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South Georgia Newsletter, March 2007

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Carse Tribute Unveiled


Niall Cooper and Alec Trendall discussing the South Georgia Surveys Display   Alec Trendall stands beside the Bronze bust of his friend and colleague, Duncan Carse

The Duncan Carse Bust Appeal, initiated in 2006, came to fruition this month with an official unveiling at the Museum by South Georgia survey veteran Alec Trendall. The tiny museum room was packed with passengers and an Australian film crew from 'Polar Pioneer', who had come to take part in the unveiling. Museum Curator Niall Cooper, met Alec and spent time with him viewing the South Georgia Surveys display. Alec then shared his memories of Duncan Carse and the survey expeditions. He talked about the last time he had met with Carse, in 2003, the first time in nearly half a century, spending time with him in his Sussex cottage recalling many events and incidents from their expeditions. They recalled that after being taken on to the team as a post grad geology student, Alec had nearly brought the '52 expedition to a halt before it had even started by falling down a crevasse suffering injuries that required him to be sent back to the UK. Fortunately, his damaged leg healed and he rejoined Carse again as a geologist on the 4-man 1953/1954 South Georgia Survey. "I found it a moving experience to be speaking at the unveiling of Duncan's bust after having been away from Grytviken for 53 years," said Alec. "I am glad that his bust will stand as a memorial of his South Georgia achievements for many years to come."

Alec moved to Australia in 1962 eventually becoming director of the Geological Survey of Western Australia before retiring in 2003. After Duncan Carse died, Alec took on the task of completing a book on the South Georgia Surveys. The text of this is now completed, but more work on maps and illustrations is needed before it can be published, hopefully in 2008.

Duncan Carse made 8 expeditions to South Georgia. He first visited the Island in 1933 as part of the Discovery Investigations, returning in 1936 as part of the British Graham Land Expedition. In 1961, after the four South Georgia Survey visits, he returned alone to live on the south coast as part of a "personal psychological experiment", a venture that turned into a survival exercise after his hut was washed away by a freak wave. His last visit was in 1973, when severe weather prevented him retracing the Shackleton crossing. Despite the Island not always treating him kindly, he never lost his enthusiasm for South Georgia.

In the UK, Carse was probably better known as a broadcaster, and more specifically as the voice of "Dick Barton Special Agent".

The detailed work carried out by Duncan and the South Georgia Survey teams between 1951-57 led to a new map in 1958 that has been the basis of all maps that followed, only recently superseded by satellite imagery. The maps, which proved especially important during the liberation of the Island in 1982, are still used today.

The bronze bust was given to the South Georgia Museum to mark the achievements and work of Duncan and the men of the South Georgia Survey. The Duncan Carse Bust Appeal was the idea of the South Georgia Association who also raised the funds. The Government of South Georgia supported the appeal.


Rat Pack Report Written by Darren Christie


Darren and Derek attach a radio transmitter collar onto a rat.   Invariably the rat tracking led to a rat burrow under an elephant seal or fur seal. Here, Derek, ponders his next move in tracking an elusive rat. Photos by Ainslie Wilson

South Georgia is now returning to normal after a 6-week visit by the ‘rat men’, under the guise of GSGSSI Habitat Restoration Officer Darren Christie and New Zealand consultant Derek Brown. The purpose of the visit was to carry out fieldwork to better inform the planning of the Government’s Habitat Restoration Program, which aims to see the eradication of invasive species from the island.

Habitat restoration is a field of conservation that is increasingly gaining momentum and publicity around the world. The presence of invasive species (introduced foreign species which have a negative impact on native ecosystems) is fast being acknowledged as the single biggest global threat to island ecosystems. In terms of return for effort, the eradication of invasive species is likely the most important conservation action that can be taken on islands.

The South Georgia Habitat Restoration Program is specifically targeting invasive mammals (rats, mice and reindeer) that are all shown to have a significant negative impact on native flora and fauna. The presence of rats is particularly devastating to birdlife, with the endemic South Georgia Pipit completely excluded along the 65% of coastline that is home to rats, and burrowing petrels either excluded or limited in numbers by predation. Reindeer have a significant negative impact on tussac grass, which is the key habitat on South Georgia – it is in effect the ‘oak tree’ of the South Atlantic. In some areas grazing has led to the complete loss of tussac, which in turn has encouraged the spread of introduced grasses.

The fieldwork consisted of many aspects, including radio tracking of live rats, testing of blank biomarker bait (bait without poison) to assess the risk of non target poisoning of birds, visiting of potential preliminary eradication sites and observation of deer impact. It was important to visit as much of the island as possible, to assess rodent levels and to ensure that fieldwork sites were as representative of the island as possible.

A live trapping line of 30 traps at 25m intervals was set and baited, then monitored on a daily basis. For over a week, bait was taken from around the traps (placed there to accustom the rats to the presence of the traps) but no animals were caught. This was anticipated, as rats are known to be neophobic (wary of new objects). However, after a patient wait 9 rats were caught in one night, followed by average daily catches of about 5 rats. In total, 15 rats were gently fitted with small radio collars, using a neck collar. Some rats managed to slip their collars over a 2 week period, and these were recovered and redeployed. The rats were tracked on a daily basis, and their positions marked with a GPS unit. This data will now be analysed to show the home range size of the animals, and allow the methodology of any potential eradication to be better informed.

The blank biomarker bait taken to South Georgia was spread around in easily observable areas, and monitored for any feeding by birds. During the fieldwork, bait was also offered to birds as and when they were encountered. Observations didn’t reveal anything to be immediately concerned about, which is encouraging. Clearly more work will be carried out to ensure there is as minimal a chance of poisoning of birds as possible, should an eradication occur.

Preliminary observations on the ground imply that rats on the island are at relatively low densities compared to other eradications around the world, and that whilst they are fairly widespread there is an extremely high association with tussac. All this information is extremely valuable in informing the best way forward for the project.

In all, the fieldwork was a great success. Thanks must go to all on the island for their company and assistance, especially to Ainslie Wilson for her assistance continuing the tracking work in our absence, those offering to continue it over the winter and the boat crews for transport. Thanks also to the ‘Gregory Mickeev’ and MV ‘Pharos SG’ for their assistance in dropping us in more remote locations, and getting us back again.

Carr and Curlew Names to Live on

The names Carr Valley and Curlew Cove can now be added to the ever increasing list of official place names on South Georgia. These names have been recommended by the Antarctic Place-names Committee, approved by the Commissioner for SGSSI, and have been added to the SGSSI gazetteer to be used on all future maps, charts and published documents.

  ‘Curlew’, built in 1898, was home to Tim and Pauline Carr for over 20 years. She is now an exhibit at Falmouth Maritime museum. Curlew is one of only a few yachts to be pictured on a South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands postage stamp.

Carr Valley is the valley known as ‘No Name’, just west of Maiviken and Curlew Cove is the coast line at the bottom of Carr Valley.

Tim and Pauline Carr inside the South Georgia Whaling Museum. Tim received an MBE in the New Years Honours List for services to South Georgia.


South Georgia Amateur Dramatic Society


Characters ‘Cool’ (Gareth Wale) and ‘Woman’ (Mel D’Souza)   Gareth, Anjali, Serita, Mel and Andrew accepting applause and praise from an appreciative audience.

The boat shed was transformed into a theatre on the evening of the 6th March for the inaugural performance from the South Georgia Amateur Dramatics Society. “A Little Box of Oblivion”, an absurd play in one act written by Stephen Bean, was performed by Gareth, Mel, Anjali, Andrew and Serita. The audience was kept on their toes the entire performance listening for minor adaptations of the script that had been made to suit local conditions and people (apologies to the playwright!).

Having decided that people needed something else to do in the evenings, Serita recruited actors, searched for and found a suitable play and together they presented a delightful evenings entertainment. The actors are now waiting in expectation of the fame and fortune that will surely come their way.


Shipping News

March has been busy with 8 cruise ships, ‘Pharos SG’, HMS ‘Dumbarton Castle’, HMS ‘Endurance’, yachts ‘Cowrie Dancer’, ‘Golden Fleece’ and ‘Celtic Spirit of Fastnet’ and sail training ship Bark ‘Europa’.


Passengers catching first glimpse of Grytviken on ‘Explorer 2’. Photo by Dean Cook   The last cruise ship for the season, ‘Grigory Mikheev’. Photo by Ainslie Wilson

The end of the month marks the end of the cruise ship season for 2007. Total number of ship visits was 50. One ship cancelled due to mechanical problems. The total number of passengers visiting South Georgia was 5226, slightly less than last years 5427. Eleven different yachts visited; with a total of 104 people of which 29 were fee paying passengers on charter yachts, the rest were crew or private yacht visitors.

Sailing Yacht ‘Celtic Spirit of Fastnet’, having sailed to Iceland and on into the Arctic Circle before heading to the Antarctic via Spain, Portugal, Cape Verde Islands, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, made her final stop in King Edward Cove for 3 days. The multinational crew of eight spent many enjoyable hours ashore walking, socialising, eating crumpets in Shackleton Villa faster than they could be cooked and providing live music for several late night get togethers.

  Skipper Michael Holland of Ireland, is quoted from the yachts website, “South Georgia was to be our last stop in Antarctica thus closing the book on this epic voyage for Celtic Spirit and her crew. It was a voyage that took nearly two years in the planning and preparation and was to take us from the Arctic to Antarctica a distance of more than 16000 miles covered for the most part in the last twelve months.”
New friends made at King Edward Point. Celtic Spirit crew ready to depart on the next leg of their journey.    



GO Emma Jones takes her turn on the saxaphone. Fabricio and Jon provide entertainment at a boatshed party. Both photos by Ainslie Wilson    

HMS ‘Endurance’ spent a day at anchor in Cumberland Bay. The Lynx helicopter was used to retrieve the Hound Bay Field Party, and to ferry some visitors ashore.

HMS ‘Dumbarton Castle’ arrived alongside on March 9th for an intended 3 day visit. Due to a search and rescue callout, the visit was cut short however it was a busy time for all on board. Officers and crew were able to get ashore to reacquaint their sea legs with terra firma and visited Grytviken and surrounding areas. The Captain hosted a reception on board for those working ashore and officers provided a tour of the ship. Unfortunately, weather conditions did not permit the legendary ‘DC shuttle run’ to be experienced by KEP residents.

    Residents take lines for HMS ‘Dumbarton Castle’ at KEP jetty. Photo by Ainslie Wilson

RAF bomb disposal experts on board, made safe several small items of unexploded ordnace found at Gull Lake. Also on board were the Resident Infantry Company (RIC), A company Royal Welsh Fusiliers, who undertook a patrol of Maiviken and Hestesletten areas. Volunteers from the ship were transported to Discovery Point to collect debris, from the shipwrecks, littering the beach. Shore leave was cut short with long blasts on the ship’s whistle calling all crew back and by mid afternoon the ‘Dumbarton Castle’ steamed out of King Edward Cove on their way to a search and rescue.


Sail training ship Bark ‘Europa’ arrived on the evening of 23rd March, rounding Hope Point under sail. While tied up alongside, crew and passengers welcomed locals on board for a barbeque and KEP scientists gave a presentation about fisheries science for the passengers.

‘Europa’ was launched in 1911 as the lightship "Senator Brockes" and served in this role at the mouth of the river Elbe in Germany until the mid 1970's. After several years laid up she was rescued by Dutchman Harry Smit who restored her and in 1994 she commenced a new life as a traditional 3 masted sailing vessel. She has since travelled many oceans providing passengers with little or no seafaring experience a chance to have a go at the helm, assist with navigation or hoist the sails.

‘Europa’ sailing into Cumberland Bay as seen by KEP scientists on ‘Quest’. Photo by Anjali Pande    


March at the South Georgia Museum By Niall Cooper

The lifeboat from the ‘Southern Star’, donated in 2001 by the late Owen Smith. It was renamed "Owie Smith" in memory of the Falkland Islander who returned it to South Georgia. It was restored by Hamilton Males (BAS boatman) and Andy Rankin.

The final month of the season was a busy one. As well as visits from eight cruise ships, three yachts and two Royal Navy vessels, the museum team had to prepare for the close of season. This involved doing a stock-take and updating our inventory, and assessing what shop stock and general supplies should be ordered for next season.

The graveyard was also given a final strim and weeding at the beginning of the month. All the museum team took turns giving the SGHT presentation on board cruise ships.

A lot of progress has been made at the museum this season, largely thanks to the excellent work carried out by Morrison FI Ltd. The displays in the four renovated rooms have been given a fresh look and the records about the museum’s collection have been greatly improved. Additionally, it has been a busy and successful season in the museum shop.

Next season will see the continuation of this work. The displays in the Bonner Room will be further improved, and the new Maritime Gallery should be ready for the public early next season. Work will also continue to ensure that all of the items in the museum are properly catalogued and individually photographed.

Museum assistant Serita Suman left to return to the UK on the Hanseatic on 7 March. Niall Cooper, curator, departed on the government patrol vessel Pharos at the end of the month, and will continue to work from the SGHT office in Dundee, Scotland. Miriam Iowerth, the other museum assistant, will stay on into April to have the museum open for the visit of the Commissioner and veterans for the 25th anniversary commemorations.


Bird Island News Report by Robin Snape who is the Zoological Field Assistant at the BAS base on Bird Island.

Early March brought with it a very welcome break in the weather as it was sunny and warm for a day or two and we were able to enjoy the summer wildlife in the sunshine. It did not last long and the rest of the month has been mostly wet, windy, overcast and foggy.

Sunny warm day. Looking west over the meadows across Stewart Strait to the Willis Islands.

The month slipped by quickly with the excitement of HMS Endurance ship call when on 21st they made repeated trips to the base by helicopter bringing cargo in and out, dropping off Ricky Borthwick (facilities engineer) and Robert Dunn our new plumber and general techy who will be wintering with myself, Don and Fabrice to make a wintering team of four. Robert very quickly got stuck into his job list and has taken to BI life very well after a summer season at Halley Station on the ice, which in most respects could not be more different to BI. HSME also picked up Dirk Briggs after his two month stint on BI and they took him back to the Falklands along with Fabrice who had an emergency dental appointment.

Fabrice ready for extraction.   Ali captures a pup for tagging, by the time she reads this she will be on the other side of the world enjoying a well earned break.

So with two arriving and two leaving we were left with five again. This did not last very long as a few days later we waved an emotional goodbye to our much loved Base Commander Alison Dean, who during the summer has given a huge amount of support to all of the BI staff. She will be greatly missed by the wintering team left behind. Ali departed on FPV Pharos with Ricky Borthwick leaving just myself, Don and Robert on the island until Fabrice returns from the Falklands in early April. It really is too quiet here in Fabrice’s absence and we are all very much looking forward to his return.


The Grey-Headed and Black-Browed albatross chicks are getting their adult feathers now and are flapping and stretching their wings. They still have quite way to go and will start leaving their nests in mid-April through until early May before the harsh weather arrives. They seem to be doing very well with relatively few perishing and most of them looking healthy, fat and of good weight.

  Black Browed Albatross chicks with base in the background.

The Wandering Albatross eggs have all hatched by the end of March and a lot of the adults are sitting up on their nests with many of their chick quite big to be sat upon comfortably. The first chick was seen alone on its nest on 28th, with its father along side still guarding attentively. Over the coming winter months the wanderer chicks will be left alone to fend for themselves against the ice and snow of winter. They will have to grow very quickly receiving meals of fish and squid from both parents. Each parent may be at sea for a week or a number of weeks before dropping by relatively briefly to feed the chick.


Wandering Albatross leaps into flight from the top of a Black Browed Albatross colony.   Northern Giant Petrel Chick. Many of these have already fledged by now.
There are notably fewer seals on the beach around base now although enough up in the tussock to keep us on our toes. The pups are spending more and more time in the water and seem increasingly independent of their mothers who continue to return to the island, searching the beaches and tussock with high pitched calls, which are now getting fewer and further between, making for a better nights sleep. Donald and I have recently been attaching geolocaton loggers to some of the pups. When the pups finish suckling and go off to the ocean for the first time to hunt for krill and fish, their movement will be recorded and when they return as sub-adults in future seasons the loggers can be removed and downloaded to reveal their activities during their juvenile years, of which currently little is known.
  Puppy congregation on the jetty.

South Georgia Snippets

Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross on the cliffs above Carlita Bay. Photo By Ainslie Wilson

Members of the South Georgia Government team in Stanley took time out to compete in the Falkland Islands Marathon as a relay team. The Marathon, organised by Standard Chartered Bank, is the most southerly officially-accredited marathon in the world and on this occasion was probably also the windiest, with gale force winds facing participants in the final stages. The team consisted of (in running order) Acting Commissioner Harriet Hall, Ops Manager Richard McKee, former postmistress Miranda McKee and Principal Crown Counsel Ros Cheek. Although un-placed in the official line-up they were delighted to beat the team of Falkland Islands Councillors!

GSGSSI have announced that as from June 1 2007, South Georgia stamp production will be handled by Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd while all stamp marketing will be handled by Pobjoy Mint Ltd. South Georgia now joins Ascension Island and the Falkland Islands in entrusting its philatelic production and sales to these new partners.

With a sudden Indian summer descending on South Georgia, several groups of locals have been off exploring the Island. Darren, Derek, Niall, Pippa and Ainslie were dropped off at Husvik by a cruise ship where they made the Managers Villa home for 3 days. The Shackleton Walk was enjoyed in beautiful weather and also a trip over the hills to Leith whaling station. A pick up was planned from Carlita, an easy 2 hour walk through the Olsen Valley. Mid way through the valley eight Gentoo penguins came into sight, determinedly following the leader to goodness knows where! High winds kept the KEP boats back at base so the camping party was marooned at Carlita, surviving on army ration packs for 2 days. The big guns were sent in eventually and ‘Pharos SG’ provided transport back to KEP.


Ainslie, Derek, Pippa and Darren pause at the top of the pass over the Shackleton Walk.   Husvik Managers Villa. Photos By Ainslie Wilson

Martony and Charlie enjoyed the peace and quiet of a weekend at Cave Point exploring the coastline before meeting up with Andy and Miriam for a walk over the Barff Peninsula to Ocean Harbour and Johannsen Loch. On another occasion Andy and Mel made a quick visit to Hound Bay carrying a carefully iced birthday cake for Helen Taylor. She was found catnapping in the tent and was thrilled with her surprise.

Charles and Jen also escaped from KEP to Hestesletten and Hamberg Lakes, but timed their departure to coincide with wind and heavy rain. Despite predictions that they would return dripping and bedraggled, they stayed put and were able to enjoy a quick dip in the lakes before returning to KEP.

BAS Deputy Director Robert Culshaw and Head of Bioscience, Paul Rodhouse visited KEP this month aboard HMS ‘Endurance’. Robert Colshaw, being new to the position of Deputy Director was on a familiarization tour of all the South Atlantic bases. He had already visited, Halley, Rothera, Signey and Bird Island. Paul Rodhouse was involved in the original designing of the temperature controlled facility and laboratory. Due to mechanical problems faced by ‘Endurance’ they had less time ashore than planned. However, they did manage to squeeze in a walk around the base and a question and answer session over dinner.


Iceberg Moving On

Issued by Met Office. Satellite photo from the Met Office at Mount Pleasant in the Falklands of our local berg continuing it’s run north. Taken 1400Z March 21 2007


Life at KEP


Mechanic Gareth Wale suited up and ready to be transported to HMS Endurance by Lynx helicopter in readiness for what became an aborted trip to Bird Island.   Scientist Jen weighs, measures, sexes and dissects the fish that are caught in the net. On this occasion 5 Rockcod, 2 icefish and 3 toothfish were caught.



Boaties Mel and Andrew return from boat training on rib 'Alert'.   Base Commander Andy Barker fitting new fenders to KEP jetty


Shackleton Choral Work

A choral piece entitled “Shackleton” was written by Australian composer Paul Jarman in 2001 as part of a commission entitled “Turn of the Sea” for the Sydney Children’s choir. The songs pay homage to adventurers and dreamers of the sea.

Paul, who says he has always loved the Shackleton story, says the piece is an honest attempt to capture the grandeur and irony of the “Endurance” expedition. Shackleton and his men survived the destruction of their ship “Endurance”, and a two-year ordeal trying to escape the ice of the Weddell Sea and the remote Elephant Island, to reaching safety via the whaling stations of South Georgia, only for several of them to die just weeks after reaching the UK on the Flanders battle fields in the latter stages of the 1st world war.

Born in 1971 Paul Jarman, who lives in Sydney, plays as many as 20 different instruments, and is an arranger, producer, and session musician as well as being a composer.

“Shackleton” is now one of the most popular and most widely performed choral works in Australia.
“Shackleton” is available as a download from here


View of the Month

The View of the Month will be available shortly on the South Georgia Heritage Trust website


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