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David Nicholls on Mount Sheridan

 News and Events


Four expeditions have visited South Georgia this austral summer:
· Greg Mortimer led a team of clients over the Shackleton crossing. He experienced some difficult weather conditions, which forced them to go firm in their tents for a while.
· A US TV team, "Beyond Endurance" aimed to climb and ski down as many of South Georgia's peaks as they could in a month. On their first outing on Nordenskold they lost all their tents in high winds and were forced to operate from their yacht. They did managed to ascend and descend Mount Norman from Larsen Harbour.
· Crag Jones made the first ascent of the highest peak of the Three Brothers. (See Below).
· An amateur radio expedition, led by Declan Craig, set up and transmitted from South Sandwich Islands before then establishing light transmitters at Husvik, using Braveheart as the support vessel. (See Below)

Three Brothers First Ascent: Crag Jones Solo

Crag Jones a member of a three-man climbing party that included Skip Novak and his yacht 'Pelagic' made the first ascent, solo, of the highest of the Three Brothers peaks at the north west end of the Allardyce mountain range on 25 January as part of a combined climbing and filming expedition. The camerman was Al Hughes. three brothers

Crag reports: " The action was not too hairy. Everything was well under control! A bit of a battle up the headwall to the col, granted, but not anything that was not reversible under the conditions."

looking down Numayer

The Brothers, which had been the highest unclimbed peak in the northern half of South Georgia, actually consist of four peaks whose summits are 1,466, 1,783, 1,837 and 2,008m above sea level; it was the highest that was climbed by the 'Pelgaic' expedition.

'Pelagic' left Stanley in the Falkland Islands for South Georgia on 29 December and the three climbers went ashore at Husvik from the yacht on 11 January.

Shortly after they set up camp on the Neumayer Glacier the weather deteriorated and they were forced to wait there for two days. Once conditions improved, and after caching the skis and pulks, two heavy carries of equipment from the first camp were made on successive days, at the end of which they had established themselves in the glacial valley on the north-west side of the highest Brothers peak. Again, bad weather brought about by a succession of quick moving low
pressure systems intervened and, except for a short period when one false start was made, they were kept tent-bound for five days.

Finally on 25 January, the last day before 'Pelagic' was scheduled to pick them up from Husvik, the trio left the tent at 0300 in a white out, the forecast indicating that a short clearing spell could be expected later that morning. At the base of the mountain, however, Novak and Hughes decided not
to proceed as the weather had not abated; Jones went on with the climb alone.

route map Fortunately, the weather cleared later in the morning as predicted and by mid-day Jones had reached the summit of the top pyramid via its north-east ridge. He had first tried to ascend via it's south-west ridge but that route was unsuitable and he was forced to traverse across hard ice and some wind slab snow below the pyramidal summit, before making the final successful climb from the north-east. By 1700 that day he had returned to the field camp, the weather breaking again a short time later when high winds and rain were experienced.

Observations conducted during the climbing program indicate that the second and third highest of the Brothers' peaks were technically difficult to climb, particularly in the conditions that existed, as the lack of snow exposed large areas of loose rock in the higher areas.

'Pelagic' returned to Stanley on 8 February as planned. The group disembarked there and the yacht then sailed to Ushuaia, Argentina, where a Dutch party embarked to film in the Antarctic Peninsula region.

Amateur Radio Expedition

Declan Craig's amateur radio expedition successfully transmitted and received messages from the South Sandwich Islands and South Georgia using low powered equipment. The expedition returned to Stanley in the Falkland Islands on 9 February on board the 36-m vessel 'Braveheart'. During their month-long expedition the twelve operators involved made a total of 70,428 contacts from both islands with 'hams' from all around the world via voice, morse code and teletype transmission links.

Declan Craig, said the expedition was "an experiment in the use of low-powered, 'microlight' [radio
equipment] from a tough location", and had achieved all of its goals "in record time". He said that his group had shown that such expeditions could achieve "excellent results" without "large amounts of high-powered equipment" as has sometimes been the case with such ventures in the past. Ham operators were challenged in their attempts to tune into what was, as a result, a relatively "weak-signal operation", and Declan said that the high number of contacts recorded around the world was a credit to the "skills and persistence" of those who made contact.

The expedition left Stanley in the Falkland Islands on the New Zealand-registered 'Braveheart' on 12 January with 12 hams from Canada, Ireland, The Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States, and a crew of 5. The vessel headed directly for the island of Southern Thule in the South
Sandwich Islands, completing the 1,820-km journey in five days in moderate seas.

Operations were conducted on Southern Thule from 18-22 January, the hams working from a tent-based field-camp on Hewison Peninsula, the island's south-eastern point. Access to the Peninsula from the sea was reported to have been difficult, personnel having to negotiate a steep, "dangerous" 13-m climb directly after leaving the inflatable rubber boats that ferried them
to shore.

A 'human chain' was used to ferry all equipment up the cliff-face and on to the camp site. A similar reverse operation was necessary when they departed; it being conducted in 55-knot winds and a 3 m swell. During 80 hours of operation on the island over 26,000 contacts were made and frequent periods of high winds, rain and snow encountered. In addition to the weather, camping conditions were made "very uncomfortable" as the tents and much of the equipment used quickly became covered in penguin guano. Two tents were used for accommodation and another two for radio operations.

'Braveheart' then travelled to South Georgia where it waited for 11 days between 25 January and 4 February while ham and other activities were conducted on shore. That operation was based in the Manager's House at the old whaling station at Husvik. Close to 43,000 contacts were made during a
seven-and-a-half day period. Team members slept on 'Braveheart' when not on duty or napped on shore for short periods. Those involved also took time for day hikes into the surrounding countryside.

While in Stromness Bay, Braveheart's skipper Robert Williamson and owner Nigel Jolly assisted the crew of the Russian scientific vessel 'Atlantida' to free its anchor that had been become fouled on old mooring gear on the bed of the Bay. Captain Williamson, who is also a professional deep-sea diver, descended to a depth of 42m and successfully freed the anchor from the obstruction. The yachts 'Joshua' and 'Baleno', the latter with a family of three on board, were also in Stromness
Bay whilst 'Braveheart' was there. 'Joshua' was engaged in rat eradication and other work, while 'Baleno' was on a recreational visit.

Due to the difficulties involved in the landing at Southern Thule, a smaller range of equipment was sent ashore there than at South Georgia. At both locations electricity to power the radios and provide heat for the operators was generated using four small one-kilowatt generators. Four small radio units were used for transmissions from Southern Thule and six on South Georgia; relatively simple antennas being erected on both islands. Transmissions from Husvik were possible over a greater range of frequencies due to the additional range of equipment taken ashore there.

The five-day voyage back to the Falkland Islands from South Georgia on 'Braveheart' was reported to have been "rough and unpleasant" with 8-m swells being met for some of the time as the vessel headed west into the prevailing winds.


A record number of visitors are planned to go to South Georgia this austral summer. Some 36 cruises are scheduled. In the future visitor numbers may continue an upward trend. The table below shows the numbers for the last three year.   clipper adventurer  in Grytviken

Cruise Ship Voyages to South Georgia





























Next year the US tour operator Orient Lines is planning to visit the island with their ship Marco Polo, carrying up to 550 passengers. Passengers will land at Grytviken to visit the museum, the church and the cemetery where Sir Ernest Shackleton is buried. They also plan to conduct Zodiac cruising in Elsehul, Gold Harbour and Royal Bay to view wildlife at these sites.

New Science

The New Applied Fisheries Science Research Station at King Edward Point that opened on 22 March 2001 is working well. The building has had very few teething problems. BAS research base at KEP

The British Antarctic Survey Team has been busy with fish science to support the development and management of the fisheries within the South Georgia Management Zone. In particular science is targeted towards five commercial resource species (Patagonian tooth-fish, Antarctic Krill, Mackerel ice-fish, Seven star flying squid and Stone crabs). The scientists have also found time to get out and repair the BAS hut at Maiviken.

Rat Eradication
Brown rats introduced to South Georgia by sealers some 200 years ago have devastated the numbers of burrowing petrel colonies and the endemic South Georgia Pippit in about two thirds of the island' coastline tussac fringe and many offshore islets. Sally Poncet is leading a study to eradicate the blighters. Last year experts from New Zealand's Department of Conservation started a two year research programme. A small baiting trial commenced in November 2000 on Grass island in Stromness Bay. Six baiters broadcast poison by hand and oil-soaked pine-wood "gnaw sticks" were positioned to monitor the presence of rats after baiting. Pre and post baiting surveys of abundance and distribution of the island's bird population were done to check if any birds had died from eating the rat poison. Results of monitoring 3 weeks and 3 months after baiting show there was no measurable impact on the bird population and no evidence of rat activity. Research continues into the feasibility of a rat eradication programme in more extensive mainland areas.

New Post Office
At the end of the Research station towards the pier at King Edward Point is the new Post Office. Conveniently it can be entered through the long corridor in the Research Station or from a door on the external veranda. Sarah Lurcock sells stamps and collects mail from cruise ship passengers, contractors, scientists, visiting military personnel and other visitors. The new office is a considerable improvement on the old post office that was so insecure that it was close to being blown over in the wind.

Marine Officer
Pat Lurcock, the South Georgia Government Marine Officer, is as busy as ever doing the sharp end admin of the South Georgia fisheries, all the cruise vessels that visit and the few expeditions that come to explore the hinterland. About 20 fishing vessels, registered in various countries including the Falkland Islands, Chile, Uruguay, Spain and South Africa, are licensed to fish within the 200 miles nautical zone. His new office just beside the post office is packed with radios, computers and records. It enjoys a lovely view out over King Edward Cove and on a sunny day he can look out across the bay to the Allardyce Range and the snowy peaks of Sugar Top, Paget, Roots and Nordenskjold.

Morrisons who built the new Research Station in an impressively short time last year have been back again this year. Under the capable management of Pete Willmot, the team has been taking down old buildings at King Edward Point and refurbishing Discovery House. Pete said that Shackleton House came down with no problem.

All it needed was a nudge! The team has had to cope with more asbestos extraction from most of the buildings than was expected.

King Edward Point now looks really attractive with the removal of old buildings that include Shackleton House, Quigleys, Customs House, Old Post Office, Harbour View, Store House, Generator Shed and the old Fuel Tank. A newly painted Discovery House and refurbished Larsen House and Jail look very smart indeed.

  morrisons at work

Dias, Albatross & Petrel
SEABULK CONDOR on charter to MOD and on loan to GSGSSI is at Grytviken with a team from OSRL (Oil Spill Response Ltd) who are pumping fuel oil from the wrecked sealers Albatros, Dias, and Petrel. It has been gradually leaking out and there has been potential, as the ships deteriorated, for tons of the stuff to escape into the sea. If all goes well, the ships will be left completely empty of the heavy, tar-like, fuel oil and an environmental problem nipped in the bud. The have already completed Petrel.


whaling museum 
The museum celebrates its 10th Anniversary this year. It has flourished in the capable hands of Tim and Pauline Carr. The South Georgia Museum is an important element of many visitors' understanding and enjoyment of their visit to the island. Originally set up purely as a whaling museum, in 1992, it has since diversified so that its exhibits now illustrate most aspects of South Georgia's history and natural history, as well as items of current interest.

Recently, Tim has refurbished the fence of the Grytviken cemetery and he has made a new cross for Felix Artuso, the Argentinean Petty Officer killed on the submarine Santa Fe in 1982 and for the men lost on the fishing vessel Suder Havid in 1998. He has also repaired the wooden and copper grave marker for teh sealer Johan Anderson who died in 1838 in Prince Olaf Harbour.

HMS ENDURANCE had a very successful visit to the island in December and completed hydrographic surveys of Fortuna Bay and Larsen Harbour in Drygalski fjord. Her helicopters conducted aerial surveys of Macaroni Penguin Colonies, visitors' sites and assisted Project Atlantis to gather imagery for this web site. She also supported a successful reconnaissance for a British Schools Exploration Society expedition planned for 2003/4.

South Georgia Association
David Tatham, previously Governor of the Falkland Islands and Commissioner of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, and Bob Burton, a historian and previously the South Georgia museum curator, have formed the South Georgia Association at a founding meeting in September last year. The Association, which provides a focus for all those with an interest in the island, published its first newsletter in November 2001.

A new Marine Life issue of South Georgia stamps was made released on 22 October 2001. These can be purchased through the Falkland Islands on the web site www.falklands.gov.fk

The first coins minted to be legal tender for South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands were issued in 2000 to commemorate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother reaching her 100th birthday. This coin has a face value of £2 and depicts her coat of arms garlanded with marguerites. A series of "Famous Explorer" coins has also been minted. Coins are available from the Pobjoy Mint web site at www.pobjoy.com.



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