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   News and Events 

South Georgia Newsletter, January 2006

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South Sandwich Islands Earthquake

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale was registered off the South Sandwich Islands, on 2 January 2006. The quake struck at 5.10 am local time and was centred six miles (10 km) under the seabed, some 215 miles (345 km) south-east of Bristol Island. Metrological agencies said they did not have any information about whether the quake had triggered a tsunami. In December 2004, a magnitude 9.0 quake caused the tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

Underwater quakes at shallow depths can cause tsunami waves, which are often barely noticeable in the ocean but can rise to great heights once they arrive at shore. The earthquake’s tremor was not apparent at King Edward Point (South Georgia). The Richter scale was developed by Charles Richter in 1935 to define the relative size and strengths of earthquakes. He used the amplitude of ground motion to rank earthquakes in terms of magnitude. The table below illustrates the frequency of earthquakes against magnitude:

Magnitude Annual Frequency
7 18
6 108
5 800
4 6200
3 49000
2 300,000







Volcano - South Sandwich Islands

The Mount Belinda Volcano on Montagu Island in the South Sandwich Islands would appear to have returned to a more stable state. Smoke is still issuing from the volcano but the lava flow has for now stopped.


ACAP Petrel Survey (by Sally Poncet)


ACAP Petrel Survey.

“The first field season of the South Georgia ACAP Petrel Survey ended on December 31 when the survey vessel Golden Fleece returned to Stanley after 6 weeks censoring giant petrels and white-chinned petrels at over 100 sites around the island. Skipper Dion Poncet and crewmembers Russell Evans and Kilian de Couedic spent 44 days circumnavigating the island and landing the survey researchers on numerous offshore islands and the rarely visited south coast. Sally Poncet, coordinator of the census, and colleagues who included Andy Black, Bob Powell, Leiv Poncet and Micky Reeves, were joined part way through the season by Tony Martin and Catrin Thomas from BAS, Ben Sullivan from the RSPB/BirdLife International’s Save the Albatross Campaign, and Dame Ellen MacArthur and cameraman Jerome Teignie. Ellen and Jerome are making a film about the survey, which includes Ellen’s two weeks on Albatross Island in January when she camped with Sally and conducted a census of the island’s wandering albatross population. In surveying approximately half the island’s giant petrel nesting sites, fieldworkers counted over 5,000 pairs of northern giant petrels and nearly 3,000 pairs of southerns, walking a total of around 600 km. The survey will continue next summer.”


Morrison PLC Works at New Tijuca Jetty, Grytviken

  The Morrison construction team has finished refurbishing and re-decking the Tijuca jetty at Grytviken. The jetty is needed to allow passengers to be landed from larger ships such as Princendam whose tenders are not suitable for beach landings. The Morrison chef prepared a barbecue on the jetty to celebrate the occasion. Morrison’s main focus of the works has now moved to the museum and a new facilities building.

New Tijuca jetty. Photo by Javier Fernandez.

The building will comprise public toilets, a waste management area, a heated workshop and an area to house a restored lifeboat, which will be open to the public. The lifeboat, originally from the whale catcher Southern Star, is also known as the “Owie Smith” after the man that restored it in Stanley and returned it to South Georgia. The need for the Government to provide public toilets was accepted with the increase in passenger numbers from larger ships visiting South Georgia, such as the Prinsendam (720), the Europa (330) and the Nordnorge (350).

Work on the museum continues with new foundations and floors in the Gift Shop, Allardyce Room (Modern Whaling), Whaler’s Trades Rooms and Ringdal Room (Whaler’s Bunk Room). A start has been made in the Larsen Room (Sealing and the First Decade of Whaling) and museum staff are removing and replacing artefacts, room by room. Heavy-duty industrial rubber tile flooring is also being fitted. New hardwood double glazed windows have, to date, been installed in eight rooms.


South Georgia Museum and Visitor Centre. Photo by Javier Fernandez.

There are new counters and shelving fitted in the gift shop and central heating is currently being installed in the museum. New windows and central heating will be installed in the Curator’s house (the Drukken Villa).

At King Edward Point, Discovery House’s roof is now finished and the building has also been repainted.

Passengers of the Lindblad Expeditions ship “National Geographic Endeavour” contributed $28.000 to the museum – raised during a “blind” auction of a unique bronze fur seal pup made by Nick Atkinson from a design by Steve Massam. Passengers were particularly keen to assist the taxidermist work and one passenger, Hal Du Pont Jr, also donated $5.000 as a memory to his father for the preparation of a 20-year-old male wandering albatross, which died at Bird Island in 2005.


2005-2006 Tourist Season Statistics

Thus far during the 2005-2006 austral season from 10th October to 31st January, a total of 2,997 visitors have been landed from 19 cruise ships and 15 yachts in 30 visits. The largest cruise ship has been Europa (198.6m long) with some 330 passengers.


Carlita Hut

Carlita Hut. Photo by Sally Poncet.

Work on the new Carlita Hut was completed during January. Scobie Pye and his team (who call themselves “World Boardwalks”) used the Harbour Patrol launches to take the hut’s prefabricated sections to Carlita Bay located on the northwest of Cumberland West Bay. The work took a few days to lock the sections together and to paint them. The main purpose of this hut is to provide a refuge for anyone working in that area of South Georgia.


RRS Ernest Shackleton

RRS Ernest Shackleton at King Edward Cove. Photo by Javier Fernandez

RRS Ernest Shackleton arrived at King Edward Point on 20 January after her Antarctic visits to Halley Bay, Signy and other stations. She brought building materials for Morrisons and took some workers to Bird Island to remove the last remnants of the old base. She is due back at King Edward Cove on the 7th February.


Dumbarton Castle at King Edward Point 26th January

On the 25th January, HMS Dumbarton Castle arrived at King Edward Cove (KEP). She was here for three days, departing on 27th January. The officers and crew visited the facilities at KEP and Grytviken including the Museum and Post Office and the Captain provided a reception onboard for those working ashore. Bomb disposal experts from the ship also made safe two small items of unexploded ordnance left over from the 1982 conflict. They had been found in earlier in the summer and marked for disposal..


    Dumbarton Castle departing from King Edward Cove. Photo by Javier Fernandez


HMS Liverpool

The Royal Navy warship HMS Liverpool with a crew of 280 has left Portsmouth to take up duties as the South Atlantic patrol ship. This Type 42 destroyer will spend six months providing a maritime presence to protect the UK’s interest in the region, including South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, taking over from HMS Southampton. On her way to the Atlantic HMS Liverpool will visit Ghana and Sierra Leona and undertake projects for the local communities.


Notre-Dame-des-Flotes visit 18th January


Notre-Dame-des-Flots at King Edward Cove. Photo by Javier Fernandez

The French school sailing boat, Notre-Dame-des-flots visited King Edward Point in January. She was laid down in 1942 in Grand-Front Phillippe, north of Pas-de-Calais, France. Construction was halted by the Second World War and restarted in 1945. Her interior is entirely finished in mahogany and oak reflecting traditional sailing ship design. In the last 20 years of sailing Notre-Dame-des-flots commanded by Jean-Pierre and Pitchoune has sailed over 250.000 nautical miles in charter trips and in 1988-1990 she sailed around the world.


Yacht Tevakenui

The yacht Tevakenui (a large tropical bird in Polynesian) owned by the Le Lec family arrived in South Georgia on 9 January from Ushuaia. Jane and Marc brought their daughter Marissa with them. She was born in Nelson, New Zealand on 5th September 1995 and joined the yacht when she was 10 days old. During 2004 the family sailed around the remote islands of the Pacific Ocean.

Marissa at South Georgia Post Office. Photo by Javier Fernandez.


The Le Lecs sailed in Chilean waters during 2005. While there Marissa climbed the volcanoes Lanin (3776 mts), Puyehue and Villarrica (2847 mts). She speaks Spanish and her favourite animal is a bird called a Kakapo, the rare New Zealand flightless parrot!

The family will be at King Edward Cove for the half-marathon in February although Marissa is unlikely to manage all of that.

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