South Georgia Newsletter, May 2014

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

New Commissioner Addresses SGA

The new SGSSI Commissioner, Colin Roberts, had only been in the post just over two weeks when he addressed the South Georgia Association (SGA) on May 16th. The SGA Annual General Meeting was attended by a record crowd and the attendees included three ex-Commissioners: William Fullerton, Alan Huckle and Richard Ralph.

In his opening remarks Colin Roberts said being Commissioner for SGSSI was the “best job in the world” which he does along with the “other best job: being Governor of the Falkland Islands.” Acknowledging his predecessors in the audience he joked that the plural for such a group of Commissioners is a “plume” - the name coming from the distinctive white plume of feathers on the Commissioner’s uniform hat.

Commissioner Colin Roberts addresses the audience at the South Georgia Association AGM.
Commissioner Colin Roberts addresses the audience at the South Georgia Association AGM.

Early in his address he praised the “fantastic” GSGSSI team in the Falklands and welcomed the appointment of a new Attorney General to reinforce the team on the legal side. He said the mission he has been given in his new role is to uphold sovereignty; to have a high quality of governance; and to preserve the natural and other heritage of SGSSI whilst allowing access. He said SGSSI is a “fragile territory in many ways and very fragile economically” and that the real challenge for the Commissioner is to make sure governance is transparent, open to challenge and accountable.

He said the issues on his mind as he started the role were to make sure GSGSSI stayed in touch with what was going on in the rest of the world as things are changing incredibly fast; citing for instance that against his preconceptions he is now aware that in Antarctica the way science is conducted is changing, with scientists making shorter field trips to “grab some data” and that these shorter-term scientists had the potential to damage the environment, whereas tourism was generally well managed with lower negative impact on the environment.

Giving an account of the activities of GSGSSI during the past year, Colin Roberts stressed that he wishes to make sure SGSSI is the best managed natural environment and fishery in the world. Amongst the main achievements of SGSSI in the past year he listed the 2nd phase of the Reindeer Eradication Project which he said was on track, with 8 animals known to remain on the Barff Peninsula. These will be removed in the months ahead. He also highlighted the good news from the recent South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) monitoring of their Phase 2 baited area which showed no sign so far of any surviving rodents. He said GSGSSI were “enormously appreciative to SGHT for undertaking the rodent eradication as GSGSSI would never have been able to fund such a project.” He said recent changes to fishing licensing, giving operators 2-year licences, gave greater certainty to operators. He also highlighted the success of the GSGSSI partnership with Norway to access new money and new partners to undertake some heritage projects like the whaling station laser surveys and work on heritage buildings.

As to the future, Colin Roberts said he did not have a lot to say on this yet but that a Legal Advisor will be appointed to “strengthen the legal side of things”; that there are political challenges that need to be dealt with and there are the exciting Shackleton centenaries ahead. He finished by saying GSGSSI will be discussing the future with stakeholders such as the SGA and other stakeholders and he wants more people to get involved and take care of South Georgia. To this end he asked the audience to “please feel GSGSSI is an open organisation and to engage with it.”

HMS Portland On Patrol

HMS Portland off King Edward Point. Photo Simon Browning.
HMS Portland off King Edward Point. Photo Simon Browning.

HMS Portland was on patrol in the waters around South Georgia in early May. The 133m long frigate called into Cumberland Bay to anchor for a two-day visit on May 3rd and 4th. The calm weather was helpful for getting the crew ashore in the small boats for leg stretches but the resultant foggy conditions prevented the ship deploying its lynx helicopter in the area for various planned tasks.

The crew of 185 made good use of the opportunity to get ashore and, despite it being winter, found there was still plenty of wildlife around. Many of the visitors made it as far as Penguin River to see the small colony of King Penguins there.

The ship’s church officer, Lt Samuel Wall, held a service in the church at Grytviken. Commanding Officer Sarah West and her crew hosted the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and GSGSSI staff from King Edward Point (KEP) aboard for a tour of the frigate and lunch. A reciprocal lunch was held for some of the ship’s crew ashore in Carse House the following day.

HMS Portland is currently in the later stages of her South Atlantic and Pacific deployment having sailed from Plymouth, UK, in January.

Reindeer Eradication Project Phase 2 Report

A report following Phase 2 of the GSGSSI Reindeer Eradication Project was published on this website on May 25th.

Following the success of Phase 1, which was in the Busen area, and following a consultation period, it was decided that the most humane and cost effective method for removal of reindeer for Phase 2, on the Barff Peninsula, would be to use ground shooting alone, with recovery of meat for local consumption only. The six Norwegian SNO shooters worked from a series of temporary field camps, systematically searching the surrounding area and clearing it of reindeer. Logistically this method was relatively simple and cheap in comparison to the Phase 1 operation. Other staff included a doctor, project manager, and field workers who collected science samples and processed carcasses for meat.

The overall cost of Phase 2 was just £142,500, the majority of which was spent on wages and travel costs for the project staff. Not much was spent on additional equipment or stores other than for camping equipment and lightweight food. The report highlights that perhaps the most challenging element of the pre-departure planning was the importation and transport of the ammunition. Four thousand rounds ballistic tip ammunition was shipped directly to South Georgia from the UK on board the BAS vessel RRS James Clark Ross.

During the operational phase, the Barff Peninsula was divided into three zones (two in the northern Barff area and one covering the Royal Bay/St Andrews area) which, due to the lie of the land, were likely to see little movement of deer from one zone to another.

A large number of reindeer had already been shot in the first Barff zone during the 2013 operation (Phase 1) and two marksmen were able to clear most of the remaining deer in a relatively short amount of time. In the large area of the second zone the shooters worked in teams and in the relatively open terrain it took several weeks to search and clear it of reindeer. The third zone was more difficult to access but in many ways easier to search.

In total 3,140 animals were shot in Phase 2 over the course of 160 man-days in the field. Another 6 to10 field days were needed to complete the search for the last few animals, but, due to poor weather in the final week of the project, this was not possible and after the shooters left a small number of animals were seen close to the northern end of the Barff Peninsula.

Three hundred and ninety kilos of mainly hind quarters and fillet meat was recovered for local use. Necessarily, areas of the Barff Peninsula were closed to tourist visits during the project whilst shooting was taking place, though closure of highly visited sites such as St Andrews Bay was kept as short as possible.

Shooter above St Andrews Bay. Photo T Solstad
Shooter above St Andrews Bay. Photo T Solstad

Devices were fitted to the rifles to reduce the amount of noise and minimise wildlife disturbance and the shooters observed that animals (fur seals, penguins etc) would typically stop their natural behaviour immediately after the shot was fired but would then resume their previous activities some moments later. Special precautions were taken around the king penguin colony at St Andrews Bay where reindeer were present on the outskirts of the colony. To avoid disturbance of the colony the reindeer were herded away from it before they were shot. This technique worked well.

Science sampling was conducted during Phase 2 to investigate: vigilance and flight‐fright behaviour response; diversity of gut flora, and genetic analysis of the population structure. To complete the eradication there will be some additional searches and shooting of remaining animals next summer (2015) and this will ensure all reindeer are removed before the start of the final phase of the SGHT rat eradication project in early 2015. The report concludes that “On the whole, Phase 2 of the Reindeer Eradication Project went well,” and “the field teams did an outstanding job.”

The 12 page, 6mb report can be downloaded from this website here.

Fishing And Shipping News

Inspectors make a routine boarding inspection of a longliner in the South Georgia Fishery. Photo Simon Browning.
Inspectors make a routine boarding inspection of a longliner in the South Georgia Fishery. Photo Simon Browning.

Longline fishing for toothfish by five licensed vessels in the South Georgia fishing zone proceeded well throughout May, with the longline catches averaging around 4 tonnes per vessel per day. By the end of the month there were plans for some of the longliners to sail to the Falklands to make midseason transhipments.

The winter krill trawling season will start shortly. The first krill trawler is expected to arrive in the fishery in early June, with others expected to join shortly afterwards.

Earwig Found In KEP Residential Building

A live earwig found in one of the residential buildings at KEP lead to a quick reaction to establish if other earwigs were present on the base and take action to prevent their spread.

The earwig was seen on a bathroom wall in Carse House. Earwigs are known to hide in hard-to-search areas such as inside the corrugations of cardboard and hidden recesses of luggage. It is thought this one probably arrived in packaging for a washing machine or the luggage of personnel arriving from the Falkland Islands, where invasive earwigs are a big problem, especially in the area around the islands’ capital Stanley. Although stringent biosecurity measures are in place aimed to detect non-native invertebrates, their small size and cryptic nature means that on occasion, individuals pass though biosecurity checks undetected.

The earwig that as found in a residential building at KEP. Photo Jo Cox.
The earwig that as found in a residential building at KEP. Photo Jo Cox.

Upon finding of the earwig, Carse House was searched, insecticide sprayed in areas where earwigs would likely hide, and sticky-traps deployed throughout the house. Additional insect traps were also deployed in all the other buildings at KEP, and hosepipe traps laid beneath buildings. These short sections of hosepipe offer an ideal environment for earwigs: the insects crawl into to them and can be expelled and detected by blowing through the pipes into secure containers. The waste room and waste storage container were also fully insecticide sprayed and fumigated using smoke bombs.

A further possible biosecurity breach was identified when a dead caterpillar was found on one of the preventative/indicative sticky-traps in the old gaol, a building which is mainly used for storage. The trap was part of a network of devices around KEP that are permanently deployed and regularly inspected. The gaol was also sprayed with insecticide and smoke bombed to ensure no other insects survived inside the building.

This very small caterpillar was caught in an insect sticky-trap in the gaol. Photo Jo Cox.
This very small caterpillar was caught in an insect sticky-trap in the gaol. Photo Jo Cox.

Fumigating the Gaol. Photo Simon Browning.
Fumigating the Gaol. Photo Simon Browning.

Checks on the 118 sticky-traps will, be made weekly. Local personnel have been made aware of the extra risk of spreading non-native insects outside of the immediate area around KEP and so are taking extra precautions when leaving. Measures include extra checks of daysacks and other equipment at the biosecurity shed before setting off for anywhere other than KEP.

A week after the two non-native insects were found, routine checks of the insect traps found no more earwigs but did find one further, but different, possible non-native insect which will be sent for further analysis.

Checks will continue throughout the winter and in to the spring to ensure that if any more earwigs are found they can be dealt with rapidly, before they have a chance to spread. Biosecurity protocols will also be reviewed to see if additional measures can be taken to reduce the risk of an incident such as this re-occurring.

Charles Swithinbank

Photo Martin Hartley-Eyevine.
Photo Martin Hartley-Eyevine.

Charles Swithinbank, former President of the South Georgia Association and a noted glaciologist & polar expert has passed away aged 87. His experience in the southern polar region started in 1949 when, as a newly qualified glaciologist, he was selected as a member of the Norwegian-British-Swedish Antarctic Expedition 1949-52. After this he worked at the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) until becoming a research associate and lecturer at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1959, returning to SPRI from 1963 to 1974. He spent 1974 to 1986 working at the British Antarctic Survey, first as Chief Glaciologist and then as Head of the Earth Sciences Division. In his sixty years of polar research he collaborated with a large number of other nationalities, becoming fluent in Russian, and in total he spent three winters and more than 20 field seasons in the polar regions.

Charles Swithinbank was born in Burma in 1926 where his father was a District Commissioner in the Indian Civil Service. He moved to the UK for education aged seven. His mother had a big part to play in forming his adventurous spirit and was described by her son as being adventurous too. “My mother was good at reading stories of adventure and exploration to her children”, he said, “and that definitely had an effect on my life, because her message was, don’t get stuck in an office like your father.” He said his mother read him “Scott, Shackleton, Livingstone, …adventures like that and that certainly stuck with me. And so if I’d not gone to the Antarctic I probably would have joined the Colonial Service in Africa.” Prior to University studies at Pembroke College, Oxford, he had served for two years with the Royal Navy.

Whilst working with BAS he headed south every other year to spend several months in the Antarctic, mainly to direct radio echo-sounding flights using Twin Otter aircraft to measure the thickness of ice cover over the Antarctic Peninsula. For these they flew at very low altitude (30ft or less). Swithinbank was also a qualified pilot and an excellent navigator. As part of his work as a glaciologist he was responsible for sending other field researchers to work on some of the glaciers in South Georgia as part of an international programme.

Following the invasion of South Georgia and the Falklands in 1982 he was called to No 10 Downing Street by the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to advise her. During a long interview she asked him and another scientist if it was possible to build an airfield in South Georgia. Recounting the meeting later he said “We knew where you could, at enormous expense, build an airfield, I said that it would involve removing perhaps a couple of hundred thousand breeding pairs of king penguins, but would be physically possible at enormous expense of many millions of pounds.” The two men were amused to later realise that, “…a week after our visit she had a visit from Ronald Reagan and he was given half an hour, not one and a half hours.”

When he retired from BAS he continued to travel widely and lectured at international meetings and at universities. He also continued work interpreting satellite images of Antarctica, and mapping, and was a prime mover in the establishment of blue-ice runways on Antarctica - sites that are now routinely used by adventurers and tourists. He also travelled on tourist cruises to the Arctic and Antarctic as a lecturer.

His published writings include ‘An Alien in Antarctica: Reflections upon Forty Years of Exploration and Research on the Frozen Continent’; ‘Forty Years on Ice: A lifetime of Exploration and Research in the Polar Regions’; ‘Foothold on Antarctica: The First International Expedition (1949-1952)’ and ‘Vodka on Ice: A Year with the Russians in Antarctica’.

Swithinbank’s awards included the Polar Medal, Patron’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and the Vega Medal of the Royal Swedish Geographical Society. He is commemorated by six place names in various sectors of the Antarctic. He married Mary Fellows (née Stewart) in 1960, and they had a son and a daughter. A memorial service will be held on June 16th in Cambridge.

You can read a more complete obituary as published in the Daily Telegraph here.

Baby King Penguins, Where Do They Go?

Little was known about where king penguin chicks go when they fledge and first head to sea, or why some survive their first year when many don’t, so researchers have been trying to answer these questions with fieldwork based in South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

To discover where newly fledged king penguin chicks go researchers put small satellite tags on chicks in two colonies in December 2007. The study sites in South Georgia and the Falklands contrasted, being located on different sides of the Antarctic Polar Front (APF) and having a different climate. The APF is a key oceanographic feature generally thought to be important for king penguin foraging success.

Of the fledglings tracked, eight penguins were tracked for periods greater than120 days; seven of these (four from South Georgia and three from the Falkland Islands) migrated into the Pacific. Results showed that birds from both sites foraged predominantly in the vicinity of the APF. Only one bird, from the Falkland Islands, moved into the Indian Ocean, visiting the northern limit of the winter pack-ice; three others from the Falkland Islands migrated to the eastern coast of Tierra del Fuego before travelling south. The birds usually swam no more than 10km in a day, though they could travel more than 100km in 24 hrs. The tracks of the tagged birds from the two colonies can be seen in the figure below.

Though migratory behaviour from both sites was broadly similar, the young birds from the Falkland Islands spent more time in comparatively shallow waters whilst the new fledeged birds from South Georgia spent more time in deeper waters. The satellite tracks also showed that, to start with, the young birds stayed clear of areas being used by adult birds. King penguins usually spend four or five years “exploring the Southern Ocean” before they settle down and start breeding, the researchers noted.

A paper on the study entitled ‘Post-fledging dispersal of king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) from two breeding sites in the South Atlantic’ was published in PLOS ONE on May 14th by authors Kelmens Putz, Phil Trathan, Martin Collins, Sally Poncet and Benn Luthi.

The satellite tracks obtained from the South Georgia juvenile king penguins. The breeding site is marked by a yellow asterisk over South Georgia. Track colours represent a monthly time scale, with positions in pink (December 2007), blue (January 2008), yellow-green (February), orange (March), golden (April), red (May), olive (June), violet (July) and green (August 2008). The black line indicates the approximate position of the Antarctic Polar Front.
The satellite tracks obtained from the South Georgia juvenile king penguins. The breeding site is marked by a yellow asterisk over South Georgia. Track colours represent a monthly time scale, with positions in pink (December 2007), blue (January 2008), yellow-green (February), orange (March), golden (April), red (May), olive (June), violet (July) and green (August 2008). The black line indicates the approximate position of the Antarctic Polar Front.

Ten Year Study Of Bird Island Macaroni Penguins

Scientists at Bird Island have been studying macaroni penguins for over ten years. The BAS-led team of scientists studied the birds during a period that their numbers were declining. The macaroni penguin population on South Georgia has declined by almost 70% since the early 1980s.

The electronically tagged macaroni penguins are recorded by a sensor as they pass through this gate at the entrance to their colony on Bird Island. Photo BAS.
The electronically tagged macaroni penguins are recorded by a sensor as they pass through this gate at the entrance to their colony on Bird Island. Photo BAS.

Since 2003 birds that had been fitted with small electronic tags have passed an electronic scanner at the entrance to the colony, which records the birds as they come and go. The resultant data was analysed to determine survival rates. The results have now been presented in a paper.

The penguins’ survival rates are influenced by both environmental and predation pressures. The scientists found penguins were particularly vulnerable to predation by other seabirds such as giant petrels. The macaroni chicks were found to be particularly vulnerable, with only a third surviving their first fledgling year.

Catharine Horswill, from BAS, said: “Penguins are facing rapid changes in their environment, but at South Georgia we found compelling evidence that predators are the most important factor influencing the survival of chicks as they leave the colony for the first time. This is a big leap forward as we had no idea that predation could be such a strong driving force. Knowing what drives survival rates of penguins puts us in a much better place to predict how these populations may change in the future.”

The research paper, ‘Survival in macaroni penguins and the relative importance of different drivers; individual traits, predation pressure and environmental variability.’ is published by the Journal of Animal Ecology.

Info BAS

This very short video shows the macaroni penguins crossing the recording bridge.

Tourism Used To Support Science

A small tourist group will have the privilege of knowing their extraordinary holidays are directly assisting science in South Georgia and the Antarctic as part of an exciting collaboration of Cheeseman Ecological Safaris and field researchers.

The trip to South Georgia has been arranged by GSGSSI and will involve four researchers, including island veteran Sally Poncet to conduct fieldwork whilst the tourists visit typically closed sites, under the supervision of their Expedition Leader. During the time the group are travelling aboard the charter yacht Hans Hansson, the team will be conducting the 10-year survey of wandering albatross population on South Georgia for GSGSSI. Ted Cheeseman said: “This expedition is open to participation by a few fortunate travellers, either to assist with the survey efforts or enjoy special access to rarely accessible sites on South Georgia. Sites include Albatross Island, the Willis Islands, and remote regions along the spectacular southwest coast under special permit.” The expedition will take four weeks starting from Stanley, Falkland Islands, and is timed to coincide with the peak wandering albatross breeding season. Participants should get approximately 18 landing days on South Georgia.

During the month long trip the ten-year wandering albatross will survey will be conducted.
During the month long trip the ten-year wandering albatross will survey will be conducted.

The four scientists and an Expedition Leader, who is professional photographer and naturalist Scott Davis, will be on board the yacht along with the paying tourists. The tourists will be able to learn from and maybe even assist the researchers whilst exploring and photographing the dramatic scenery and wildlife while knowing their holiday is helping to offset the costs of conducting important research.

Ted Cheeseman said: “The government of South Georgia does a complete survey of the wanderers every 10 years under their commitment to Agreement on the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels (ACAP) but the cost of vessel support for this is of course not small. We are delighted to be using tourism to enable good conservation science. At the same time we’re able to give the tour participants an incredibly unique experience with access to sites usually inaccessible to travellers.

You can see details of the South Georgia trip here.

In The Shadow of Shackleton’s Cross: A Book Review

Author Beverley McLeod. Photo Peter Pepper.
Author Beverley McLeod. Photo Peter Pepper.

The new autobiographical book ‘In the Shadow of Shackleton’s Cross, An Antarctic Memoir’ was recently published by author Beverley McLeod. The review below is written by Peter Pepper

‘In the Shadow of Shackleton’s Cross, An Antarctic Memoir’ is a charming, well written and informative book about the author’s childhood experiences in South Georgia. Born in Stanley in 1951, Beverley McLeod lived on South Georgia between 1957 and 1961, where her father was a radio operator at King Edward Point for the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey. For much of her time there she had no other children to play with, and she had no formal schooling at all during those four years.

Her book describes how she was taught by her very demanding father who, sadly, had become a victim of drink. This led to domestic violence and, finally, to economic hardship for the whole family. During those difficult times the family was sustained only by her mother’s love, devotion, and hard work.

The author describes the kindness of the Norwegian employees at nearby Grytviken, then the largest whaling station in the world. It describes some of the details of the whaling process - and the dangers of life in that isolated spot.

The book also describes the couple of years following her return to Stanley, with interesting insight into school life there. In 1963, this came to an end – although a most successful one – when she won a Falkland Islands Government scholarship to go to a boarding school in Britain.

This book is not only the story of a quite unique childhood, but also a valuable record of the realities of life in South Georgia before the demise of the whaling industry there; and in the Falklands in the years before Argentine involvement, and finally war, changed life there for ever. I strongly recommend it.

The 402 page softback book ‘In the Shadow of Shackleton’s Cross, An Antarctic Memoir’ was published by Orion in April 2014. ISBN 9781849860314

It is available from the publishers here.

There is a dedicated website for the book at: which can be used to purchase the book directly from the author for £15, inclusive of p & p to UK addresses.

A young Beverley with her father Peter McLeod and brother Gerald at King Edward Point.
A young Beverley with her father Peter McLeod and brother Gerald at King Edward Point.

Bird Island Diary

By Jess Walkup, Albatross Field Assistant at the BAS Research Station at Bird Island.

In May the wandering albatross chicks are growing fast and most are left alone on their nests by the beginning of the month. By the end of May the chicks are about as large as medium sized dogs and perched atop their tall nests. Working with these birds can really mess with your sense of size perspective and I am sure I will be surprised when I eventually see “normal” sized birds and chicks back in the UK.

In the second week of May, Jerry and I carried out a census of the light-mantled sooty albatross chicks along part of the coast line. This is one of my favourite jobs: following the cliffs along Bird Sound, seeing the otherwise unnoticed coves, inlets and rock pools that line this edge of the island and looking out for the sooty nests that are precariously balanced on the cliff faces. There are not a lot of sooty nests and few pairs seem to successfully rear a chick so it was a real treat to see a few well grown and healthy looking chicks during the census.

May is fledging time for the grey-headed albatross, which are now fully feathered and almost as smart as their parents (minus the attractive yellow stripe along their bill). I have been visiting two study colonies almost every day to record the date on which they finally leave. It is sad to see the colonies emptying, although the whole breeding season has been leading up to their ultimate departure. I feel like I know the chicks so well that it is almost like saying goodbye to friends, alas the feeling is almost certainly not mutual. Once fledged, these chicks will not return to the island for around 8 years. During their absence they will feed around the southern oceans. Their usage of this region is not well understood so this year I have been fitting small leg-ring mounted locator devices which, once retrieved upon the birds return to Bird Island to breed, will provide BAS with tracks of the birds foraging trip. It is great to be able to shed light on this mysterious period in the albatross’s life.

This grey-headed albatross chick is almost ready to leave its nest, and the island, and has a tracking device attached to a plastic leg ring. Photo Jess Walkup.
This grey-headed albatross chick is almost ready to leave its nest, and the island, and has a tracking device attached to a plastic leg ring. Photo Jess Walkup.

Of course the most exciting thing to happen in May by far has been the arrival of the leopard seals, the first one arriving right on cue at the start of the month. Jerry had seen them before, this being his second Bird Island winter, but for Cian, Rob and me it was a treat well worth the wait. Watching our first leopard seal feeding on a fur seal in the bay in front of base is truly the most amazing wildlife spectacle. Rarely is it possible to see a top predator in action at close quarters, never mind from your front door! Our first sighting was of a leopard seal that has visited the island in several years previously.

Yawning leopard seal. Photo Jerry Gillham.
Yawning leopard seal. Photo Jerry Gillham.

May has seen the temperature on Bird Island drop, at times as low as -7 °C with a wind chill below -25 °C and, with temperatures that low, snow and ice. The streams and ponds have frozen solid which has made passage across the island somewhat easier as, once spikes have been attached to boots, the shallow frozen steams provide the perfect walking surface, much better than clambering over the tussac. In fact walking anywhere that involves crossing areas of tussac has become particularly challenging, the course stepping from tussac mound to tussac mound avoiding the boggy and often neck deep bits in between is tricky at the best of times but when a covering of snow has rendered the landscape uniformly white the challenge becomes somewhat like tussac roulette. However Bird Island looks particularly beautiful with a frosting of snow so we can forgive the occasional fall into a muddy puddle in exchange for the super views and the great photo opportunities.

A wandering albatross chick stays warm in a snowy landscape. Photo Jess Walkup.
A wandering albatross chick stays warm in a snowy landscape. Photo Jess Walkup.

South Georgia Snippets

Indoor whaling station photos wanted: The South Georgia Museum are looking for photographs taken inside two of the old whaling buildings at Grytviken before 1982...namely the Engineering Workshop and the Main Store (Magasinet).

The Museum will be undertaking a project to move stores from one building to another and any photographs could be of great assistance to help them correctly identify and catalogue the original stores. Photographs taken inside these buildings prior to 1982 could be a very valuable tool to assist them.

Sarah Lurcock who manages the museum said, “This will be an important and challenging heritage project and any old photographs taken inside these two buildings could help us to ensure the stores are authentically and accurately preserved and displayed for the future.“ She also said, “If people are not sure which building at Grytviken their indoor photographs are taken in, please send them anyway as we will be able to work it out. And the more information anyone can send, like the year the photo was taken, will make the images all the more useful.”

Photographs or slides can either be scanned and put on a disk, or original images put in an envelope and posted to: The South Georgia Museum, Grytviken, South Georgia, via Falkland Islands, South Atlantic. Small digital files can be emailed to

Internal photographs from 1982 or before inside these two buildings, the Engineers Workshop (left) and Main Store (right), ar wanted by the South Georgia Museum.
Internal photographs from 1982 or before inside these two buildings, the Engineers Workshop (left) and Main Store (right), ar wanted by the South Georgia Museum.

Shackleton Expedition 2014: The Polish yacht Polonus will lead a flotilla of yachts on a trip to celebrate the centenary of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition which is being organised by the sailing association ‘Żeglujmy Razem’. Polonus, the expedition flagship, is a 44m long steel ketch from the home port of Szczecin.

The expedition starts from London on July 30th where the Polonus will hoist the expedition’s colours before heading for Plymouth to join other yachts joining the expedition. The boats will set sail on August 8th and head south, the same day as Endurance did one hundred years before. The journey will take the flotilla via Lisbon, Las Palmas, Dakar, Brazil, then on to the Falkland Islands. From there the boats have three suggested routes to take to various locations, including the South Shetland Islands, Elephant Island, and Cape Horn, but all are expected to arrive in South Georgia before January 5th 2015.

The expedition is open to all yachts.

The planned route for the ‘Shackleton Expedition 2014’.
The planned route for the ‘Shackleton Expedition 2014’.

South Georgia sculpture: Two new sculptures of South Georgia wildlife have been crafted by Anthony Smith who was artist in residence at the South Georgia Museum last summer. The works are part of a growing body of work that will form his ‘South Georgia Series’ and which will feature in forthcoming exhibitions. The first two sculptures in the series are of a gentoo penguin chick and a black-browed albatross bust (both life-size) which are now ready for casting.

Anthony Smith’s gentoo penguin chick sculpture is ready for casting.
Anthony Smith’s gentoo penguin chick sculpture is ready for casting.

Dates For Your Diary

Plymouth Shackleton 100: One of the first events of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition was the sailing of Endurance from Plymouth. To mark this, a three-day event ‘Plymouth Shackleton 100’ will be centred on the Duke of Cornwall Hotel in Plymouth, UK, which is where Shackleton and several of the crew stayed prior to the ship’s departure.

‘Plymouth Shackleton 100’ is being held from August 6th- 8th and includes a black tie dinner, lectures and shows and a re-enactment of the Endurance sailing by a tall ship.

More information here.

Shackleton, the SPRI Collection: During Shackleton’s Endurance Centenary, the Polar Museum at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, UK, will display Shackleton artefacts and a selection of related archival material in the museum gallery. This will be followed by a major exhibition, 'By Endurance we Conquer: Shackleton and his Men’, commencing in September.

Shackleton artefacts will be on show from Friday August 1st. There is no admission fee.

The chronometer below will be one of the items on display. It belonged to Shackleton and was used for navigation during the 800 mile boat journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia in 1916. It is made of silver plate, comes with a wooden stand, and is inscribed 'S. Smith & Son, Strand'.

Shackleton’s chronometer will be on show at SPRI.
Shackleton’s chronometer will be on show at SPRI.

Shackleton 100: The South Georgia Association, in collaboration with Friends of SPRI, will be hosting a one-day Shackleton conference at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge on November 8th. There will be a packed and varied programme of speakers and presentations. Tickets will cost £25 and will include morning coffee, a buffet lunch and afternoon tea.

Non-members will be welcome to attend. You can register your interest in this event by emailing here

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