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South Georgia Newsletter July 2005

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Fisheries' Court Cases

The Falkland Islands Magistrates Court has published its judgement in three cases related to fishing in the South Georgia Maritime Zone.

Charterer, Quark Fishing Ltd., and owner, Freiremar SA, of the toothfish vessel “Ibsa Quinto” were successfully prosecuted for mis-reporting catches and exceeding the vessel’s 300 tonne TAC (Total Allowable Catch).

In a separate charge, Quark Fishing Limited, as owners of the toothfish vessel “Jacqueline”, was also found to be in breach of a condition of the licence. On two occasions the vessel’s streamer line was reported as being in breach of the CCAMLR (Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) Conservation Measure 25-01, ‘Minimisation of the Incidental Mortality of Seabirds’.
Sentencing has yet to be announced.


Next Commissioner Announced

Gov Huckle at Anguilla day parade

The new Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and Governor of the Falkland Islands, will be Mr Alan Huckle (57) who takes up the position in 2006. He is currently the Governor of Anguilla, before which he was Head of the Overseas Territories Department at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He is married to Helen and they have a son and a daughter in their twenties.


Overview of Last Season's Tourism

Tour ship “Kapitan Klebnikov” which landed passengers at the South Sandwich Islands. Photo by Patrick Lurcock.

With slightly increased visitor numbers, and slightly fewer ship visits, tourism statistics for the 2004/5 season confirm the industry’s trend to larger ships carrying more passengers. 40 tour ships visited South Georgia last summer, carrying 3,765 passengers. Two of the ships were new to the Island, Akademik Shokalskiy, similar to other small Russian tour ships, carrying 49 passengers and the bigger Nordnorge bringing 277 passengers, but capable of carrying 350.

Most tourists (32%) were from the USA, 25% from the UK and 15% from Germany. Forty different nationalities were represented amongst passengers. The ships staff (expedition staff, lecturers etc) were mainly from the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and Germany. The ships crew were mainly Philippine (46%), Russian (26%) and German (7%).

Extended walks, a walk that goes more than 1Km from the landing site, are increasingly popular parts of the tour ship itineraries. This year 67 extended walks were undertaken compared to 42 last year, with 2,411 passengers participating, nearly a thousand more than last year. By far the most popular walk is the “Shackleton walk” from Fortuna Bay to Stromness Bay, the final leg of the incredible journey made by Shackleton, Worsley and Crean to rescue the rest of the crew of the ice-crushed Endurance. This walk was done 24 times last season by nearly 800 passengers, compared to 13 times by less than half that number of passengers the year before.

Albatross Island, in the Bay of Isles was closed to visitors for conservation reasons, so visits to neighbouring Prion Island, where wandering albatross also nest, more than doubled to 1,797 passengers and 29 landings. Already subject to more detailed management than other visitor sites, Prion Island will have a landing place and walkway constructed to minimise tourism impact on the island.
Only one tour ship, Kapitan Khlebnikov, visited the South Sandwich Islands, landing 104 passengers with staff and crew on Southern Thule Island.

There were also 18 yacht visits to South Georgia, by 15 different yachts, of these 10 were private ventures and 8 commercial charters.

A significant number of other visitors came to South Georgia last season including those on Navy and RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) vessels and Research Ships.


Museum Renovation Underway

A major renovation of the South Georgia Museum is underway. Work on the main Museum building, the old whaling station Managers Villa, started in December last year with some floors being replaced, walls moved and internal layout altered. Several tonnes of cinders, earth and rotten wood had to be removed and new concrete supports poured to support the new flooring. Although the work was carried out during the tourist season there was only minimal disruption to visitors and the working of the Museum.
The roofs of both the Museum and the curators’ cottage, the old Foreman’s Barracks, were also replaced, but as mentioned in previous newsletters, storm damage to the new roofs will mean they need to be redone this coming summer.

Work stopped for the southern winter but will start again in November when the contractors Morrison FI Ltd return. Other major works will include replacing all the windows and installing central heating in both buildings and completing the enlargement of the gift shop with a layout that will allow a through-flow of customers, which is becoming more necessary as the number of passengers per tour ship increases.

The Museum staff finished renovating upstairs in the Museum. The office has been moved upstairs, making way for the enlarged gift shop below. There are now 8 storage/workshop rooms, two large hallways, and several walk-in cupboards in use upstairs. Two of these were used last summer for taxidermy and production of “Made in South Georgia” souvenirs.

Several of the outbuildings that surrounded the Museum and were used for workshops and stores had to be demolished as they were structurally unsound. A new multipurpose building, in the same style as one of the old sheds, will be constructed. It will house a waste management area, boiler room, fuel store, heated workshop, an area to display larger maritime exhibits including the lifeboat from the whaling vessel “Southern Star”, and public toilets.


Made in South Georgia

Steve Massam, the taxidermist and artist who has worked for the South Georgia Museum part time for the last two years, has created a range of “Made in South Georgia” souvenirs. These beautiful ornaments include: a fur seal pup made from resin and black casting sand from the Grytviken foundry; a King Penguin in ivory, pewter or bronze finish; resin copies of two original whalebone carvings of elephant seal pups done by Tim Carr; and fine castings of biological ephemera like a sperm whale tooth, elephant seal tooth and a whale barnacle. These copies are so realistic that certificates are given out to assure customs officers that they are not original! The Museum shop has already sold £1,500 worth of the new souvenirs to the last ten cruise ships through at the end of last season.

The “Made in South Georgia” fur seal pup captures the animals cheeky bravado.

Hopefully Steve will be back in South Georgia in March to continue his taxidermy projects and create more “Made in South Georgia” souvenirs.


Fishing News

The remaining 377 tonnes of unallocated TAC for the 48.3 fishing region was divided out amongst the licensed toothfish long-liners. The toothfish season ends next month, and the first of the long-liners looks set to catch their TAC and leave the zone soon.

One long-liner has spent part of the month further south around the South Sandwich Islands to catch the 28 tonne TAC for that area. At the beginning of July some of the long-liners were still in the Falklands transhipping.

Stormy weather has affected catches both in the toothfish fishery and krill fishery. Despite the storms, krill catches have remained good and five trawlers are fishing.Krill vessels have to tranship regularly so there has been plenty of work for the Government Officer going out to the reefers and trawlers in Cumberland Bay.


Abandoned Coastal Huts Clean-Up

Six abandoned coastal huts, or their remains, and up to 15 redundant reindeer exclosures
will be demolished and removed in the new year. The huts that are to be removed are mostly ruins of huts built in the 1970’s for BAS (British Antarctic Survey) researchers to stay in. After the clean-up only the concrete pads, where used, should remain.

The reindeer exclosures were built in 1973 as part of a study of the effect of the introduced Reindeer on the Island’s vegetation. Some of these structures have since become a hazard to wildlife (see newsletter October 2004).

It is planned that an inspection will be made of the huts and the surrounding area to identify and preserve any artefacts of historical importance that need to be saved. Other huts around the coast of the Cumberland Bay area and at St Andrews Bay are still maintained and used. This month two bed frames from the wreck of the Carlita Hut were collected and moved to the historic Postal Hut at Jason Harbour. The door to the Jason hut was jammed shut by a snow drift, but an antler nearby proved to be a reasonable shovel to remove the blockage.The roof of the hut at Sorling Valley was also recently re-felted to help keep the hut weatherproof.


Pat Lurcock uses a reindeer antler to shovel snow away from the door at Jason Harbour Hut as Steve Artis looks on.

An attractive cast iron stove has been bought back from the Jason Hut to be refurbished by the Generator Mechanic Steve Artis in the KEP workshops. Although the stove is badly damaged Steve is optimistic he can repair it before refitting it in the hut.

The door of the Jason Hut cast iron stove during refurbishment.


KEP Science

One of the live krill now being kept in the science aquarium.

Live krill have been added to the science aquarium, and long-lining attempted this month by the British Antarctic Science team at KEP. Government Krill Observer Amy Pryor, assisted by Antarctic Marine Ecologist Tomonari Hayashi who was working on the same krill trawler, brought in about forty live krill for the aquarium. Tomonari has been part of a team in Japan that have kept krill alive for ten years through four generations, so was able to give the KEP science team good advice for the new venture. If the krill can be successfully kept in captivity it will create an opportunity for further studies into a creature which is an essential part of the South Georgia ecosystem and the target of a commercial fishery.

In another new venture the science team have tried using long-lining as a fishing method to target Toothfish, deploying a twenty hook, 120 metre long-line from the science fishing boat “Quest” in Cumberland Bay. If successful, long-lining will help avoid some of the bycatch that gets trapped in the trammel and gill nets used so far. The first attempt was not successful, but a second try in deeper water worked well with a fish caught approximately every second hook. Most of the fish were Rockcod that were tagged and released.

Long-lining for science purposes in the Bay has been tried before. In the late 1970’s Michael Burchett, as part of a PhD study for BAS, used long-lining to target Rockcod. They found long-lining too time consuming and not as successful at catching Rockcod as other fishing gear. The KEP Science team hope for more success catching Toothfish.


The second long-line set from “Quest” was successful. Photo by Bernard Meehan.

Photojournalist’s Visit

Worth a drenching, the shot Paul was after, birds feeding from the offal outlet. Photo by Paul Sutherland.

Photojournalist Paul Sutherland visited South Georgia for the second time this year as part of his work developing a story about the Patagonian Toothfish. Paul says Chilean Sea Bass (the American name for Toothfish) is an extremely valuable and controversial commodity in the USA.

On this visit Paul was travelling with the Fisheries Officer aboard the Patrol Vessel, and documenting his work. He described the rationale behind this segment of the story, "Governmental enforcement and regulatory monitoring are a critical piece of the toothfish story and South Georgia is the one location where both activities take place on a regular basis, and, equally importantly, the work is accessible. It is not a ten day sail to the fishery as it is in most other parts of the world."

Paul said “Working with veteran Fisheries Officer Steven Waugh, the officer with the reputation for the most boardings in a season, was a thrill. I knew that with Steve we had the greatest chance of getting aboard the fishing vessels in bad weather to carry out inspections, all with prior knowledge and permission of the fishing companies and vessel captains. I found the Southern Ocean intimidating with an uncovered camera in my hand, with water splashing all over the place as we pulled along-side to board a vessel and I shot the entire process. At one vessel I decided not to board in order to try and photograph the birds congregating at the offal pump outlet. Well, we set up the shot, along-side the vessel with the boatman Pablo doing a marvellous job holding us in place. It was I who forgot what would happen when the swell squeezed itself between the RIB and hull of the vessel. Both I and my camera (ow!) were shortly covered in very cold salt water. Needless to say we retired to the “Sigma” to save a digital camera. Which happened. All ended well and an inexpensive lesson was learned. Could have been a lot worse. BUT, I got the shot I wanted!"


South Georgia’s Medical History Researched

This year’s KEP medical officer, Jennifer Keys, is researching the medical history of South Georgia for a thesis that forms part of an MSc in remote medicine. She is investigating the early sealing and whaling period, 20th century whaling, more recent BAS and military history, and will also touch on exploration and tourism medicine

So far she has collected data from the Falkland Island Government Archives, the Falkland Islands Registry Office and the South Georgia Museum and has searched all published material for references to illness and injury. During last summer she made many useful contacts, including some she met on South Georgia such as whaling station doctor Dr Michael Gilkes who was at Leith in the 1940s. She is in correspondence with Dr. Frank Ryding, a KEP doctor in the 1970s, who made a study of the condition “Seal finger”, the same condition is currently being researched by BASMU (British Antarctic Survey Medical Unit). Dr Keys is also collecting photographs of doctors and patients, and has been sent a few of Dr David Orr (1960s) who “dressed always in a kilt, no matter how severe the weather.”

Dr Jennifer Keys who is researching the Island’s medical history. Photo by Sarah Clarke.  

When she returns to the UK next year she plans to extend her research by looking at archival material in SPRI, BAS and Edinburgh University, and spend time visiting a number of ex-South Georgians. She would be very keen to hear from anyone who has any information that she could use, including anecdotes, diaries or photographs of medical personnel, or any medical care that has taken place at South Georgia in the past. You can contact her on email at jeke#@south#.nerc-bas.ac.uk (please remove the #s)

Dr Keys hopes to publish a concise version of her findings.


South Georgia Snippets

Now firmly the right side of midwinter, it is a joy to see the sun creeping day by day up the Point. To celebrate, a barbecue was planned down at the boatshed where the sun hits first, so on the 26th we were all there, thermal undies and padded jackets on, beer cooling in the snow, and people jigging from foot to foot huddled round a blazing brazier to keep warm in the minus two degree air temperature. The only no-show was the sun that spent most of the BBQ behind the clouds.

It is not only the sun that has delighted us though, a couple of beautiful moon-rises over the distant peninsula at sunset had us reaching for our cameras, and the moon-set the following morning as the full disk set behind jagged peaks was just as picturesque.

It has long been known that King Edward Cove has the best climate on the island, this was underlined on a day when several of us were out skiing on a gorgeous sunny calm day, whilst only a few tens of miles offshore the fishing fleet were unable to fish due to severe storm conditions.

Much like last year the snow has come and gone, come and gone. One overnight dump of powdery snow, with perfect symmetrical crystals, was 70 cm deep and gladdened skiers hearts, but also caused problems when it bent and broke the exhausts from the generators as it slipped off the roof.

Snowfalls have been interspersed with storms, blowing snow away or melting it. After a thaw pools of water freeze hard so tying the Patrol Ship up on an iced over jetty was hazardous, and a couple of our visitors came a cropper on the icy track. When the ship left Assistant Government Officer Ken Passfield left also, at the end of his contract. We expect to see him back in the next few years in little yacht “Porvenir”.

Thick ice in the cove nearly prevented the Harbour Patrol Launches breaking out. To get through the obstacle the jet boat had to be repeatedly reversed then run at the ice ahead, making a few metres progress each time. For a while it was touch and go as to whether it would get through. It was relief on the return journey to find the ebb tide had floated the ice away.



The launch has trouble breaking through the ice on the Cove. Photo by Steve Artis on the boats bow.

Deep snow also added a challenging element to a local Search and Rescue exercise undertaken by the BAS team. The “casualty” was put on a stretcher on a pulk to be lowered down the hillside before being loaded onto a boat and recovered to KEP.

More Leopard seals have hauled out this month three were seen around the Cove and one up by the cave at Maiviken.

The reindeer seem to be thriving in the easy winter conditions, a male herd on the Lewin Peninsula looked fit in their light coloured winter coats and some of the younger animals had spare energy for a spot of playfulness. They were skittish and we watched one devious animal sneak up on a resting deer and give it a jab and a fright with a well-aimed antler.

Reindeer at Jason Harbour. Photo by Pat Lurcock

The RAF Hercules aircraft based in the Falklands make patrols around South Georgia. Those aboard the flight on the 11th should have had a super view down onto the Island from sunny blue skies.

An RAF Hercules on patrol over South Georgia.

Each year a midwinter photograph is taken of all the winterers to join the collection on the wall in the Base dining room. This year’s was taken on a sunny but cold day, using the old whaling and sealing vessel “Petrel” as a backdrop.



This year’s midwinter photograph.Photo by Will Reid

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