication programme, coupled with the developing concept for removing the non-indigenous reindeer from the Island. These projects would not be happening if South Georgia’s sovereignty had been relinquished to those who only saw it as a symbol of national jingoism combined with a potential for gathering scrap metal.

For my part, I am proud that M Company played a small part in securing a positive future for South Georgia. We thank those now living and working on South Georgia not only for their kindness and hospitality, but most of all for their dedication and commitment to safeguarding this unique and special place.

Chris's Company at KEP in 1982. Photos Chris Nunn.
Chris's Company at KEP in 1982. Photos Chris Nunn.

Blue Water Medal For Thies And Kicki

Well known yachtfolks Thies Matzen and Kicki Ericson, who sail the historic wooden yacht “Wanderer III” which has overwintered at South Georgia three times in the past few years, are set to become even better known. The adventurous couple are to be awarded the prestigious Blue Water Medal for 2011 by the Cruising Club of America (CCA). The medal is awarded for “… a commendable 24 years and 135,000 miles of sailing the oceans of the world with a focus in the high latitudes of the Southern Ocean.” The couple are now making plans to attend the awards dinner at the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan on March 2nd where the Blue Water medal will be presented by Commodore Daniel P. Dyer, III.

The boat was already well known when wooden boat-builder Thies bought it in 1981. “Wanderer III”, a 9m sloop, was built for Eric and Susan Hiscock who made two circumnavigations with it and also received the Blue Water Medal in 1955. Kicki joined Thies aboard in 1989, and since then the couple have sailed extensively, including two circuits of the South Atlantic. The boat has been kept in its original condition with no electronics on-board except a VHF radio and hand-held GPS (added in 2007). It has a 16 horsepower diesel engine and the hull, rigging and gear have been self-maintained using traditional methods.

The couple got married in the church at Grytviken on their first visit to South Georgia.

“Thies and Kicki on Wanderer III” in South Georgia.
“Thies and Kicki on Wanderer III” in South Georgia.

Bird Island Diary

By Allan Thomson, Base Commander at the British Antarctic Survey Research Station Bird Island.

After a truly memorable New Year, it was back to work for all of us on Bird Island. Gradually, the landscape around base began to change as the territorial male fur seals, their harems and their pups started to move from Freshwater Bay to the tussac in the surrounding area. Just getting in and out of the buildings and moving around the walkways became much easier. Throughout the colonies of gentoo and macaroni penguins, chicks began to hatch. Up in the meadows, giant petrel, skua and mollymawk chicks began to hatch as well and wandering albatross partners started to return and begin their dramatic courtship rituals.

The dramatic courtship of wandering albatrosses.
The dramatic courtship of wandering albatrosses.

For Jenn, it was a particularly busy period to try and monitor all the activity across all the various species of albatrosses, all occurring simultaneously. By far the most challenging was the staking of the all the wandering albatross nests on the island and collecting all the associated data. Everybody pitched in, and for about a week, small groups would be out and about throughout the island doing their bit. She also organised the chick census of the light-mantled sooty albatross and the second all-island wandering albatross census. Also, Jenn assisted Hannah Froy from Edinburgh University in her study of wandering albatrosses.

Although Ruth continued with her monitoring of giant petrels and macaroni penguins, she became more and more involved in facilitating the work of Catherine Horswill from St Andrew’s University and Richard Phillips from BAS in the deploying and retrieving tracking equipment on macaroni penguins, Antarctic prions and South Georgia diving petrels. This involved the mist-netting for nocturnal petrels. All of these activities involved daily deployments to Fairy Point Hut, late evening or early morning work and return to base the next day. Richard was also heavily involved in his own study into skuas.

Who's studying who?
Who's studying who?

For Mick and Jon the work at the Seal Study Beach (SSB)began to wind down as the last seal pup was born there on January 4th. Their priorities changed to deploying and retrieving tracking equipment on female fur seals. The first fur seal pup weighing took place on January 8th on Main Bay, during which 100 pups were weighed. Once again everyone participated - no doubt inspired by the thought of a full fry-up prepared by Mick and Jon. Latterly Mick and Jon have been tagging the fur seal pups born on the SSB assisted by others when their programmes allowed.

A rare blonde fur seal pup. Photos Mick Mackey.
A rare blonde fur seal pup. Photos Mick Mackey.

Base Technician Robert has been keeping all the base utilities well-maintained and operating at peak efficiency. He also repairs those things that everyone breaks. He has been fully occupied keeping the water and the power systems going, as well as dealing with the odd emergency when the generators powered down! When not keeping the base maintained, he is out an about helping the scientists in the field.

Given the frequency of late night and/or early morning activities, things have been quieter socially. We did though celebrate Robert’s birthday and marked Richard’s departure on “JCR” and Burns Night with an appropriate menu and an address to the Haggis. Aspirations to reprise New Year and improve our standard of Scottish country dancing were not realised, probably due to the haggis and deep fried Mars Bars!

South Georgia Snippets

Earthquakes: Some larger earthquakes (over 5 on the Richter scale) have been recorded in the South Sandwich Islands region. On January 6th two earthquakes measuring 6 and 5.2 occurred in the region, one 138 Km east of Visokoi Island the other 281 Km NNE of Bristol Island.

On January 18th a 5.4 was registered 58 Km NW of Visokoi Island.

Reindeer Recce: Two reindeer specialists have been visiting South Georgia in January to assess the logistical requirements for the planned eradication of reindeer to start in a years time. Carl Erik Kilander and Henrik Eira from the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate were accompanied by GSGSSI CEO Martin Collins and spent time on the Barff and Busen peninsulas, assessing the terrain, investigating reindeer numbers and behaviour in different areas and considering the logistic challenges of corralling the animals.

Carl Erik and Henrik were here to look at logistics for reindeer removal. Photo Martin Collins.
Carl Erik and Henrik were here to look at logistics for reindeer removal. Photo Martin Collins.

Rat Catching and Bird Surveying: Three field parties on an Overseas Territories Environmental Programme (OTEP) project to trap rats for genetic analysis and conduct bird surveys, continued their work through most of January. They were sampling in the planned Phase Two area of the SGHT's Habitat Restoration Programme, prior to recommencement of baiting next summer.

The three field-teams of two people spent time, amongst others, at Sea Leopard Fjord, Prince Olav Harbour, Antarctic and Right Whale Bays. One team also conducted the wandering albatross survey on Prion Island.

Four of the team have now left the Island, while two remain to continue related environmental work and prepare for a Darwin Initiative project on mice that starts in March.

Live Grenades: Eight items of ordnance, including live rifle grenades, have been found during the month, mainly by a fieldworker looking for invasive plants on the lower slopes of Mt Hodges. So many rifle grenades have been found in this area that locals were warned to keep clear as there are likely to be more. The next military EOD team to visit will probably be asked to search the area thoroughly in the hope of finding any more and making them safe.

Possession Day Celebrations: Possession Day, January 17th, the day Cpt Cook claimed the Island in 1775, was celebrated at KEP and at Government House, Stanley FI.

At KEP a dinner for 20 was held at Carse House for all the locals and a new flag was run up the flagpole.

At the event in the Falklands for invited guests for drinks with Commissioner at Government House, Executive Officer Richard McKee talked of some of the recent developments including how the fast receding glaciers (in some cases by as much as 400m a year) meant that there was added time pressure to try and achieve the eradication of rats before these barriers to their movement were gone and the rodents could invade the few remaining rat free areas. “The clock is ticking for man to try and return the Island to the pristine condition in which James Cook found it,” he said. At the end of his speech Mr McKee’s proposed a toast to South Georgia.

Building and Restorations: A six-man building team is undertaking a variety of works at KEP and Grytviken during the late summer. The team started out installing a new electric boiler to produce hot water for the main KEP building. This replaced diesel fired boilers so reducing fuel usage and making greater use of the environmentally friendly hydroelectricity.

Work has started installing services to historic building Discovery House. The building will restored for use as accommodation for visiting scientists. Discovery House was built in the 1920’s and provided both accomadation and laboratory space for shore based scientists of the Discovery investigations.

The oldest building on the Point, the Gaol, has been completely re-clad and had new windows and doors installed. The buildings is mainly used a store for the emergency gear.

A small excavator was once again driven up the hill to the Bore Valley dam to clear the dam pool and shore up the bank of the feeder stream to try and prevent the erosion that has resulted in the dam pool filling with sediment over the last two winters. Heavy rains the past two years have caused damage to culverts and altered the course of streams around the whaling station.

Scaffold has been erected at the Church for external painting. Other works have been carried out guying chimneys in the whaling station and masts and funnels on the wrecks.

Installing a new boiler to use hydroelectricity. Photo Alastair Wilson.
Installing a new boiler to use hydroelectricity. Photo Alastair Wilson.

Half Marathon: The annual half marathon was run, walked and runkled on January 30th. It was a very international affair with at least eight nations represented amongst the 19 competitors including the Falkland Islands, England, Norway, Scotland, New Zealand, Wales, Germany and South Africa. The damp but still conditions were not bad for the runners and the race was won by Martin Collins in 1 hr 47 mins. He last won it in almost the same time six years ago.

Runners on the half marathon course at Maiviken
Runners on the half marathon course at Maiviken

In second placed was veteran runner Hugh Marsden (1: 52) with Andy Black third in 1:54, just ahead of Anton Wolfhaardt (1:55) and Base Commander James Wake (1:58).. First woman was Kalinka Rexer-Huber (2 hrs 18 mins).

The sun came out as the last competitors cleared the course and joined a sunny celebration and award ceremony with a barbecue hosted by the building team. Some even had energy left to join in games of frisbee and lessons in lassoing.

Martin Collins won the trophy for first runner.
Martin Collins won the trophy for first runner.

Habitat Restoration Newsletter: Issue 9 of the Habitat Restoration Project newsletter was published in January. It includes: an update on the project by Project Director, Professor Tony Martin; news of the recent awarding of 501©3 status to USA sister organisation Friends of South Georgia Island (FOSGI); a report on the wildlife seen in the Phase One area since baiting; a report by helicopter engineer Graham Charman on the dismantling and packing of the two helicopters for shipping to the Falklands; and efforts to raise money for the project by cruise ships including the Zegrahm Expeditions’ challenge.

You can download the 1.7 Mb document from the SGHT website here.

Notable Local Events: A southern right whale came right into the cove on the 15th and stayed to be admired by tourists on “Polar Pioneer” enjoying a barbeque on the deck of their ship anchored in the cove. The next day two southern right whales were feeding just outside the entrance to the cove and one gave a display of tail slapping for half an hour.

Photo Alistair Wilson.
Photo Alistair Wilson.

Locals enjoyed an extended tour of the whaling station on January 29th, led by SG Museum Curatorial Intern Katie Murray. The group had been advised to bring torches as they had special permission to enter the old mainstore where racks and shelves are still full of new parts ready for maintenance of the station and the ships.

Katie in the store with racks of spare parts. Photo Alistair Wilson.
Katie in the store with racks of spare parts. Photo Alistair Wilson.

Dates for Your Diary:

Lecture at SPRI: South Georgia historian Robert Burton will give a lecture in the Friends of Scott Polar Research Institute lecture series on March 17th.

Accounts of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-16, pay little attention to the month that “Endurance” spent at South Georgia. Some only start as the ship heads into the Weddell Sea. More emphasis is given to Shackleton's return aboard “James Caird” and his crossing of the Island. Robert Burton has been examining the journals of the expedition members and finds that several members of the expedition made good use of their time in that month as they supposedly waited for ice to clear further south. The scientists set out to explore parts of the Island, meanwhile Shackleton and the crew made preparations following his decision to try to winter “Endurance” in the Antarctic. The journals and newspaper reports allow an assessment of Shackleton’s plans and preparations for the expedition, his reasons for visiting the Island and spending so long there, and what the whalers really advised him about conditions in the Weddell Sea.

The lecture starts at 8.00pm in the SPRI Lecture Theatre, Lensfield Road, Cambridge, UK, is free to attend and is open to the public.

Whilst staying at South Georgia the crew of the “Endurance” compass beacon on the slopes below Brown Mountain.
Whilst staying at South Georgia the crew of the “Endurance” compass beacon on the slopes below Brown Mountain.

The Heart of the Great Alone: An exhibition of Scott, Shackleton and Antarctic photography at the Queen's Gallery, London, SW1 ( until April 15th. The exhibition is of historical photographs presented to King George V by official photographers Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley, together with artefacts including the flag given to Scott by Queen Alexandra. Open daily 10am-5.30pm; admission £7.50 (concs available). More info here.

A review of the exhibition by Brian Sewell in the London Standard can be seen here.

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