South Georgia Newsletter, October 2011

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

Argentine Invasion Commander Imprisoned

Alfredo Astiz, who lead the first group of Argentine invaders to land on South Georgia in March 1982, has been sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity. During the military dictatorship of Argentina in the late 1970s, a period known as the “Dirty War”, he had become one of the most feared people in the country, earning himself the nickname “the blonde angel of death”. His conviction on October 27th was for his part in the disappearance, torture and death of numerous people including two nuns and the founders of the 'Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo' human rights group.

There is some confusion about Astiz's role in the Argentine invasion of South Georgia in 1982. He was an intelligence officer and specialist marine commando in the Argentine Navy and in mid-March he landed at Leith whaling station with a fifteen-strong military tactical diving group and a group of civilian Argentine scrap metal workers. The correct clearances for the arrival of their ship “Bahia Buen Suceso” had not been sought and the presence of military with the scrappers, and the raising of the Argentine flag, was observed by a British Antarctic Survey (BAS) field party. Tensions between Argentina and Britain were rising and the small force of Argentine commandos at Leith was reinforced with more landed from the “Bahia Paraiso” on March 25th.

British Navy ship “HMS Endurance” was in the area and dropped a small party of Royal Marines at King Edward Point (KEP). Meanwhile, on April 2nd, the Argentines invaded the Falklands Islands. The next day KEP was attacked by two Argentine vessels. After a short and valiant battle the British Marines surrendered to the overwhelming forces. Astiz was not actively involved in the battle; during the KEP attack he and his men were being held in reserve aboard the “Bahia Paraiso”, but he did land afterwards as the civilians sheltering in the church at Grytviken surrendered to him. In a talk to the South Georgia Association years later, Bob Headland (who was amongst the BAS personnel in the church) remarked: “... all things considered, it was good that nobody present knew anything of the history of torture and murder that Astiz had accumulated.”

British forces liberated South Georgia just a few weeks later. By this time Astiz was back at Leith, so again missed the fighting.

The Argentine Commander at KEP surrendered all the Argentine forces on the Island to the British. In Leith though, Astiz initially refused to surrender, then insisted on signing a separate surrender. The main Argentine surrender had not been witnessed by the media, and Astiz's insistence led to unwelcome consequences for him.

The photo of the surrender that may have helped bring Alfredo Astiz to justice.  Photo from 'Beyond Endurance' by Nick Barker.
The photo of the surrender that may have helped bring Alfredo Astiz to justice. Photo from 'Beyond Endurance' by Nick Barker.

The leader of the British land forces liberating the Island was Royal Marine Major Guy Sheridan. Though he never met Astiz, he likes to think he was at least partly responsible for the Argentines at Leith surrendering without a shot.

The following is an extract from his diary: “At about 1800 on April 25th, some ¾ hour after the surrender, I ordered an Argentine Marine Officer to accompany me and Captain Bicain of the “Santa Fe” to the radio office in the BAS Base at KEP. I instructed him to call the Argentine Marine garrison at inform them that the main garrison on South Georgia had surrendered and ordering them to do the same. I then told him to say that we expected to see white flags when we arrived, and if we did not and if we met resistance, they would suffer the consequences. The officer spoke to Astiz at Leith but I was unable to know if everything I said had been passed on. Nevertheless the small garrison under Astiz and the scrapmen surrendered without resistance the next morning to “HMS Endurance” and “HMS Plymouth”. Not a shot had been fired. A formal gathering took place in the wardroom of “HMS Plymouth” that day (April 26th) at which a bearded Astiz signed a surrender document.”

This time the press were there and a photograph of him signing the surrender was widely used in the global media to represent the capitulation of Argentine forces in South Georgia. This was an important morale boost for the British who were now engaged in liberating the Falkland Islands.

After his surrender Astiz is reported to have committed several war crimes including trying to lure a Royal Navy helicopter to land on a booby trapped helipad, and encouraging British forces to cross an area he knew to be mined. Astiz was never tried for these alleged crimes.

Astiz and his men were embarked on “RFA Tidespring” which sailed to Ascension Island. While he was being transported the British received requests from at least two European countries asking to interview Astiz. He had been recognised in the surrender photograph by some of his former victims and the authorities wanted to investigate his part in the disappearance of some of their nationals.

Whilst the other commandos and prisoners of war were repatriated to Argentina, Astiz was put on another ship sailing to the UK where he was questioned by police about some of the “disappearances”. He reportedly kept silent during questioning. As a prisoner of war he was repatriated to Argentina on June 10th . It would be years before he would again come near to justice.

According to the South American newspaper 'Mercopress', in 1986/87 Astiz benefited from the general amnesty bill in Argentina. Despite this, in 1990 a French court sentenced him in absentia to life imprisonment for the killing of two nuns. Later a Spanish judge ordered his arrest and extradition, together with 44 other Argentine officers, charged with genocide. In 1998 Astiz was dishonourably discharged from the Argentine Navy.

In 2003 the Argentine Congress annulled the amnesty bill which had protected Astiz from facing charges. Torture and human rights abuse cases involving military officers were reopened. In early 2004 Astiz was sent to a military jail to await trial.

The mega-trial of Astiz and around 40 other Argentine ex-military officers in the Buenos Aires court lasted 22-months. Whilst the crowd outside the court cheered, Astiz showed no emotion as his life sentence was pronounced.

Colonel Guy Sheridan said of the sentence it was: “30 years too late frankly but at least he is inside now.”

Commissioner Arrives Aboard “HMS Clyde”

SGSSI Commissioner Nigel Haywood has paid his first visit to South Georgia. He arrived aboard “HMS Clyde” on October 7th and was accompanied on a busy three-day familiarisation visit by GSGSSI Executive Officer Richard McKee who had arrived at KEP a week earlier.

The Commissioner met all the residents including GSGSSI employees, BAS personnel and the team running the Museum. He went out in the harbour launch to see the two fishing boats wrecked in 2003 at the entrance to Moraine Fjord, and to view the reindeer exclosure at Sorling so he could see how vegetation might be expected to recover when the introduced reindeer are removed.

On the 10th the Commissioner, Richard McKee and Senior Government Officer Patrick Lurcock joined “FPV Pharos SG” to travel up the coast to view the three whaling stations in Stromness Bay from the ship, before going on north to the Bay of Isles for a shore visit to Prion Island. Also aboard were the albatross survey team from the KEP science base who conducted the wandering albatross chick census. Despite one or two severe winter storms, all the chicks had survived the winter.

Commissioner Nigel Haywood and Executive Officer Richard McKee aboard the FPV “Pharos SG”.
Commissioner Nigel Haywood and Executive Officer Richard McKee aboard the FPV “Pharos SG”.

The Commissioner photographs Stromness whaling station.
The Commissioner photographs Stromness whaling station.

“Pharos SG” rendezvoused with “HMS Clyde” that evening and the Commissioner and Richard McKee, along with a naval coxswain who had taken advantage of an offer to remain at KEP for an extra day to see what life was like on base, transferred ships for the trip back to the Falkland Islands.

Before this “HMS Clyde” had offered four people from Grytviken the opportunity to sail south down the island with them. The offer was enthusiastically taken up by the KEP Doctor so she could go ashore at St Andrew's Bay to change the emergency medical supplies in the hut, and three from the Museum.

“HMS Clyde”, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Catherine Jordan, had earlier berthed alongside the KEP jetty for a two-night stay during her patrol, giving the crew an opportunity to go ashore for walks and to visit local sights. Locals were invited aboard for a barbecue and deck racing and, despite the chilly conditions on the exposed quarterdeck, revellers stayed to bet and raise over £200 for the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT). Next day a mad few had a chilly dip from the slipway before racing up to warm up in the sauna.

“HMS Clyde” also called in at Stromness from where military personnel patrolled on foot over to Fortuna Bay.

The group that landed at Stromness from “HMS Clyde”  to patrol to Fortuna Bay. Photo Sam Cimmin.
The group that landed at Stromness from “HMS Clyde” to patrol to Fortuna Bay. Photo Sam Cimmin.

Fishing And Shipping News

One icefish trawler was in the SG Fishing Zone for the first week of October searching for icefish.

“HMS Clyde” was on patrol in South Georgia waters in the first two weeks of October. The cruise ship season started on October 23rd with the visit of the 100-passenger “Plancius”, followed by “Sea Spirit” on the 28th with 95 passengers.

Three yachts were around the Island this month. Two, the “Hans Hansson” and “Pelagic Australis” were on charter to expeditionary groups (see below) and one, “Shag 2”, was on a private visit with a crew of two aboard.

At the end of the month the BAS vessel “RRS James Clark Ross” came alongside for the annual resupply which was completed in just over 24 hours. Before coming to KEP the vessel had started the resupply at Bird Island but had to break off because of bad weather, they planned to return to complete the job a few days later, after a science phase of her research cruise.

Charter yacht “Hans Hansson” pays here first ever visit to KE Cove.
Charter yacht “Hans Hansson” pays here first ever visit to KE Cove.

Rat And Bird Survey

Teams of field workers on an OTEP (Overseas Territories Environment Program) project “Rodent Eradication – Preparation and Evaluation” will be working throughout the summer around the northern end of the Island, trapping rats and conducting bird surveys. The fieldwork needs to be done prior to the start of 'Phase 2' of the SGHT's Habitat Restoration Program.

The teams will start monitoring the outcome of 'Phase 1', the trial phase of the Habitat Restoration Project, where it will assess the effects on target, non-target and putative beneficiary species of the trial, which took place in March this year.

The OTEP project will run over two years and cover all the areas that will eventually be baited to remove rodents. It will establish base-line data on key beneficiary species around the island and, using aerial photos and genetics, investigate the efficacy of (rapidly retreating) glaciers as barriers to rodent movements, which is fundamental to the success of an Island-wide eradication.

The first field insertions will be in mid-November from the support vessel FPV “Pharos SG”. To start with, three separate field teams will be put in at Carlita, St Andrews and Corral Bay to work for a fortnight on the Stromness and Barff Peninsula areas. They will then be redeployed to Antarctic Bay, Possession Bay and Fortuna Bay.

The field teams will be attempting to catch 20 rats from each rat infested area they visit. These will undergo genetic analysis. Experience of trying to catch rats on the Greene Peninsula last summer has shown that this many rats can be difficult to catch, so around 100 traps will be set in the most densely infested areas using very palatable bait. The teams will also be on the lookout for evidence of mice. If these are encountered (burrows or droppings) samples will be collected for analysis.

The field teams will also conduct bird surveys including GPS plotting of skua, sheathbill and giant petrel nests and mapping of the extent of burrowing petrel colonies.

What's Down There?

The Shallow Marine Survey Group (SMSG) has published the most comprehensive record of species richness from the shallow sublittoral zone of the north coast of South Georgia.

Despite the harsh conditions of the shallow marine environment of South Georgia, a unique and diverse array of algal flora has become well established resulting in a high level of endemism. There are now known to be at least 127 seaweed species in the area.

Seaweeds were surveyed by the SMSG in 19 locations and 72 species were recorded, including 24 recorded for the first time in South Georgia waters. One of these may even be a new record for the Antarctic/sub-Antarctic. It is not known if the newly found species have been present for a long time, but not recorded, or have been introduced more recently. There are still a number of seaweed species yet to be identified, but for now the newly recorded species added to the previously known species, brings the total known seaweed species for the Island to 127. Many more are likely to be found in the future, especially if sampling is done around the south coast of the Island.

The 1MB 18-page report 'Intertidal and Subtidal Benthic Seaweed Diversity of South Georgia', authored by E Wells, P Brewin and P Brickle, can be downloaded from this website here [pdf, 1MB].

Another report, 'Intertidal Assemblages of South Georgia”, records a three fold increase in the number of species recorded in the intertidal zone around South Georgia. The intertidal habitats of South Georgia have previously been poorly studied and there remains a need for more sampling in future. The study found 34 macrofaunal species (or putative species) including two new-to-science species of flatworms.

More sampling will be needed for a complete species inventory.

The report 'Intertidal Assemblages of South Georgia” can be downloaded here [pdf, 3.5MB].

The results of these studies, along with results from future studies, will be important for monitoring change, for instance of any environmental transformations as a result of climate change.

Fieldwork for the two papers above was conducted in 2010 and was primarily funded by the Darwin Initiative, with additional support from GSGSSI and the SGHT.

Glacial Retreat

Many of the glaciers around the central area of the Island are retreating, some at an alarming rate. The glaciers feeding into East and West Cumberland Bay are regularly observed by people travelling out from KEP, so their collapse and retreat can be documented more regularly than those in more remote areas of the Island.

The floating snout of the vast Neumayer Glacier, at the head of West Cumberland Bay, has regularly been mapped and is known to be retreating at the massive rate of one-metre a day.

The glacial retreat of the fronts of the larger glaciers in East and West Cumberland Bay are often noted by locals visiting from KEP. Photo Sam Crimmin.
The glacial retreat of the fronts of the larger glaciers in East and West Cumberland Bay are often noted by locals visiting from KEP. Photo Sam Crimmin.

Other smaller glaciers are also experiencing huge collapses. An example is the Harker Glacier, at the head of Moraine Fjord, which is estimated to have lost a half kilometre of glacial tongue in the past year alone. The glacial retreat means that in many places ice now terminates on land instead of reaching the sea. Long sections of new moraine beaches can now be seen in front of areas of the Harker glacier. When the floating glacier snouts collapse the resulting ice fills the bays with brash ice which can then be seen streaming out of the fjords driven by wind and tide.

Moraine beaches can be seen in front of the ice where the Harker Glacier has collapsed and retreated at least ½ a kilometre in the past year.
Moraine beaches can be seen in front of the ice where the Harker Glacier has collapsed and retreated at least ½ a kilometre in the past year.

Glacier Col, high in the hills to the south of Grytviken, is now a misnomer. This was a valley filled by a glacier which, until recently, could be relied on to provide a smooth steady snow covered slope for early and late season skiing. A recent visit instead found a whole new landscape exposed by the retreating ice: streams, lakes, moraine hills and rock now fill much of a valley floor and the glacier exists only at the southern most end as a crescent of ice that all too soon will also be gone.

The speedy glacial retreat adds urgency to the ongoing SGHT Habitat Restoration Project, which aims to rid South Georgia of invasive rodents. The scope of this programme is so vast that it has to be done in stages. The baiting programme, which is planned to take place over four years, relies on the major glaciers to separate cleared areas from neighbouring rat infested ones. Of course, many glaciers are already protecting rat free areas, such as those on much of the south coast, from the rat infested ones (mainly on the north coast). If the rat infested areas are not cleared soon and the glaciers continue to retreat at this rate, rats will soon reach all areas of the main Island, with devastating effects on the millions of smaller ground nesting and burrowing birds.

A section of the Harker Glacier collapses. Photo Matt Kenney.
A section of the Harker Glacier collapses. Photo Matt Kenney.

A short video clip showing a section of the Harker Glacier front collapsing.

Frozen Planet Coin Released

The stunning wildlife programme 'Frozen Planet', which is airing on televisions all over the world, is commemorated with a SGSSI coin release featuring a king penguin and its chick.

‘Frozen Planet’ focuses on life at the two extremes of the world and is narrated by Sir David Attenborough - it is the most ambitious series on the polar regions ever undertaken. For four years, camera teams braved temperatures down to -50 degrees C, 200-mph katabatic winds, midnight sun and long dark polar nights to capture the essence of these remote and highly seasonal ends of the earth. More than 2300 filming days were spent in the field by small crews. The aim was to take the viewer on a journey through the polar regions – some of the greatest, least explored wildernesses on the planet.

South Georgia was one of the key filming locations. Four major filming trips were made to the Island by six different camera teams. But filming in South Georgia isn’t for the faint-hearted; 800 miles from the Falklands, over some of the roughest seas on the planet, this is an unforgiving place with no margin for error. The teams were deployed over a period of around 3 months, covering stories as varied as the whaling history to Shackleton’s epic walk, but by far the greatest effort was spent documenting the lives of the animals through the different seasons.

On Monday October 3rd, Dr. Elizabeth White, one of the Directors of 'Frozen Planet', who herself filmed in both the Arctic and Antarctic, visited Pobjoy Mint to strike the first coin, the design of which includes the official BBC “Frozen Planet” logo.

The 'Frozen Planet' coin is available in Cupro Nickle and Proof Sterling Silver and can be bought at the South Georgia Post Office or direct from Pobjoy Mint here.

Dr. Elizabeth White, one of the Directors of 'Frozen Planet', visited Pobjoy Mint to strike the first coin. Photo Pobjoy
Dr. Elizabeth White, one of the Directors of 'Frozen Planet', visited Pobjoy Mint to strike the first coin. Photo Pobjoy

SGHT Goes Stateside

Having recognised that the USA is home to some of their most generous and loyal supporters, The South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) has set up a sister organisation in the USA. The new organisation is called 'Friends of South Georgia Island' (FOSGI) and is based in Colorado.

Funding from the USA has been vital in the past to help SGHT achieve some of its most ambitious projects. For instance, in 2007, a three-quarter million dollar leadership gift was pledged by the 'Island Foundation' of Massachusetts, which provided vital seed funding for the ambitious and on-going SGHT Habitat Restoration Project. Other donations from USA supporters have made possible the purchase of the replica of Sir Ernest Shackleton's lifeboat, the “James Caird”, for the South Georgia Museum and the pursuit of many other projects.

The Board of Directors of FOSGI is headed by SGHT Trustee Denise Landau. SGHT’s US Trustee, Dr. Michael Moore, is also on the board. Importantly, once the charity has received IRS approval, FOSGI will be able to receive tax-deductible donations directly from US donors.

FOSGI will be a focal point for South Georgia support within the USA, as well as ensuring that gifts received from US donors are maximised for the benefit of South Georgia.

You can find the FOSGI website at

(Info SGHT)

Homing Fur Seals

Research conducted at Bird Island has shown the remarkable ability of female fur seals to return to breed in almost exactly the same spot where they were born. Fur seal breeding beaches in this area are very crowded, so it is unsurprising that not all females can get to the exact spot but, even so, most of them get within 12-metres of their birth place. Researchers do not know how the seals find their way back.

The research was carried out by Dr Joe Hoffman of the University of Bielefeld, Germany and Dr Jaume Forcada from BAS. They tagged 335 female fur seals soon after they were born and a few years later looked for the tagged animals. Only about 10% of the seals were seen again, but most of these returned to be close to their birth place. It was noted that in following seasons, as the mothers became more experienced, they got even closer to their birth-spot.

The results of the study were published in 'Mammalian Biology'.

(Info NERC)

'British Shackleton Expedition'

Text and photos by Skip Novak

The 'British Shackleton Expedition' start out from King Haakon.
The 'British Shackleton Expedition' start out from King Haakon.

Once again October weather made the Shackleton Traverse a thoroughly enjoyable experience. We had good snow cover all the way and no problems with crevasses, making pulling pulks on skis a pleasure – well most of the time. I guess ‘pleasure’ must be qualified, as that would depend on who, in our British party of 10, you are talking to. Led by Stephen Venables and myself, supported by yacht “Pelagic Australis” skippered by Miles Wise with mate Laura Parish, this was my 4th Shackleton Traverse in five years. It is always a spectacular outing.

Three of our group of eight; John Wolfe, Jonathon Jones and Christopher Spray were 'Pelagic' veterans from 2008 on the Antarctic Peninsula. They were joined by Dick Dickinson, Martin Thomas, Tom Carroll, Janey King and Gavin Brazg. This group of mainly old friends from medical school were at first subjected to a five-day training exercise in the Alps with Stephen in May. This always pays dividends as the team breaks in and reviews their ski gear and misc equipment. A thrash up and down the glaciers tests fitness and practices winter camping skills.

We made it from Stanley, Falkland Islands, to the Willis Islands in three and half days; sailing most of the way, but, as is usually the case, we then had to wait two days in Elsehul for a weather window. Strong williwaws in Elsehul were dramatic and kept everyone’s interest and curiosity up for the days to come in the mountains. We eventually slid around to King Haakon Bay on the October 15th in a dying westerly and anchored, protected from a heavy swell, behind the islets near the head of the bay. That afternoon we discharged all our heavy gear on shore at the snowline only a five-minute walk inland. Next morning we got away smartly at 0630, but the benign weather forecast of calm conditions became immediately suspect once up on the Murray as we struggled with strong crosswind gusts, just short of the point of knocking us over. Visibility at times was nil due to a combination of spindrift and cloud, and even a rest stop was largely an unpleasant experience of rapid cooling off and fumbling with Thermoses and water bottles in mittens. We arrived at the Trident Ridge at 1630, a long day out due to the somewhat tough travelling conditions, everyone tired.

Wind and spindrift made stopping unpleasant.
Wind and spindrift made stopping unpleasant.

The first camp at the Trident.
The first camp at the Trident.

Luckily the next day dawned relatively calm for the critical lower off from the Trident. In spite of having no technical hang-ups, it took 7-hours to lower off the ten pulks, in three stages of 180 meters, and get everyone down on a rope safely to the flat on the Crean Glacier. This was an eye opener as in 2009, when we had only seven people, it took five hours. The axiom that speed in mountain travel is safe, certainly makes the case for smaller the parties the better. In good conditions we carried on due east, steering for the nunatak for another three hours, but we had had enough by 1700 and camped in the middle of the Crean, about 2-kilometres short of the crashed helicopter’s GPS position. It was interesting that cracks were beginning to appear in the crevassed section of the Crean above Antarctic Bay, and the next day we actually found the crash site with a meter of wreckage above the snow, so not much snow can have accumulated during the past winter. In four crossings this is the first time I had seen the wreckage. In 2006, as late as mid November, it had not been visible.

The lower off the Trident.
The lower off the Trident.

Towing pulks on the Crean Glacier.
Towing pulks on the Crean Glacier.

A short day on the 18th took us to another camp short of the Breakwind Ridge, at the base of a spur on the west side of the Fortuna Glacier. We had hoped to climb Mt Stanley or Peak Nicholls the next day and at least have an enjoyable ski down without loads, but a blow was predicted on the 19th. The choices were to stay up there in a snow camp, or high tail it down to Fortuna Bay for a beach camp – the consensus (Stephen and I took ourselves out of the vote) was to get down and complete the glacier part of the traverse and get a change of scenery. That morning we skinned across the Fortuna, and within two hours had hauled the pulks up to the Breakwind Ridge, ‘hand over handing’ them up from the windscoop on a 60-meter rope.

Hauling a pulk to the top of Breakwind.
Hauling a pulk to the top of Breakwind.

The conditions, although fresh and breezy, were superb with clear views down to Fortuna and across to Stromness, the white imprint of the ‘Z’ on the otherwise bare rock buttress clearly visible on the far side of the bay. Spring snow on a firm base made skiing the pulks down to the final gully a quick affair. Then chivvying the gear through the narrows by coaxing, pulling, dropping and bum sliding with the loads made for an interesting ‘finale’ before the pleasant ski down the snow patches in amongst the king penguins right to the beach, two upturned pulks in seal wallows notwithstanding.

Skip skied all the way to the beach in Fortuna Bay.
Skip skied all the way to the beach in Fortuna Bay.

We camped on beach shingle that night - and the next night as it rained torrentially for over 24 hours. To go to the beach loo or to fill up water bottles at the clear stream some distance away meant a good soaking, consequently we lay prone in the tents for two nights and a day. Everyone said they enjoyed the rest!

“Pelagic Australis” left Grytviken at first light on the 21st and by 0900 was there to take the camping gear off us. We then walked around the head of the bay in our rubber boots, waded the stream knee deep (painful as always) and then did the ‘the last day’ over the easy ground around Crean Lake to the col with a good ski down to the outwash plain. We were picked up by “Pelagic Australis” at 1400 – it was shower time!!

Crossing the Konig outfall.
Crossing the Konig outfall.

South Georgia Snippets

SGHT Newsletter: The SGHT has plenty more news in the latest edition of their newsletter, published in October. Articles include: an overview of the recent conference 'Managing Industrial Heritage: South Georgia in Context'; the announcement of the formation of FOSGI; interviews with the charity's PR representatives, fund raiser and shop buyer; news from the Curator of the South Georgia Museum; and a look at some of the scientific research work SGHT have recently supported.

You can download the newsletter here [pdf]

South Georgia Museum's Unique Skeleton: The skeleton of a strap toothed whale in the South Georgia Museum has been discovered to be unique among all specimens held in museums. Beaked whales are elusive, rarely seen live at sea and with only occasional remains found washed up on beaches. A recent examination of the SG Museum's skeleton, a skull, lower jaw and ribs found in Larsen harbour in 2001, shows it to be a young but sexually mature male with erupted, but short, teeth. An expert said, “The majority of males known for this species either have un-erupted, undeveloped teeth (sub-adults) or long, fully-developed strap-like teeth (sexually-mature adults). Therefore, the South Georgia specimen is quite unique....”

'Serac 2011' Expedition: A team of six clients with two guides used charter yacht “Hans Hansson” as their support vessel for a variety of mainly ski based activities around the Island. The team successfully completed the Shackleton Traverse over a few days, but instead of camping on the Island, returned to the yacht each night. An attempt to climb Admiralty Peak was abandoned as crevassing on the Neumayer Glacier was too great to allow passage inland. After calling in at Grytviken the expedition continued south with several other targets in mind and the hope that colder conditions further south would make glacier travel more achievable.

South Georgia Whaling Historian Given An Award: Dr. Bjørn Basberg, the eminent Industrial Archaeologist and Whaling Historian, has been awarded the Waterman Award. The award, recognises outstanding contributions to research and pedagogy in the Arts, Humanities, and Sciences and is presented each October at the USA New Bedford Whaling Museum's annual 'Whaling History Symposium'. For Dr Basberg it was given for: “...outstanding contributions, in action and in print, to the industrial and economic history, archaeology, and preservation of historic whaling sites in South Georgia.” The award acknowledges his work surveying, mapping and publishing extensively about the once thriving but now abandoned complex of Norwegian and Anglo-Norwegian shore-whaling factories on the South Georgia.

The Waterman Award has been described as the Nobel Prize of whaling history. A previous recipient of the award was Nigel Bonner, the founding director of the South Georgia Museum, who was awarded it posthumously in 1994.

South Georgia Museum News: Four seasonal staff arrived at the end of September to get the South Georgia Museum up and running for the start of the tourist season. The team includes Liz Adams, the buyer for the gift shop, her husband Tom, and Curatorial Intern Katie Murray. Sue Edwards, who was here for the first month to help set up, wrote a blog for the Museum website before she left. She tells how deep snow made moving luggage and cargo much more difficult than usual. Luckily the snow had mainly cleared before the first tour ship arrived, making visiting the Museum and whaling station much easier.

You can read the blog on the Museum website at or click here.

The team at the Museum.
The team at the Museum.

Playing the Whaling Station: Base Commander Rob Webster has developed an unusual hobby. The talented musician has taken to playing the whaling station! He has discovered that various bits of old machinery have their own notes and so composed the 'South Georgia Station Song', played on Grytviken Whaling Station.

New book - 'The Storied Ice': A book of exploration, discovery and adventure in South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula region has just been published. 'The Storied Ice' by Joan Booth covers explorers from Magellan to the early 21st Century, including of course Shackleton, as well as the early sealers and whalers, pioneer aviators, scientists etc.

The book, which has 100 illustrations and more than 30 maps, is published by Regent Press ( There will be a review of this book in the November edition of this newsletter.

KEP harem: It is a good year for elephant seals at KEP with more than 200 pups born on the Point so far and a few more to come yet. There have been a lot of battles between the many bulls hoping to mate with the females once they become receptive, about three weeks after their pup is born. In the videoclip below you can see a pup born and then bond with its mother before a bull seal briefly breaks up their interaction - whilst the skuas wait to feed on the afterbirth.

Bulls fight in the shallows. Photo Sam Crimmin
Bulls fight in the shallows. Photo Sam Crimmin

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