Introduction

South Georgia, wildlife penguis and seals

Introduction

South Georgia, wildlife penguis and seals

This album covers a trip to see the wildlife of South Georgia, in November 2013. Getting to the island requires substantial time and effort, typically its 3 days by sea from the Falkland Islands. But the wildlife experience is outstanding.

South Georgia

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) are a British overseas territory in the southern Atlantic Ocean. It is a remote and inhospitable collection of islands, consisting of South Georgia and a chain of smaller islands known as the South Sandwich Islands. South Georgia is 167.4 kilometres long and 1.4 to 37 km wide and is by far the largest island in the territory.

There is no native population on the islands; the present inhabitants are the British Government Officer, Deputy Postmaster, scientists, and support staff from the British Antarctic Survey who maintain scientific bases at Bird Island and at the capital, King Edward Point, as well as museum staff at nearby Grytviken.

Grytviken

The settlement at Grytviken was established on 16 November 1904, by the Norwegian Carl Anton Larsen as a whaling station for his Argentine Fishing Company. It was phenomenally successful, with 195 whales taken in the first season alone. Whale numbers dimmissed very quickly and the station was closed in 1966. It is now one of several stations that are rusting ruins.

Shackleton

Grytviken is closely associated with the explorer Ernest Shackleton. Shackleton's most famous and epic expedition set out from London on 1 August 1914, to reach the Weddell Sea on 10 January 1915, where the pack ice closed in on their ship, the Endurance. The ship was broken by the ice on 27 October 1915. The 28 crew members managed to flee to Elephant Island, bringing three small boats with them. All of them survived after Shackleton and five other men managed to reach the southern coast of South Georgia in the James Caird. They arrived at Cave Cove, and camped at Peggotty Bluff, from where they trekked to Stromness on the northeast coast. From Grytviken, Shackleton organised a rescue operation to bring home the remaining men.

Shackelton's grave is located south of Grytviken, alongside those of the whalers who died on the island. In 2011, the ashes of Frank Wild, Shackleton's 'right-hand man', were interred on the right-hand side of Shackleton's grave.

Wildlife

South Georgia is positioned in the Southern Ocean between the cold southern Antarctic waters and the warmer waters to the north. These contrasting influences contribute to the island’s environment that supports an abundance of marine and terrestrial wildlife.

Some 30 million birds nest and bring up their young chicks on South Georgia. These include 2 million Macaroni penguins, around half the world's population, and 400,000 pairs of King penguins. Antarctic prions total around 22 million pairs.

The southern elephant seal was taken for oil, but 400,000 individuals are now in South Georgia, perhaps two thirds of the world population. A large male of about 6m can weigh 4,000 kg. Territorial males can defend a harem of up to 100 females.

Falklands

The Falkland Islands are another self-governing British Overseas Territory with a population of around 3,000. Ardently British the island is dotted with mouments and remnants of the 1982 war. It is also home to significant wildlife.