South Georgia Heritage Policy and Strategy

(Update 2017)

SGSSI Heritage Framework and Strategy

The Government is pleased to publish its Heritage Framework and Strategy for South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI). It provides an overarching heritage strategy for the cultural heritage of SGSSI.  Its purpose is to provide the framework in which the Government’s stated heritage aims and objectives, including those set out in the Government’s Strategy 2016-2020, can be enacted. This publication follows a consultation on the draft strategy earlier in the year, a response to which has also been published here. The documents have been prepared for the Government by heritage consultants Purcell.

Download the Heritage Framework and Strategy for South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands here.


(Update 2016)

Heritage Policy

This page provides an update on how we propose to take forward the Government’s heritage policy set out in the Strategy 2016-2020. The Government intends to develop and deliver these policy objectives in conjunction with stakeholders, with whom we will work to increase outreach and public engagement in the cultural heritage of the Territory. Outreach is an important strand of work cutting across our heritage objectives. We are in the process of developing an outreach strategy which will identify within it some of the key opportunities.


A Long-Term Management Plan for Grytviken

The Government is looking to develop a 15-20 year management plan for Grytviken. This plan will need to establish an agreed programme of work, taking into account both capital and maintenance requirements and costs over the period of operation. It will need to operate in the context of our strategic objectives for Grytviken, including in respect of visitor access and outreach, recognising that Grytviken is the only one of the former major whaling stations to which visitors have access1. The plan will need to make provision for the requirements of heritage management plans drawn up for specific structures or artefacts following the cataloguing process set out below.


Scheduling SGSSI’s heritage, structures and key artefacts

The Government has commissioned work to schedule historic and culturally significant sites, structures and artefacts in South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands. This will incorporate heritage relevant to whaling and sealing, scientific expeditions and exploration. The information is being drawn from a range of sources and, once complete, each scheduled site, structure or artefact will be assessed with a view to identifying its future conservation and/or management requirements.

We intend to have three categories of heritage asset. Categorisation will be guided by a set of agreed criteria reflecting the significance, location, suitability for conservation (or restoration) and long-term management considerations.


Category 1:

Structures, sites or key artefacts requiring directed conservation or restoration with a long-term management plan.

Category 2:

Structures, sites or key artefacts requiring a basic management plan covering minor protective measures and minor works to help prevent or decrease the rate of natural deterioration.

Category 3:

Structures, sites or key artefacts requiring a passive management plan, involving surveys over fixed periods to monitor the natural deterioration.


The categorisation process is intended to act as a management tool to differentiate between heritage assets and their management requirements and thus identify management priorities. It does not seek to distinguish on the basis of intrinsic heritage value, or to imply financial or practical commitment although it is inevitable that structures, sites and artefacts falling in category 1 will be a focus for the resources that are available.

New legislation is required to properly protect SGSSI’s heritage and provide the framework to underpin this management approach. In line with current policy, the intention is that this legislation will provide protection for all pre-1983 heritage, along with any more recent structures identified as being of particular importance. A policy on the release and movement of artefacts has already been established.

(GSGSSI has, since 2011, worked collaboratively with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs who have jointly funded heritage work. We anticipate that this work will continue over the next two seasons and conservation work to the Nybrakka barracks, the workshop and the main store has been identified.)


Development of site, structure and artefact management plans

Following categorisation, management plans will be developed appropriate to the needs of each asset. These will vary greatly in complexity.

It is anticipated that there will be relatively few sites, structures or artefacts falling within Category 1 which will be defined by more active/directed management plans to ensure long- term conservation. Categories 2 and 3 will comprise the vast majority of assets and these will be defined by more basic management plans incorporating, for example, site monitoring and surveying over fixed timelines with a view to monitoring, or reducing, the rate of natural deterioration.

It is proposed that the cataloguing and management plans should follow existing internationally recognised formats and we will explore the potential to link the information recorded to the Government’s Geographical Information System which can provide an effective long-term management tool and reference source.


Scoping project to remove waste fuel oil from the former whaling stations

GSGSSI is commissioning a scoping project to review the options for the removal (or management in situ) of residual fuel oils still present in the whaling stations and sunken catcher vessels. The best estimate of the remaining oil in the main tank farms at Husvik, Stromness and Leith is 155m3 (not including pipework and tailing pits and fuel oil still present in Grytviken). Given the potential for future decay of tank farms and associated infrastructure, and for release of oil into the environment, this work is a priority for the Government. This project is currently being planned for either November 2016 or March 2017.

(Update 2014)

GSGSSI Heritage Policy

The island of South Georgia has a unique industrial heritage and historical sites dating back to the early exploitation of the island’s natural resources from the early 19th Century. This includes the sites of sealing camps, early scientific expeditions, the remains of the former whaling stations, various wrecks and the historic buildings at King Edward Point. There are also important links to early polar exploration, most notably Sir Ernest Shackleton.

The Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) aims to preserve, where practicable and as sympathetically as possible, the unique industrial heritage of South Georgia, either in situ or through the transfer of artifacts to museums, if it is appropriate to do so.

The Government is committed to engaging with stakeholders, including the South Georgia Association (SGA), the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) & the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) in developing long-term objectives and management plans for historic sites including the former whaling stations.

The South George Heritage Advisory Panel, formed by GSGSSI in 2014, directly advises the Government on all significant heritage projects. This includes restoration projects and any other works project, which may potentially affect a heritage site, ensuring that proposals are professionally scrutinized and any work is undertaken to recognised international standards. The panel also provides recommendations to GSGSSI on the development of policies, restoration strategies and the drafting of new legislation to protect the island’s heritage sites and artifacts.

An improved heritage register is also being developed to progress the management and protection (listing) of historic sites (and key artifacts) as well as improving the provision for approved academic research.

The Government remains committed to facilitating visitor access to heritage sites where it is safe and appropriate to do so, thereby promoting and raising awareness of the significance of South Georgia’s remarkable history. This includes the maintenance of the Grytviken museum buildings.

The condition of the former whaling stations, which collectively form the most significant industrial heritage sites, has greatly deteriorated in recent years. With the exception of Grytviken, where the hazardous material and structures have been removed and the site made safe by GSGSSI, access to these stations is not permitted due to the risk of injury through structural collapse or exposure to wind blown debris and airborne asbestos.


GSGSSI Heritage Strategy

  • Establish and develop a South Georgia Heritage Advisory Panel of experts, to advise the Commissioner and GSGSSI on heritage policy, strategy and legislation, with agreed terms of reference.
  • Review, identify, prioritise and progress heritage projects, engaging with the Government’s SG Heritage Advisory Panel, as well as the SGHT, SGA, other NGOs & the FCO as appropriate.
  • Ensure that thorough assessment, authorisation and oversight mechanisms are implemented for all heritage projects; guaranteeing that appropriate peer reviewed safeguards are in place to protect historic sites, structures and artifacts before any project is approved by the Commissioner.
  • Ensure the safety of visitors and staff at accessible heritage sites.
  • Continue to maintain and facilitate visitor access to the South Georgia Museum (managed by the SGHT) and associated buildings in Grytviken.
  • Ensure that all works undertaken at heritage sites are completed to a high standard and, where practicable, to UK health and safety standards.
  • Prioritise and develop management plans for priority heritage sites, as identified by the Advisory Panel, ensuring that fixed timelines are in place for the review & appraisal of plans.
  • Introduce new legislation to ensure the protection of heritage sites and artifacts as well as providing the mechanism for permitting approved heritage projects and prosecuting offenders.
  • Review and develop an efficient data repository for all sites and key artifacts, to include the criteria and formal mechanism for historic site and artifact registration and listing (or grading) to protect sites.
  • Encourage the return of artifacts previously removed from South Georgia without permission.
  • Communicate key developments in heritage management to stakeholders through the annual stakeholder meeting and the annual report.